The Original 7ven, the band formerly known as The Time, has released a seriously funky album called Condensate. This is, as the new band name makes clear, the full lineup of one of the ‘80s most fearsome funk acts. That includes, of course, frontman Morris Day and his right hand man, percussionist and backing vocalist Jerome Benton. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production team best known for their blockbuster collaborations with Janet Jackson, are back on keyboards and bass, respectively. Guitarist Jesse Johnson, drummer Jellybean Johnson, and keyboardist Monte Moir are all on board too.
The Time were best known as Prince’s adversaries in the movie Purple Rain, funking up the First Avenue club with hits like “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.” The association was in place long before that, as Prince supplied the band with most of their material and was responsible for much of the production and musicianship on their early albums. Though the band had broken up by the time Purple Rain hit theaters in 1984, they reunited in 1990, co-starring again with Prince in Graffiti Bridge. Though the movie bombed, The Time scored big with their album Pandemonium and its hit single “Jerk Out.”
For longtime fans, Condensate is a dream come true. Somehow the stars aligned and The Original 7ven came together to deliver fourteen brand new songs. It’s hard to believe more than twenty years have passed since their last album, as Condensate proves these guys haven’t lost a step. As for the name change, the band has publically stated that Prince didn’t grant permission for them to call themselves The Time. Prince works in mysterious ways, so who knows exactly why this was the case (most likely it was due to his lack of involvement with the project). Though it left them with a marketing headache, it didn’t stand in the way of making some of their best music to date.
A brief skit early in the album, “O7ven Press Conference,” reestablishes Day’s comic persona succinctly. A reporter asks Day if he’s still “cool,” especially considering he seems so sweaty on stage. Likening himself to a bottle of chilled champagne, dripping after sitting at room temperature, Day explains, “I don’t sweat – I condensate.” This bit sets the overall tone for a great party album, loaded with danceable jams. Most of the material is credited to Jam and Lewis, often with credits to various other band members. It’s a well-paced mixture of straight up funk, sultry ballads, and crunchy, groove-oriented rock. All of it is laced with Day’s patented braggadocio.
Highlights include “If I Was Yo Man,” driven by Jellybean Johnson’s tightest drum pattern on the album. “Sick” features some nasty Jesse Johnson guitar leads and a strong hook. The lead single, “#Trending,” as the title suggests, has some fun bringing the band into the social media era. “Strawberry Lake” is a feel-good jam reminiscent of their 1984 hit “Ice Cream Castles.” Late in the album, the O7ven are really firing on all cylinders with the back-to-back up-tempo tracks, “One Step” and “Toast to the Party Girl.” While rooted in an ‘80s sound overall, Condensate is so organic and brimming with skilled musicianship that it ends up sounding fresh and old school simultaneously. And Morris Day’s lead vocals defy age – he sounds just like he did thirty years ago.
Hopefully Condensate marks a new beginning for the band formerly known as The Time. Maybe Prince will even lighten up a little and let them use their original name. But for now, they’re The Original 7ven and they’re funkier than ever.