“You know this boogie is for real”, proposes the devastatingly slick, disco-revival opener ‘Canned Heat’. It’s a bold statement from Jason Kay and one which begs a question: what kind of concept of funk reality do you have when you’re the 29-year-old Aston Martin connoisseur jet-set lord of 72 acres of swan-nibbled Buckinghamshire real estate, just back from Bermuda to canoodle with Denise Van Outen on the cover of [I]Elle[/I]?
J Kay‘s boogie might have been 4 real when he was doing hip-hop in 1986 but the moment he realised, tonight Matthew, he could be Stevie Wonder for yachties, his ties with authenticity were much loosened. It’s convenient to pick on Jay for being a self-congratulatory rich white guy with a hat problem, but the real issue is conviction rather than cash. Since debut album ‘Emergency On Planet Earth’ he’s done little to persuade that he’s capable of more than (brilliantly) aping set historical ideas of soulful ‘funky’ expression.
So does fourth album ‘Synkronized’ tech step into an ass-quenchingly blissful alien terrain of post-Basement Jaxx dance? Does Jay lay his soul on the line and to hell with the global chart positions? Not exactly, folks. ‘Canned Heat’ is the full George Michael goes mirrorball ’70s pastiche. ‘Planet Home’ has the feel of a reject from Michael Jackson‘s ‘Thriller’. ‘Black Capricorn Day’ has more bite to it, enlisting a vicious ‘Superstition’-esque organ riff and a fiery horn section.
Naturally these evocations of Roy Ayers doing stunts on a blaxploitation film set are blindingly professional. The Love Unlimited Orchestra-style string arrangements are impressively mimetic and Jay‘s spectacular voice scats like a jazz bluebottle around ‘Soul Education’ and ‘Falling’.
Then, just at the point where disinterested parties are about to get their coats, something wonderful and radical happens. Kay stops singing. The five minutes of ‘Destitute Illusions’ is given over to a sublime, languid, instrumental porno-acid lounge piece and for a moment it sounds like JK‘s got something homegrown to offer.
The inventive spasm survives through ‘Supersonic’ thanks to the speed-garage bass and, erm, didgeridoos. It re-emerges briefly in the curious Bach-in-the-key-of-Stevie piano piece ‘King For A Day’. Sadly, however, having proved that he’s fully capable of doing his own nu-thang, the rest of ‘Synkronized’ reverts to the polished, received wisdom yesteryear grooves of your Gil Scott Herons‘n’James Browns‘n’Barry Whites.
Classic funk soul brother moves from the classic car aficionado and just a hint that Kay doesn’t have to spend the rest of his life as the Mick Hucknall of borrowed boogie.