There’s nothing more we enjoy here at TFSR – other than music, of course – is hearing from readers and artists alike: launching this site has put us in contact with several of our music idols, as well people who love soul and funk as much as we do. A few weeks ago, however, we received an email from a Marlon McClain asking if we would be interesting in hearing some of his music – of course, we readily accepted but we didn’t recognise the name. Now, after the music has arrived and we’ve listened to it, we feel very guilty indeed that we didn’t know who Mr McClain was.
For those who, like us, hadn’t heard the name before, let us give you a little background. Dubbed ‘The Magician’ for his guitar playing, Marlon McClain is also an in-demand producer, writer and arranger, having worked on records by the likes of George Clinton, George Benson, Ronnie Laws, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, and the funk-icons Tower of Power. That alone is fairly impressive, but then add in the fact that Mr McClain was a member of the funk ensemble the Dazz Band, as well as Shock, one of the unknown yet funkiest late-era funk band, plus the funk-fusion group Pleasure* and it becomes Marlon McClain is a very accomplished man.
His latest offering TBC proves that beyond doubt; this is his third solo release, his first being in 1981 entitled Changes, his second TBD was released in 2010 on Lucky Records/Mac Man Music. TBC is a difficult to album to define – it combines soul, jazz, funk and rock in equal measures to create something incredibly unique. Take the opening number ‘Me & You’ for instance – McClain combines his sublime guitar playing with elements of smooth-jazz, neo-soul and classic funk to create a brilliant album opener. It must also be said that Al Turner’s bass is quite simply delicious.
‘Positivity’ is one of the highlights of the album – it has an almost Earth, Wind & Fire quality to it; from the opening guitar chords of McClain, to the sultry vocals, ‘Positivity’ is a winner. Again, Turner’s bass playing is magical.
Interestingly – at least for us music nerds who read the linear notes – McClain enlists the help of Brighton’s SoulPersona (whose latest album with Princess Freesia we love) on drums and keys on three songs, ‘That Ain’t Right’, ‘Where You Are’ and ‘GWUWGWUN’. It’s an inspired collaboration – former song is another jazz-funk stomper, with Turner’s bass popping and McClain’s tasty guitar driving the song’s groove.
‘Radiation Blues’ adds in yet another dimension to the album; McClain’s guitar is given a blues tone, sounding like a hybrid between George Benson and Buddy Guy (if that’s at all possible) over an incredibly funky track. ‘Where Are You’ meanwhile slows the tempo right down, setting a romantic smooth-jazz vibe – a song perfect for the late night smooth jazz stations of LA. Here McClain’s guitar is at its most seductive.
TBC is a wonderful fusion album by Marlon McClain that we recommend you check out as soon as you can. The creativity of the album sets it apart from other smooth jazz, jazz-funk albums on the scene at the moment – and it’s incredibly refreshing to hear that on the record. If you’re looking for something a little different to ease away your relaxation time with, look no further than this.
Marlon McClain’s new album TBC is out now on Lucky Man/Mac Man Records. You can purchase here on Amazon and iTunes, and it is avaliable to stream on Spotify below. For more information, visit: http://www.roselandpdx.com/macman-music/
*Thanks to Wade Wedlock for pointing this out to us!