Review Summary: A fitting end to the life of an incredible human being
For those of you not familiar with the story of "Scatman" John Larkin, it goes a little something like this: John was born with a severe stutter, leading to a traumatic childhood. He started playing piano at age 12, largely to compensate for his speech difficulties, and was a professional jazz pianist throughout the 70s and 80s. Despite rubbing elbows with the late great saxophonist Joe Farrell, John's career went nowhere, and he fell victim to severe alcoholism and drug abuse. He eventually cleaned up and relocated to Germany, where he found an appreciative jazz scene. After receiving a standing ovation for a rendition of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," John realized his knack for scat singing which, in his words, "turned his greatest problem into his greatest asset."
His agent then proposed that John assume the alias of "Scatman John" and combine scat singing with modern genres like dance and hip hop. When this plan materialized, not only was it not ludicrous- it was downright catchy, propelling his debut single "Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)" to top 40 success around the world in 1994. Unfortunately, Scatman's later releases were not as well received, and he forever lived in the shadow of this song until his death in 1999.
Take Your Time is Scatman's final album, and though relatively obscure, his finest achievement in my opinion, blending fun, melodic pop tunes with mature undertones that were lacking on previous efforts. He was also dying of lung cancer during the recording, which makes the whole affair rather touching. Let me state right off the bat that this album is cheesy- not a mere slice of cheese, but one of those gigantic wheels of cheese you see on display at the grocery store. Think of all the goofy Eurodance clichés you can, put them on steroids, and sprinkle scat singing over the top. That's basically what this album is like, and I love every second of it, though I sadly wouldn't play in the company of my friends and family. The word "guilty pleasure" comes to mind, but why should I feel guilty about enjoying this album? After all, it promotes a positive message, and Scatman was far from a talentless musician or one-trick-pony.
The tracks on Take Your Time range from surprisingly catchy dance tunes like "Scat Me If You Can" and "Ichi Ni San" to more serious numbers like "Dream Again," and the Elton John cover, "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word." Other songs, like "Nightrain" and "Take Your Time" fall squarely in the middle, while others still explore novel world music influences ("Chickadee Song," "Take Me Away," "Scatmambo," "I Love Samba"). My personal favorite song is "Everyday," which is infectious, but beautiful, seemingly dedicated to the Scatman's wife. Instrumentally, most tracks revolve around hypnotic synth patterns and beats, though several tracks feature "real" instruments like guitars and horns. Vocally, the Scatman is in top form here, possessing an impressive range for his age, and definitely living up to his name (his scat singing would probably make Ella and Louis shlt their pants if they heard it). There are also two female backing singers, who definitely add to the experience, and the production is excellent as well.
I'm giving this album such a high rating for being so inspirational. It represents a man succeeding in the face of improbable odds, and for that, Scatman John deserves to be commended. Not only did he overcome stuttering and drug abuse- he convincingly executed a novel style of music which sounds totally ridiculous in theory. How many people can say they did the same?