When one purchases an ’80s electro-funk album, they’re rolling the dice. Maybe you’re getting a rather excellent single and a handful of forgettable, if decent other songs; maybe you’re getting a rather excellent single and a couple surprise gems. Dazz Band’s Keep It Live is one of the former: you get “Let It Whip,” but it’s the first jam on the LP, and you can pretty much just lift the needle after that. Not that I’m mad, since I paid a buck for it, but you’re always hoping that you’ll get something else that will blow your mind, sort of like blind-buying Midnight Star’s No Parking on the Dance Floor.
Twilight 22’s self-titled (1984) is sadly one of the former. On the whole, it’s a fairly decent bit of electro, but the teaming up of Stevie Wonder’s keyboard wunderkind Gordon Bahary with singer Joseph Saulter isn’t as magical as one would expect. I mean, it’s fine, and I wouldn’t yank it off the turntable or anything, but once you’ve spun the record in its entirety, you’re probably going to find yourself going to the second side, first cut, and skipping the first side entirely.
The project’s sole LP is mostly a case of a star shining so brightly that it obscures everything else, because in comparison to “Electric Kingdom,” everything else just falls short. The post-“Planet Rock” electro jam is derivative, sure, but it builds upon the Kraftwerk-jacking and gives it a sunny California bounce that has rendered the track absolutely classic.
It’s a stone-cold great moment, to be sure, riding a pounding groove and just pummeling the hell out of your speakers, but it’s the only one to really demand you stop and listen to it. The closing track, “In the Night,” seems like it was tacked on last minute — especially as the track before it is titled “Finale.” “Night” is very Stevie Wonder, and super pop, completely lacking the the twanging bass which ties the rest of Twilight 22’s self-titled together.
Lacquers were re-cut from the original analogue tapes, and also remastered by Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters, and while the songs themselves might be a mixed bag of “meh,” they sound fantastic. Twilight 22 sounds vibrant and big, so even if they’re basically recreating Afrika Bambaataa, it’s just as banging.
It’s a straight-ahead reproduction of the original jacket, and Craft Recordings once again manages to get the good art. This isn’t a scan and blow-up. Some liner notes would be nice — even just an expanded version of that Rolling Stone list of the “20 Greatest Pre-‘Straight Outta Compton’ West Coast Rap Songs.”
The self-titled albumis available on vinyl from Craft Recordings.