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Jamiroquai - Dynamite Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 September 2005

artist: Jamiroquai

format: 16-bit Stereo CD/Enhanced Stereo DVD
label: Epic
release year: 2005
performance: 8.5
sound: 7.5
reviewer: Bryan Dailey

Image If the Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, KC & the Sunshine Band and Sade all got together for a disco orgy, the resulting love child would sing just like Jay Kay, the front man for modern-day British disco heavyweights Jamiroquai. America was introduced to Jamiroquai in 1997 with the release of the multi-platinum album Traveling Without Moving. The song “Virtual Insanity,” with its retro style and tripped-out video featuring moving sidewalks that carried Kay all around the screen as he seemed to moonwalk and float across the room, helped the band cut through the Nirvanas, Pearls Jams and Soundgardens that were fading in popularity by that time. Jamiroquai were a bit of a vacation from the hard grungy music that had been assaulting the airwaves for so long, and they found a niche that worked on alternative radio, as well as the big pop stations that have their Friday and Saturday night disco block jams.

Jamiroquai was gifted with a substantial new batch of younger fans thanks to a memorable scene in the cult comedy phenomenon “Napoleon Dynamite”; when Napoleon busts out his funky moves at the school rally, it’s to the Jamiroquai song “Canned Heat.” After this movie became a hit, it seemed every kid in America under 14 was exposed to Jamiroquai, and many of them (like my 13-year-old niece, who has “Napoleon Dynamite” ring tones on her cell phone) have been buying up Jamiroquai tracks in droves on iTunes. It seems to be no coincidence that the new album from Jamiroquai is titled Dynamite.

The opening track “Feels Just Like It Should” has some of the nastiest, low distorted guitar effects in the intro, but segues into an upbeat drum part as Jay Kay’s smooth falsetto vocals flow across the soundscape. When he sings the line “…coming like a laser beam,” producer/mixer/musical collaborator Mike Spencer throws some “laser beam” effects in the background of the mix. It may seem cheesy reading about it but in the context of the album it works perfectly, and lets you know this is about having a good time.

“World That He Wants” features an interesting mix, begining very low-fi, but as Jay Kay sings along to a piano and a string section that build in intensity, the clarity and fidelity are increased until the soundstage widens and the song opens up. It’s not a long tune but it shows the vocal range of Kay, as he sounds a little like ‘60s/‘70s icon Stevie Wonder.

The Sade influence is obvious on the smoothed-out “Talullah.” The bass line and chord structure, saxophone accents and soft flute melodies are so similar to several of Sade’s hits it’s frightening, yet doesn’t seem like any kind of musical plagiarism. If you want to impress your friends or perhaps a date on a Friday night, this track, with its stellar sound and production, is a sure bet.

“Electric Mistress” starts with the sound of ringing chimes over a funky disco beat that brings the intro to the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” to mind. The sequenced keyboard, bouncing bass beat and call and response vocals with the backup singers make for a high-energy track that would have been popular at Studio 54 back in the day.

The current single from the album is “Seven Days in Sunny June,” a very laid-back party tune with an acoustic guitar strum that has a bit of a “hippie” flavor that actually works with these highly polished British disco jams.

“Black Devil Car” is the closest thing to a rock and roll song on Dynamite. A lightly distorted guitar moves the song along, unlike most of the songs that are carried by a rolling bass line, where the guitar is there to provide off- beat accents and wah-wah fills. At first listen, this kind of rocking tune felt a little out of place, but despite its harder edge it still has an underlying funky quality that is unquestionably Jamiroquai.

The closing track “Time Won’t Wait” is so dead-on disco perfect that unless you knew it was recorded in the past year, you’d bet your life it was a lost Donna Summer track. The disco strings, horns and electric “slide whistle” effects that were so prevalent back in her day are resurrected here in modern hi-fi for your listening pleasure.

Jamiroquai has somehow done the impossible. They make music that sounds like it should have been recorded at the ’70s yet is completely relevant in today’s musical world. Many people feel that in the world of pre-packaged pop music and even electronic music, a premium is no longer placed on musicianship. With Jamiroqai’s latest release, they have shown that a band with absolutely killer musical chops has a place on MTV, the radio and in the record store bins.

Extra Features
Speaking of new ways of buying music -- Jamiroquai tracks selling in droves on iTunes -- this newest commercial disc format is called DualDisc, which features a CD on one side and a DVD layer on the other. Sony Music, a big supporter of DualDisc, has released many of their new albums in this format; Jamiroqai’s Dynamite (from Sony-owned Epic Records) is available on CD as well as DualDisc. On the DualDisc release, the CD side (which may not work on a few CD players or computer CD-ROM drives) features the same track listing and stereo mix that the standard Red Book CD release has. Where the extra value comes from the DualDisc package is on the DVD side. Flipping the disc over, the entire album is included with an “enhanced stereo” mix and an interview with Jay Kay, videos for “Seven Days in Sunny June” and “Feels Just Like it Should” and a making-of video for the latter. I don’t spend my spare time Tivo-ing MTV to see Jamiroquai videos or searching the internet for Jay Kay interviews, but since these little extras were right there for me they’re a nice addition to the disc, and illuminate how the new generation of music buyers wants more than just the music on a disc. DualDiscs with video content like this can motivate fans to purchase the entire disc rather than legally (or illegally) download just a few tracks, most likely only to have them live on the user’s iPod.

Although this album disappointingly does not include a surround sound mix on the DVD side, the enhanced mix sounds wider and has more separation than the CD layer. In my car stereo system as well as my home theater, the CD layer sounded a little bright and muddy during the intro to “Feels Just Like It Should,” whereas the DVD side, played in my home theater reference system, has a wide dynamic range and good separation between the instruments.

The disc on the DVD side has a warm ’70s analog feel, yet the vocals and guitars are stunningly clean on most of the tracks. They have a retro warmth that you’d hear on a Lenny Kravitz record, but the sound is very fresh and cleaner than most of Lenny's songs as he tends to use very noisy ’70s technology. The bass has a smooth rounded feeling, especially on the DVD side, and although this disc is not a true DVD-Audio disc, you will most likely opt for the DVD side whenever possible, as it is superior to the CD side.

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