Ryle - The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes (album review) (2016)

Ryle
ryle_the_adventures_of_jefferson_keyes.jpg

Ryle - The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes 

Over the past decade, the German-Danish duo of Cool Million has expertly paired an authentic early-‘80s R&B sensibility in production with classic and contemporary vocalists chock full of the kind of soul required for delivering truly melodic grooves built on feeling. Now, member Frank Ryle branches out temporarily for a markedly funky album that bears the signature festivity of that sound, but carves out its own niche with overall sparser arrangements and somewhat rawer compositional elements.

Ryle - The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes 

Over the past decade, the German-Danish duo of Cool Million has expertly paired an authentic early-‘80s R&B sensibility in production with classic and contemporary vocalists chock full of the kind of soul required for delivering truly melodic grooves built on feeling. Now, member Frank Ryle branches out temporarily for a markedly funky album that bears the signature festivity of that sound, but carves out its own niche with overall sparser arrangements and somewhat rawer compositional elements.

The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes takes its name from the chief character of another Cool Million: the short-lived crime drama series that actually preceded the dawning of the funky boogie-disco sounds visited on this collection. But perhaps the 1972 show’s focus on a private detective living the high life parallels the marriage here of sly rhythms and intrepid lyrics. From the deep and slick flow of “Two Way Love Affair” (sung suavely by Flemming Fanoe) to the Zapp-esque vocoder and computer-funk grind of “Private Eye” (featuring Jimmy Antony), there’s an undercurrent of intrigue and fun to the rhythmic action.

Sexy vibes notwithstanding, a batch of tunes on The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes delve into motivational messages matched by festive layers of keyboards a la Cool Million’s albums as a duo. Ryle provides a Chic-inspired structure laced with synth-funk spices of old-school indie NYC 12” releases on “Busy Dreamin’,” fronted by Danish singer Gregers. On the buoyant single “Keep the Faith,” formidable British soulster Kenny Thomas provides a rich tenor reading of reassuring reminders to weather life’s storms with an eye for a better tomorrow. Thomas appeared on Cool Million’s III album in 2012, lending his voice to the memorable single, “Without Your Love.”

Although lyrically treading the same territory as “Keep the Faith” and “Busy Dreamin,” the assertive tone of Sulene Fleming makes the feel-good funker “Lift Your Head Up” a particularly infectious affair. Likewise, U.S.-based Kiki Kyte and Chic’s own Folami light up the bouncy, horn-tinged “Walkin’ on Air” with both enough shine and grit to make even the most reticent dancer bust a few moves on the floor. In a more attenuated fashion, Seest fluidly caresses the warm chords and rhythm track of “Never Gonna Let You Go,” a jam that brings to mind the engaging romanticism of ‘70s Barry White goodness with a slightly modernized, percussive accent. “I wanna thank the universe, I found what I’ve been lookin’ for,” Seest professes—and you can feel the sense of calm right in that moment.

Perhaps most indicative of Jefferson Keyes’ character on Cool Million, the light and airy “Soho House,” sung also by Kyte and Folami, is an unabashed disco tribute to the chain of exclusive, members-only clubs referred to in its title. With a hint of inspiration from Sister Sledge’s “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” the ladies celebrate good times with a select crowd in an upscale environment. The pliant piano fills and sparkly synthesizer effects constitute the foundation of the cut’s happy-go-lucky nature, while smart guitar etchings and a nice electic keyboard solo towards the end add spice.

All in all, The Adventures of Jefferson Keyes is a kinetically and soulfully satisfying listening experience that succeeds with an emphasis on substance over style. Rather than just serve up danceable tracks with arrangements and songs that happen to fit them, Ryle concentrates on building numbers that are driven by tonal character and harmonic structure. As a result, the groove falls into place naturally at each stop along the way, making for a collection that is just as easy to enjoy at home chillin’ as it is undoubtedly while shakin’ it at the club. Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 
Featured Album - Will Downing - "Romantique, Part 1"
Featured Album - The Soul Rebels - "Poetry In Motion"
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
See our Christmas Playlist! - A SoulTracks "Merry Christmas" - Now on Spotify

Leave a comment!