(4 / 5)
Pioneering R&B and funk band Mtume charted 11 singles in the US charts, including the classic Juicy Fruit,” and all of those tracks are found on the new release from UK label Soul Music Records. This superb two disc offering delivers a total of 32 tracks, 17 on the first disc; “So You Wanna Be A Star” and 15 on CD2; “Breathless”. There’s also album cuts from the team’s five Epic LPs, and three bonus tracks from the sole solo album by female lead vocalist, Tawatha.
Formed by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, two former members of the touring band for jazz icon Miles Davis, Mtume emerged after the pair’s stint on the road and in the studio with Roberta Flack, who had recorded their song, “The Closer I Get To You” as a duet with Donny Hathaway.
The original line-up included other Flack alumni, drummer Howard King, bassist Basil Fearington, keyboardist Hubert Eaves III, with Reggie on guitar, Mtume on percussion, congas and lead vocals and Tawatha (who started working with Mtume & Lucas a few years earlier) on lead and background vocals.
With Mtume & Lucas (who went on to work successfully with Stephanie Mills and Phyllis Hyman among others) originally writing and producing, the group’s first two albums included “Love Lock” which was popular with UK smooth groove lovers, the Top 20 R&B hit “Give It On Up (If You Want To),” “So You Wanna Be A Star” and soulful ballads such as “Closer To The End” and “Everything Good To Me.”
After an amicable split in 1982 with Lucas, Mtume underwent personnel changes and emerged with the suggestive “Juicy Fruit,” the band’s biggest hit single and best-selling album, going on to cut three more LPs.
Included on this long overdue anthology, compiled by David Nathan who also wrote the sleeve notes with quotes from James Mtume, Reggie Lucas and Tawatha, is a specially-sequenced ‘mini-opera’ drawn from tracks recorded for 1984’s “You, Me And He” LP, with the rare non-album cut ‘It’s Non-Functional’ making its CD debut, along with the A&G mix of the 1986 charted single, “Breathless.” The three tracks from Tawatha include the six- minute “Thigh High Mix” of the single, “Thigh Ride.”
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’