Chris Jasper - The One (2014)

Chris Jasper
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In the normal arc of a career, an artist has a creative and commercial peak in his 20s or early 30s, and later fades to musical obscurity...or worse.  During the younger days of his career, former Isley Brothers keyboardist Chris Jasper certainly experienced a peak like few of his peers. As the co-writer and co-producer of a bevy of now classic hits during the 70s and early 80s, he is rightfully a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But when the Isleys (and later the trio Isley, Jasper, Isley) split, Jasper wasn't ready to kick his heels up and hit the oldies circuit. Instead, he began a new and, in many ways, more challenging career as a solo artist. Now 25 years into that second career, Jasper defies the stereotype, demonstrating that he is still hitting on all cylinders as a singer and songwriter on his eleventh solo release, The One.

In the normal arc of a career, an artist has a creative and commercial peak in his 20s or early 30s, and later fades to musical obscurity...or worse.  During the younger days of his career, former Isley Brothers keyboardist Chris Jasper certainly experienced a peak like few of his peers. As the co-writer and co-producer of a bevy of now classic hits during the 70s and early 80s, he is rightfully a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But when the Isleys (and later the trio Isley, Jasper, Isley) split, Jasper wasn't ready to kick his heels up and hit the oldies circuit. Instead, he began a new and, in many ways, more challenging career as a solo artist. Now 25 years into that second career, Jasper defies the stereotype, demonstrating that he is still hitting on all cylinders as a singer and songwriter on his eleventh solo release, The One.

Though he hasn't charted with a new album since 1989's Time Bomb, Jasper has never stopped recording, and has maintained a solid audience that followed him through his forays into soul, funk and gospel over the years. And those fans created a social media buzz when Jasper issued the title track from The One earlier this Summer, making it an unadulterated online hit -- with good reason: It may be Chris Jasper's best composition since "Caravan of Love," and the romantic love song stands up well against his best old school soul ballads. Even better news is that that song opens what may be Jasper's strongest solo set, front to back.  The One, dedicated in part to Jasper's wife, Margie ("my soulmate and my inspiration"), lyrically explores faithful, long-lasting love, featuring a number of ballads that celebrate what comes after the initial infatuation. "Your Love" speaks of the personal fulfillment that that one love can bring, and "Still in Love" proclaims that the right love doesn't fade with time: "As the years go by / you always keep me satisfied / Girl you're all I ever need / Blessed with a higher love / one that we're so proud of / you make my life so sweet."

While they always featured killer ballads, the Isley Brothers' best albums were also marked by an electric funk that was a unique blend of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, and Jasper recalls those years on parts of The One"Rock the Foundation" uses a heavily synthesized bottom to create a laid-back, funky groove, and "Right Now" keeps it upbeat, but with the kind of accessible pop twist - somewhat similar to "Harvest for the World" - that would have made this track an out of the box hit in the 80s for an artist like Michael McDonald.  But it is "Man Up," with its funky bass plucking and electric guitar lead (along with Jasper's most impassioned vocals), which is the dance track that will most appeal to fans of songs like "That Lady" and "Fight the Power."

Popular broadcast radio may not even consider an album like The One, and, with his one-man-band approach and unapologetically old school sound, Chris Jasper both acknowledges that and thumbs his nose at the compromises it would take for mass airplay (notice there is no guest rapper, thank God). But fortunately there are more ways than ever for music fans to find great music, and I hope that the sizeable adult audience that grew up on Jasper's brand of funk and soul will find The OneIt is an unadulterated success, and a demonstration that this Hall of Fame songwriter, now in his early 60s, is still at the top of his game. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

 

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