Various Artists - So Smooth (The Funk Album) Produced by Wadz (2010)

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    There are a few cultural earmarks that many were glad to say goodbye to when the 80's ended: asymmetrical shags, jheri curls and mullets, to name a few. But what few will dispute is that the era produced some of the most memorable ballads and dance cuts ever heard, especially in R&B. And whether you have experienced the music vicariously through the old heads or first-hand as a teen or young adult, producer Wadz (CEO of Smooth Swing Records) combines his prowess with a crew of talented musicians and singers to re-create the flavor, and yes, the funk, that dominated the soul scene, sales charts and dance clubs back in the day.

    If your tender years were shaped by the likes of The Whispers, The System, Midnight Star, Zapp and Loose Endz, then those influences will be obvious and immediate to your ears. Don't be confused if the track titles or the vocals throw you off----they may sound like throwbacks, but they're all new artists and material. One can't help but hear hints of a Control-era Janet Jackson on the saucy J. Marie song, "Boy Toy," and the invigorating "We Can Make It" recalls the buttery tones of Billy Ocean. "Attack" could've been a part of The Whispers' catalog of hits, and the influence of a just-post-Shalamar Jody Watley gets a nod on the Lenora Jaye track, "Real Love." So Smooth does have a few moments of monotony, thanks to playing it safe and re-mixing/re-imagining a pair of songs a total of five separate times, but the CD is well-produced, convincingly performed and, if you let it, can function as a time machine to return you to a freer, if more fashion-challenged, place in your memory and heart.

    Vocals:  3 stars
    Music:  3 stars
    Lyrics:  2.5 stars
    Production:  4 stars
    SoulTracks Call:  Recommended

    By Melody Charles