When I was trying to come up with a list of guilty pleasures for my recent confession piece, there were a few more entries I considered adding. But in the end, these acts had just a bit too much integrity in their music to justify such a dubious distinction. One of those is that retro jazz-funk-pop outfit Jamiroquai.
You can point to some, scratch that — most — of their songs and level the claim that they're just ripping off Stevie Wonder and the white jumpsuited Bee Gees. And yeah, with frontman Jason Kay's similarly soulful vocals, Wonder does seem to provide the template for much of his material. But when you're aping classic era Stevie better then Stevie himself did on the disappointing A Time To Love and then throwing in classic Earth, Wind & Fire, Funkadelic, Roy Ayers and early Bobby Caldwell for good measure, is that such a bad thing? I tend to think not.
And while Britain's answer to Lenny Kravitz is almost always mining a Moog'ed groove, Jay Kay could often come up with something interesting in the process. Take "Just Another Story" from 1994's Return Of The Space Cowboy, for instance.
"Just Another Story" might best be described as "prog funk". It's jammin', alright, but it has three movements, lasting nearly nine minutes. The first part has a perky bass and electric piano grooving irresistibly in the pocket mid-tempo and J.K. enters to sing the first verses before the intro section makes way for an even funkier middle section, keyed by a catchy bass/Rhodes riff joined in by drums and some decidedly more contemporary hip-hop scratching — the only hint that this isn't 1975. It's at that point where Kay launches into the extended second verse of the song and then repeats it.
And what is this song's about? A bit of a departure from Jay Kay's usual themes of love, environmental concerns and dancing his booty off, "Just Another Story" is about vigilantism gone too far against kids who deal drugs. It's widely thought that this is somewhat autobiographical, as Jason was at one time living on the streets as a petty criminal: "Nobody make a move / This kid's got you covered, / He was just seventeen / Trying to get on like his dead brother."
The third section, or "outro," is all instrumental and is the same bass riff at a higher key introduces the horn section and a lively flute solo as the brass provides support toward a somewhat climatic, abrupt ending.
Jason Kay's songs have hooks and rhythms galore, but it usually takes more than that to hold my attention for more than a few listens. And sometimes, he goes that extra mile with the arrangement, structure and nuances that elevates his songs beyond the ordinary. Such distinctions make "Just Another Story" not just another dance tune.
Listen: Jamiroquai "Just Another Story"
"One Track Mind" is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.Powered by Sidelines