Thursday, 19 February 2009

George Duke - Dukey Treats

Fans of George Duke are in for a SERIOUS treat. The man is back on a new label – Heads Up – and returns to his former, funkier and way-out self! George and co are having a ball and the atmosphere is charged with tangible funkiness and sheer, no-nonsense enjoyment. He is well and truly donning his 70s Dukey Stick persona and is not letting go! I can sit here and feel through the music the outpouring of love, fun and sheer brilliance that this man has put into this album. The rumbling funky bass, horns, slap bass and funky vocals – so funky in fact it's FONKY – cannot do anything but put a smile on your face. In fact, if you recall what Prince once wrote about Larry Graham – the credit for Prince being so ugly (his words, not mine!) is through listening to Larry Graham and getting the 'funky face'. Well, I assure you that this CD will give you the funky face too. “Everyday Hero” starts as the CD means to go on; frantic, loose, open and rip-roaringly funky...almost in a J.B.s kind of fashion as the song progresses. The seriously 70s “I Tried To Tell You” is more downtempo but takes us back to his great Epic albums, and when the vocals drop in later we are almost verging on Kashif / Meli'sa Morgan's “Love Changes” - the melody and the lyrics are almost bang on. I was greatly amused by the biblical “A Fonk Tale” - I'm not sure that all will appreciate it but it is amusing and works for me at least. “Dukey Treats” gets back on track and if you loved “Kinda Low” from “Is Love Enough?” then this will be for you.

The swishing “Listen Baby” with muted trumpet and old school sensibility features George on vocals himself. This is very soulful indeed and one of the most widely accessible cuts on the album. The warm and summery “Mercy” hits us with a lot of brass and if you were taken by the latest Brian Culbertson set then this will be one for you. I particularly am drawn to “Somebody Laid It On Us”. The spacey opening and guitar lead into something rather more dramatic – like something he would have done with 101 North – and soulful. This really is superb and will appeal to fans old and new. Again, you should love “Right On Time” which is more like his 90s output – think “No Rhyme, No Reason” and you're there. The politically charged “Sudan” is a poignant inclusion which is darkened with some serious strings and socially conscious lyrics. Nice to see it on here to be honest. Balancing this is the very upbeat and Earth, Wind & Fire-ish “Are You Ready” which is SUPERB. I would venture that the cut most readers will warm to instantly. It threatens to break into “September” in a few places! With the bubbly and essential “Images Of Us” closing the set in a fantastic 70s Jazz-Fusion manner a la Ramsey Lewis "Don't It Feel Good" album, the CD closes. “Dukey Treats” is definitely the best set the great man has recorded in many a year and is a CD that I can put on and leave on. It has many layers, it has darkness and shade, love, tragedy and humour. What more could we ask for?!

Barry Towler

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