Michael Jeffries - Family Affair (2011)

Michael Jeffries

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No matter how old we get, how far we travel or what paths our futures take, there’s one influence that we can never escape----family. For better or worse, those are the ties that unite, bind….or in some cases, gag, but who we are and where we end up can be determined by what we come from.  And those are the relationships that are celebrated by Michael Jeffries with his daughter and son in his second full-fledged CD, Family Affair.

No matter how old we get, how far we travel or what paths our futures take, there’s one influence that we can never escape----family. For better or worse, those are the ties that unite, bind….or in some cases, gag, but who we are and where we end up can be determined by what we come from.  And those are the relationships that are celebrated by Michael Jeffries with his daughter and son in his second full-fledged CD, Family Affair.

If you’re an “80’s baby” (or just a little older) and the name sounds familiar to you, it should: Mr. Jeffries has an expansive resume and enviable credits in the music biz, starting back in the 1970s with a group entitled “The Two Things In One” that drew a sizable following in its home base of Oakland, CA and produced a pair of local favorites (“Silly Song” and “Together Forever”) while opening for some of that era’s most iconic performers (Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire and The Whispers, to name a few).  A four-album stint with Tower of Power soon followed, and the 1980s wrapped with Mr. Jeffries securing a publishing deal as a songwriter (he co-penned Denise Williams’ “Never Say Never”) and collaborating with both Jeff Lorber and Karyn White on Lorber’s Private Passion before he released his self-titled debut in 1989 (which contained the hit “Not Through Being With You”). When the final numbers didn’t pan out as desired, Mr. Jeffries put solo aspirations on the back burner and held down the home front----Family Affair showcases the gifts of his adult children (Michael Jr. and Anikol) and the combination of his two great loves, family and music.

Encompassing elements of contemporary R&B, overtones of jazz and a searing, tender duet with another soul legend, Lenny Williams (“Rewrite”), the songs are filled with reverence and respect for loved ones who are romantically tied, blood-tied or otherwise. Jeffries’ warm, reedy vocals caress the lyrics in tracks like “Don’t Forget 2 Say I Love U,” the funk-infused up tempo “U Be The Reason” and the aquatic groove “Can’t You Feel It,” which paints a vivid picture of an enchanting evening and the wondrous journey that could follow. And even when his kids take the lead on vocals (Anikol on “A Love From Above” and a nearly-baritone Michael Jr. on the meditative “Plans”), the lyrics are, for the most part, upbeat and brimming with optimism, especially on the empowered "Believe In Me."

Are there any faults in the midst of this thoughtful, polished project? A few. Except for a couple of numbers scattered throughout, some of the arrangements and the delivery don’t have the impact they could have garnered with, say, a more forceful vocal take or a faster tempo. Anikol’s pitch is a warm one, if a bit thin, and why the elder Mr. Jeffries, with his seasoned abilities, chose to use that ghastly Auto-Tune instead of his own expressive pipes is a maddening mystery.

Family Affair, with its intent, earnestness and emotional depth, marks a solid, if not spectacular, return for the veteran performer;  with his daughter and son by his side as contributors to (and benefactors from) future releases, the Jeffries family musical legacy should only elevate from here and continue for years to come. Moderately Recommended

By Melody Charles

 
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