Saturday, February 11, 2012

Party Time?

Party Time? EP - Kurtis Blow - 1983

This is the current go-to Blow album in the VVers ever expanding collection. Several factors have led to this:

Let's put the obvious out there: The album title is amazing and is often put into this context:  "What record should we listen to? Party Time?  What time is it? Party Time?  Should we get another round?  Party Time?"  You get the idea.

Party Time? taken as a whole is the only Kurtis Blow album to date that is great from start to finish. Granated it's only an EP, but maybe that's the format that suits him best.  No cringe inducing tracks on side two (see prior reviews here and here), which makes flipping the record repeatedly a pleasure instead of a terror.

Opening track, "Party Time?" is way ahead of its time as a fusion of musical genres, hip-hop and go-go (It's a DC thing. Don't know about it? Keep reading). It has a bouncing tempo that instantly gets you moving. Lyrics are a straight up thank you to the good that having great tunes around can do, especially when times are tough. Conveniently enough, at just over eight minutes long it is the perfect length for a morning abs workout. Nice! The track also features wailing horns that will rapidly transport you to the opening credits theme music of Saturday Night Live. The fact that Beastie Boys lift one of their more well known samples from this track (see, Hey Ladies) gives this disco synth sing-a-long track some major additional cred. Not that it needs it. It is a dance floor classic in this apartment.

Blow collaborates with early champions of DC based musical cornucopia known as go-go, EU (Experience Unlimited) for the majority of tracks on this platter. The go-go sound is a hypersmorgasbord of rhythm, funk, call and response shout outs, conga drums, and general R & B mayhem. For the uninitiated it can be a tad overwhelming, but in the case of this EP, Blow manages to get the manic vibes to compliment his old school style. "Party Time?" is the purist example of this but, "Gotta Dance" is a potent funk and synth jam that will have you moving fast as well. Blow pulls out all the verbal tricks and the slinky synth hook matches well with the gut punch bass lines.

All dancing and good tunes aside, Blow makes a concerted effort to point out that things are tough out there for the average American. The album cover art is a straight look into the audience eye with Kurtis standing in front of a line of folks waiting to pick up unemployment checks; perhaps it is not yet party time. Maybe that's a simplistic touch but I think it would have been mighty easy for the fun loving rap star to focus on the bling and disco sheen that was still common in his time. Instead he shines a light on inequities around. "Nervous" talks a lot about how the world is a constantly litany of dangers for folks. He rails about politicians, the legal system and "missiles every place," but in a way that isn't mean or nasty. He's a story teller at heart. Closing jam "One-Two-Five" is a classy funk shout out to the main drag in Harlem. Lyrically he manages to name drop Fidel Castro, The Count, The Duke, and Doctor J amongst many others. It's an impressive ode to his home and a great send off for the EP.

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