Durand Jones & the Indications
3 out of 5 stars
Push play on Durand Jones & the Indications’ third release at any party and wait for it; someone will surely ask “Which Earth, Wind, and Fire album is this?”
It’s a logical question since Private Space throbs with classic ‘70s EWF sounds. While the horns that prodded the Maurice White-led soul/jazz/disco outfit aren’t here, every other element which made that band so essential is firmly in place.
These 10 tracks are not a huge conceptual departure from Jones and his band’s previous retro-soul style. However, the ’60s elements that powered the band’s earlier two discs are replaced with a commercial sheen straight out of the mid-late ’70s. Elements of The Gap Band, The Brothers Johnson, Hot Chocolate, and the Isley Brothers mix with the Bee Gees’ dance-pop on a set made to be slotted in with those acts on a retro disco DJ’s hotlist.
Even seductive song names like “Sexy Thang,” “The Way That I Do,” and “More Than Ever” imply the time period Jones and his Indications are aiming for. If anyone bothers to read the lyrics, they will find a few surprisingly contemporary topics covered. That’s the case in the opening, somewhat hackneyed title “Love Will Work It Out,” which addresses the pandemic with Jones singing Folks overtaken by disease/All the people lost made me fall right down to my knees. On “I Can See,” the words But the darkness of night/Gives way to new light/I feel it coming’ reference to better days ahead post-pandemic.
But the concepts predominantly refer to matters of the heart that are as clichéd as you might expect from a band that doesn’t scream Curtis Mayfield or Stevie Wonder in its lyrical wit. Regardless, the words work just fine as a conduit for the slick yet organic and stylized funk/disco of songs like “Sea of Love” (not the ‘50’s oldie) or the Giorgio Moroder techno-infused dance of “Witchoo.” The vibe slows for a quiet storm ballad “Ride or Die” complete with wah-wah guitar and falsetto vocals likely inspired by some of Marvin Gaye’s later work. And “Reach Out” could easily be a seldom heard Hall & Oates gem.
There are no musical revelations but recreating the groove of the terrific In Yo’ Face! The History of Funk series of sadly out of print compilations from Rhino is harder than it sounds. Durand Jones along with shotgun riding drummer/multi-instrumentalist/co-vocalist Aaron Frazer (who has some terrific solo releases of his own that also splash in this retro pool) pull it off so effortlessly you’ll be convinced this is a great lost soul album from the glory days of ’70s urban music.
Until you realize it’s not.