Back in the days when grunge asphyxiated the market with its rather tight grip, it was certainly a refreshing change of pace to see a band in complete contrast garnering similar mainstream success. That band was Jamiroquai. Although seen as a cheap imitation of Stevie Wonder through the eyes of many, the greatly talented front man Jay Kay still cooked up enough innovation to offer a distinctive taste of acid funk; the band have become universally established and are still toppling the charts, even up against today's competition. While later incarnations have proven to support a more pop-driven direction, many would argue that their earlier material is a better representation of Jamiroquai's unique sound. Their debut album 'Emergency On Planet Earth' is a prime example of how their raw talent is displayed.
From the low-end vibes of the didgeridoo to the soaring melodies crafted by some trademark string work, Jamiroquai have been widely recognised throughout the recent years. For those familiar with the band's latest releases, the progression of the band have seen them to produce songs that are more dance oriented. Emergency On Planet Earth, however, doesn't really concern itself with synths and suchlike, making the album feel more organic in this sense, focusing solely on the pure Jamiroquai sound. While many think that Jamiroquai is basically Jay Kay with just a bunch of session musicians (and to an extent, this notion can be applied to their recent line ups), there was a time when there was an actual band at the works; an ex-member that deserves an honourable mention is bassist Stuart Zender. What you hear in the debut is the band at, arguably, their very best.
The first song �When You Gonna Learn (Digeridoo)�, while very initially comes across as unremarkably Jamiroquai, is brought into an amalgamation of complex basslines, toe tapping drum licks and fantastic didgeridoo implementations, finished off with an irresistible melody spread throughout. The concept which is mostly involved within the album is very anti-politic driven in a typical Jamiroquai fashion, however Jay Kay certainly poured his pure emotion into the entire LP�s worth of material. Lyrics such as - �Victims of a modern world, Circumstance has brought us here, Armageddon's come too near,� really give an indication that the whole band tried their hardest to, firstly, create a new trend and revolution of music, and secondly, to be subversive to the point controversy.
Enter the band�s effort to make a difference, the self explanatory �Revolution 1993�. Clocking in at a rather epic 10:17, this is past Jamiroquai at one of its finest ever moments. Throughout involves some incessant drum rolling by Derrick, which certainly represents the anthem aspiring nature behind it, complimented with Jay Kay shouting �I want to fight the power� - you'd be hard pushed not to cheer him on. At 3:21 then introduces the first pace change, combined with a psychedelic vibe and some impressive pan flute improvisation over the top - then later on into the 7 minutes area, is repeated again but with a fantastic trumpet solo. And yes, there are some female singers, too. If they look anywhere near as good as their singing performances, then we are definitely in for a treat.
Anyway, what separates their previous efforts to their later instalments however is how there were fantastic instrumentals that displayed how damn hot these guys really are. �Music Of The Mind� is an aural journey from start to finish, undertaking some strange imagery throughout thanks to the very diverse range of instruments. While very slow initially, it becomes faster paced and somewhat more jazz ridden when it reaches the later sections - very obscure yet impressive scales are then played from the bass while some weird synthesisers are used on the keyboard to create a more surreal experience, which is richly concluded with an exceptional trumpet solo. Superb.
It�s not just, �politics suck, throw a instrumental in and whine some more� though - oh no, underneath the somewhat tough yet, in contradiction, scrawny exterior, Jay Kay has a bit of personal emotion, too, bless him. �Blow Your Mind� is a clear signification of this - it is quite simply about his undying love for a certain someone. While in depth it carries a rather clich� formula in terms of lyrics - �Love ya, I need ya, I think I wanna squeeze ya� - again, a focused melody and an excellent instrumental really bumps this up a notch - like all the songs on the album, you will eventually find yourself singing to these for months to come. Don�t say I didn�t warn you.
There are far too many moments of sheer genius to even recall, though. Emergency On Planet Earth is undoubtedly one of the greatest funk albums in the history of, well, funk - it is diverse, intelligent and fresh, and that is even standing up against today�s competition. While it is, personally, mildly inferior than its sequel �The Return Of Space Cowboy�, Jay Kay and the crew have still created an album of epic proportions. Among one of the highest recommendations possible - essential for fans and certainly a shock for non believers.
. Tight production and musicanship.
. Superbly realised songs that are accessible and catchy.
. The songs are diverse and complex, yet with a simple undertone.
. While the music is accessible, some of the songs are really quite long.
. It's still Jamiroquai; Jay Kay's flamboyancy will undoubtedly be a bit of a marmite for many.
. Emergency On Planet Earth
. Too Young To Die
. Revolution 1993