Rhonda Thomas - Vinyl Daze (2015)

Rhonda Thomas
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With a name like Vinyl Daze and the buzz Rhonda Thomas received from her great video remake of the Isaac Hayes tune “Do Your Thing,” one might think that the new release by the Georgia-based singer would be a cover project. But Vinyl Daze was actually inspired by conversations Thomas had with Darren “Daz-i-kue” Benjamin of the British band Bugz in the Attic and Khari Cabral Simmons of the soul bossa group Jiva, an outfit for which Thomas serves as lead vocalist. The three discussed creating a record that sounded like a recording from 1981, when most people heard their music on vinyl albums.

With a name like Vinyl Daze and the buzz Rhonda Thomas received from her great video remake of the Isaac Hayes tune “Do Your Thing,” one might think that the new release by the Georgia-based singer would be a cover project. But Vinyl Daze was actually inspired by conversations Thomas had with Darren “Daz-i-kue” Benjamin of the British band Bugz in the Attic and Khari Cabral Simmons of the soul bossa group Jiva, an outfit for which Thomas serves as lead vocalist. The three discussed creating a record that sounded like a recording from 1981, when most people heard their music on vinyl albums.

Vinyl is the best way to listen to music if you can’t hear it live, and Vinyl Daze, with its analog spirit and instrumentation, would be a great candidate for transfer to vinyl in addition to the more portable and convenient (if less audibly pleasing) CD and digital formats. A track such as the Latin, rock, funk amalgamation “Reach” literally leaps from the speakers, and the ballad “Castles Made of Sand,” with its lush instrumentation, lively backing vocals, and Thomas’s gorgeous voice wrapping itself around mature lyrics, feels like it comes from a different era without sounding derivative.

Vinyl Daze begins strong with the funky mid-tempo “Show Me How to Love You,” a tune sporting a funky, a track that sports that deep bass line along with energetic backing vocals, and lyrics that tell the narrative of a woman who asks her emotionally distant lover for directions in how to break through his shell.

A strong first impression can feel a lot like the old bait and switch if what follows does not measure up, but Thomas easily avoids that problem on Vinyl Daze. “I Won’t Tell” is reminiscent of another 1980s classic where a subversive theme lurked beneath a perky melody – “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss made a song that sounded so happy and you’re singing along when the realization hits that “Glory Days” is about bunch of 30-somethings who peaked in high school. Similarly, Thomas endows “I Won’t Tell” with a peppy funk-driven bass line that makes the tune an excellent steppers anthem, but she pairs that arrangement with a narrative about a woman who is less than forthcoming about the relationship with her man because she’s afraid that the truth will bring the cattiness out of her girlfriends. “I feel we have something/They think we don’t/I think they’re haters/I don’t want them to know/About/All this good loving/Don’t want them to see/Instead of their blessings/They’d jealous of me.”

“When You Know You Know” finds Thomas playing big sister and dispensing advice about the tell-tale signs that someone has found THE man/woman. The cut is a mid-tempo bit of truth telling in which Thomas advises people that games stop when the real deal comes along. “There comes a time when those games with others you played/Get old and lead to change/You take a look at yourself/And realize no one else/Can make you feel this way.”

“Castles Mad of Sand” is perhaps the strongest cut on this excellent adult project. The track’s deep groove and Thomas’ jazz inspired phrasing are reminiscent of Incognito’s work in the mid 1990s, while the vocalist’s scatting that closes the tune conjures thoughts of Ella Fitzgerald. The lyrics tell the story of a relationship that looks lovely from a distance but a closer look reveals fragilities that make withstanding the storms impossible.

Ten tracks. That’s how many songs Thomas includes on Vinyl Daze, probably because that’s the number of songs that could fit on an LP. These days, CD’s regularly hold 15 or even 20 tracks, but the discs manage to feel simultaneously bloated and small. So even though the listener often gets an hour of music it’s an open question as to whether they are doing an hour’s worth of listening. But there is no fat here: the 45 minutes spent listening to Vinyl Daze is all time well spent. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

Click Here to Listen to "Vinyl Daze"

 
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