Randy Muller - Unreleased - Vol. 1, 1978-85 (2010)

Randy Muller
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The songs Randy Muller put on his latest compilation album have never been heard - hence the title Unreleased-Vol. 1 (1978-85). In a sense, these tunes are very familiar. Muller wrote nine of Unreleased's 11 tracks for other groups and individuals he worked with at the same time he was producing hit records for B.T. Express, Brass Construction and Skyy.  The songs on Unreleased have the same kind of high energy fusion of funk, rock, disco and jazz influenced soloing that made BT Express, Brass Construction and Skyy mainstays on urban radio from the mid 1970s until the early 1990s.

The songs Randy Muller put on his latest compilation album have never been heard - hence the title Unreleased-Vol. 1 (1978-85). In a sense, these tunes are very familiar. Muller wrote nine of Unreleased's 11 tracks for other groups and individuals he worked with at the same time he was producing hit records for B.T. Express, Brass Construction and Skyy.  The songs on Unreleased have the same kind of high energy fusion of funk, rock, disco and jazz influenced soloing that made BT Express, Brass Construction and Skyy mainstays on urban radio from the mid 1970s until the early 1990s.

The songs on Unreleased are meant for dancing and exercising. Lyrically, they will do nothing to counter the criticism that dance music sported lyrics that were banal and escapist. And truth be told, it's mostly all about the music on Unreleased. It's not like Muller's incapable of giving his dance music some rich lyrics. Don't believe me? Take another listen to Skyy's "Call Me" and "Let's Celebrate." And even the minimalist lyrics on Brass Construction's funky dance track "Movin'" shows that Muller could efficiently pack a lot of meaning into relatively few words.

Besides, one must also consider the years between 1974 and 1982, when Muller created most of his hits. What was happening in the country at that time?  It was an era of upheaval bookended by Watergate in 1974 and 10 percent unemployment in 1982 when "Call Me" became Skyy's first number one hit. Listeners could hardly be blamed for wanting to hear Muller's dance anthems like "Ha Cha Cha." Besides, back in those days, there was enough room on urban radio for "Call Me" and Gil-Scot Heron's "Gun."

It's easy to see why Muller released the tunes he made with his name groups after listening to Unreleased. The tracks don't have the signature hook nor are they as catchy as the records Muller released with BT Express, Brass Construction and Skyy.

If you had to classify the songs on Unreleased, you'd have to say that they're alternative soul. The tracks on Unreleased have an experimental, jam band quality. The listener can hear Muller experimenting on many of these tunes, and the concepts he toyed with on these tracks eventually wound up in the songs he made for groups like Skyy. The funkateers and diehard fans of Skyy, Brass Construction and BT Express will love the creative solos on the seven minute plus opuses such as "If" or the slashing guitars that introduce the pop/rock dance ballad "Happy To See You Again," both of which are great songs that pushed the boundaries a bit too far for black radio even in the experimental 1970s.  That radio wasn't ready for these songs back then doesn't take away from their appeal; they make for the kind of good listening that fans of 70s funk and disco will cherish. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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