An Encounter With Transition
Andre S. Grindle | Brewer Maine | 11/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ramsey Lewis was going through yet another transitional point in the early 80's. True he had a lot of them in his in his lenghy career already but at the same time this album was released during an interesting time. After yet to reunite for REUNION,in fact a reunion album with his original Ramsey Lewis Troi he apparently was again very comfortable in a musical threesome so he teamed up with drummer Frank Donaldson and Bill Dickens. Robert Irving III also was involved in a number of the songs as a musician and writer. Nevertheless neither funk or disco was exactly viable during this era because of the freeze out that was then effecting all radio formats. So the result is a pop album where only the trademark piano stylings of Ramsey really project any individuality. The title song,a vocal duet of "Up Where We Belong" and "A Special Place" really fall victim to that problem as none of them really know what direction to take and basically end up soft and often overly produced pop jazz with the emphasis on the pop. What really saves these songs is that Bill Dickens is a great bassist and really pumps up the slighter rhythms in these chases,especially on the trio based title track. The album actually starts out on a great note with a cover of "What's Going On". It's not Ramsey's fairly by-the-numbers solo of the main theme that makes it interesting:it's the Gamble Huff/Barry White style orchestral gospel/soul arrangement that makes it all stand out. Many of Ramsey's albums low point came in the orchestration and on this song it actually worked very well. "Intimacy" actually uses the band much the same as Ramsey did his original trio as they all settle onto a ensamble style soul jazz piece where Ramsey's playing is especially impressive. Robert Irving's "Paradise" and "Just A Little Ditty" are on the smooth funk/R&B groove style and actually work both styles very well-again Dicken's bass is most impressive. "I Can't Wait".......it's kind of a unrealized possible direction for the uptempo songs on this album:Ramsey doing 80's "naked funk" with Tim Tobias throwing in some Minneapolis like synthesizers. For the funk enthusiest this is easily the strongest tune on the album. If this album had settled on a couple musical directions with variations it would've easily been one of his strongest releases. In the end it was just a little too erratic to hold together as a consistant album,to the point where some of the productions sound as if they could come from different albums from different eras. Even so it can be appreciated in that it does offer a universally diverse pallet and pretty much everyone can find something to like about it."