Ronnie Foster – 1972 – Sweet Rival
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A funky keyboard treasure – a smoking organ and Fender Rhodes session that is one of the greatest Blue Note albums by Ronnie Foster! Foster plays organ on the set, next to electric piano by Ernie Hayes – and the pair stir up the sound wonderfully as they glide over grooves, soaring on twin keyboard lines that really make for a magical sound! A few tracks get hard and funky, and others have that superdope laidback feel that made all of Foster’s early work so great – especially for the Quest-era sample crowd. The album’s got some really great 70s soul covers, mixed with a few tasty originals.
“Let me begin by saying that this is not the greatest jazz album you’ve ever heard.” So states critic/DJ Harry Abraham in the liner notes on the back of Sweet Revival, Ronnie Foster’s second album as a leader. Abraham was obviously trying to deflect criticism that this record is, in his words, “a commercial album that could have just as easily been titled ‘Ronnie Foster Plays the Top 40 hits of the Seventies With Horns, Strings and Voices,'” but nothing he could write would make this album acceptable to jazz purists. Foster’s fondness for funky soul-jazz would be enough to earn the disdain of some critics, but he compounds his problems by piling on contemporary funk, soul, and pop influences. Sweet, sweeping strings straight out of Philadelphia are all over Sweet Revival, as are wah-wah and fuzz guitars, slap bass, electric pianos, vocal choruses, and electric sitars. Half of the album is devoted to pop covers (“Back Stabbers“, “Me and Mrs. Jones“,”Alone Again (Naturally)“), with a couple of fusion numbers and originals thrown in for good measure. Certainly, this is the stuff that enrages jazzbos, and the album does sound like the soundtrack for a cut-rate blaxploitation flick, but that’s part of its appeal. Fans of that sound will find much of the album appealing, even if the vocals can sound eerie (check out the heavily echoed intro to “Where Is the Love?“) and the sitars sound silly.
Although the album sounds dated, the grooves are funky, and Sweet Revival remains one of the most engaging records of groovy, jazzy funk-soul of its era.