George Duke earned his chops playing with such artists as Cannonball Adderly, Billy Cobham, George Clinton, Jean-Luc Ponty, Miles Davis, and even Frank Zappa. Duke has moved from jazz to funk and back again several times since the early 1980s. The just released Dukey Treats find him primarily in funk mode. He wrote all the tunes contained on the album, employs such vocalists as Rachelle Ferrell, Teena Marie, Jonathan Butler, and Howard Hewett. Sheila E. makes a number of appearances on percussion.
Duke is now about 30 albums and 40 years into his career. He has started his own label, so can basically make the music he desires. Thus Dukey Treats may have a modern sound but he brings his keyboards to some old time funk.
While Duke can be playful at times, there are several serious and socially conscious songs. “Everyday Hero” is a song of appreciation for policemen, firefighters, teachers and the like who are always there but often go unnoticed. Duke calls this song, “Like Sly Stone on steroids.” This is funk at its best as the song simply takes off, driven by his keyboards and Sheila E. showing off on percussion.
“Sudan (It’s A Crying Shame)” contain some of George Duke’s best lyrics in years. The song focus’ upon the human problems in Darfur. Jonathan Butler and Teena Marie legitimize the song with sincere vocals. “Are You Ready” follows “Sudan” and is a nice counterpoint. He mentions that the song honors the positive message and music of Earth, Wind & Fire. He takes a turn as lead vocalist and sings about the need for change.
Duke keeps the light and even comedic spirit of funk alive on some other tracks. Somewhere George Clinton is smiling. “A Fonk Tail,” which is spelled correctly, is a science fiction comic book type tale set to a funky groove. “Creepin’” is a re-working of a song that first appeared on Duke’s 2002 album, Face The Music. It is a song about cheating that is fair to both sexes. The title song, “Dukey Treats,” is a loose fitting, meandering funky groove complete with blazing horns.
“I Tried To Tell You,” “Listen Baby,” and “Right On Time” are ballad type songs that are interspersed throughout the album. They are nice counterpoints to the up-tempo funk numbers and allow the listener to catch his or her breath. The album closes with the seven plus minute instrumental “Images Of Us.” Here Duke returns to his jazz roots as he turns his keyboard virtuosity loose on a creative journey of sound.
Dukey Treats is a solid outing by George Duke and proves that funk is still alive and well and worth listening too.