Monday, 4 October 2010

Keni Burke - You're The Best / Changes - 2010 - Expansion

Keni Burke is an artist that means so much to me. One of my top favourites of all-time, it is a one of life's true pleasures to sit back and appreciate the creative genius that is encapsulated in this gentleman's music and voice. There has not been a moment since his outings with the Five Stairsteps that interest has wained. His brilliant 1977 dark House album is still much revered, his two RCA albums cherished beyond belief and later 1990s works for expansion much in demand still today. With a new album in the offing and a sell-out show beckoning at London's Jazz Café on Saturday 9th October interest is still deservedly high for this mighty talent. Ralph Tee has kept the flame burning for this talent on recent shows and his new song aired this week, a collaboration with Coll Million will certainly have your musical taste-buds salivating. My only wish is that his 1986 Arista 'in the can' material would surface..."Eyes Don't Lie" is a true Keni Burke classic and is screaming to be released...still on an old Soul Sauce tape from Summer 1989 this song is one that I would remortgage my home for! Anyway, in the meantime Expansion have reissued the Genius' two RCA albums on one album. Many will applaud this and be thankful as "You're The Best" was only issued on CD in Japan a handful of years ago.

Truth be told, no-one bar the wet-behind-the-ears, novices, or recently enlightened will need to be extolled the virtue of either Keni Burke or these two albums. The upbeat and good-times flavours know know boundaries and when Keni and his groove get to work we are compelled by forces of nature to move and get into it. tracks such as "Let Somebody Love You", "You're The best" and "Hang Tight" paved the way for later gems at Philadelphia International with great songs like the O'Jays' "Put Our Heads Together" and the Jones Girls' "Ooh Ooh Ah Ah" and are still thoroughly essential today nearly 30 years on. I can guarantee that these will sound equally essential in another 30 years too, such is the quality of the music made here. Personal favourites of mine are the two cover version, interestingly, and what Keni did here was take two essential, blindingly brilliant songs and give them the Keni Burke magic. "Love Is The Answer" is one of my favourite songs by the legendary Todd Rundgren who along with his 70s Rock outfit, Utopia turned out this amazing track. This song is one I own and play constantly, along with much of the man's work, but Keni Burke obviously loved the song as much as I do and he proves that he lives and breaths it's magnificence...he reinterprets it magnificently and i know that he knows this song on a very deep level.

Secondly is Curtis Mayfield's "Never Stop Loving Me"...this song reduces me to a wreck. For me, one of Keni Burke's finest ever moments and a song that i would happily take to me to the 'other side' when my work on this plain is done. talk about music perfection...recorded in 1981 this song has not dated one second and still an essential addition to any connoisseur's playlist. Another song that deserves such acclaim is "Gotta Find A Way Back In Your Heart". In all serious, this is music PERFECTION. "Changes" from 1982 is yet another masterclass in music-making. A classic album by everyone's standards, who can fail to be moved by smouldering ballads such as "Who Do You Love?" and amazing swayers such as "One Minute More" with Philly backing by - I believe, without digging out the set itself - the Sweethearts. "Risin' To The Top" is an anthem...a timeless classic, a standard piece and never fails to make a Summer day much more than a lovely makes memories. This is the ultimate 'good times' chill-out song and woe betide anyone who tries fiddling with it! It is always a pleasure to have a Keni Burke release of any sort...this is a perfect reminder of past glories, timeless classics and keeps the man in the spotlight as we eagerly await his first UK performance since 1991's Southport Weekender and his new album later this year. ladies and gentlemen...the genius, Keni Burke.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe