A Taste of R&B Rock
Arrived in a nice bubble lined small Jiffy pouch with a printed label that was taped around the edges to prevent curl (should be fully taped with wide tape to protect the printed area from wetness in transit).
Package. A standard jewel case with two color front cover (black and shades of brown) with an avant garde or modern art style painting, one sided only. No flip side and no rear cover.
Cover letter in black ink but not hand signed. Short bio-promo sheet printed in bold, brown colored ink attached with good contact information.
The CD itself is a mass produced commercial CD with silk-screened label (and not a home burnt CD-R). It lists an ASCAP publisher (required to get publishing money from any radio airplay) and the song writers (Jesse Morgan), the title and even has a contact e-mail address printed near the bottom of the CD. The copyright notice was reasonably but it lacked the “circle P” symbol for providing notice about protecting the underlying audio as a “phonodisk” recording. No UPC code or ordering number which is generally required for sales at Amazon and other chains.
This is a very low end package from a commercial pressing plant, but a very high investment for any person just testing the waters. Packages such as these will cost you at least $1,000 up front for 500 CDs and generally run closer to $2,000 for 1,000+ units. This is actually more expensive then doing CD-Rs at home but it’s a better quality recording (CD-R have lower frequency response, generally under 18,000 Hz top end), that plays in older CD players with no problem and looks like any commercial CD. I noticed the pressing plant was listed on the CD at the bottom, indicating this could be a complimentary or reduced price pressing that includes company credit
Musically the production and arrangements are very professional in the “classic” style of R & B that is typified by the sounds of Shaft with even a touch of Steely Dan that includes background singers, string synthesizer, wah-wah funk guitar, Denny Dias style rhythm, Skunk Baxter style lead riffs, congas and a horn session on Mr. Jive, which was a very delightful tune.
Track 2 had a hotter bass line than track 1 and featured a hot Soprano Sax solo. "You and Me Baby We Belong Together."
Track 3 didn’t have the strong Steely Dan flavor of the first two, sounding closer to David Bowie or many black R & B artists from the 70’s and 80’s.
Track 4 is a guitar driven R & B rocker with hammered on 8th note bass line that eventually segues into a free form bridge, which totally reminded me of the Who’s “Mobile”.
Track 5 starts with a strong, blues like sax line over a slow 4 R & B that adds some Hammond B-3 Leslie sounds and live piano to tracks.
Track 6 sounds a little more like Joe Cocker with classic disco bass line that has an R & B feel to it, but you can hear those octaves and that walk up the neck bass lines like it came off a Donna Summer album! A pretty nice sax solo ends the song.
Track 7 Living In the City. I’ve heard this phased-fuzz guitar line before but I can’t place it. I keep wanting to say Seals and Crofts, but it’s not them.
Track 8 influences I can’t quite place, but it’s very funky with that Rhodes piano sound, chink-a-chink-a scratch guitar, the high background vocals. This was the most original sounding song I heard, probably because I don’t know where he got the inspiration from!
Track 9 is like track 7. I know the song he’s borrowing from but I can’t remember the artist or title. Again it has the R & B feel to it with a solid 80’s disco bass line. The bass playing is real hot, multi-finger playing, but without that percussive pluck sound.
With every track off this album I try and figure out if I can remember “who” Jesse Morgan is emulating and I can’t always remember the songs or the artists that served as an underlying influence. Sorry Jesse, but I grew up with all those songs and I can hear what you’re listening to as you write and perform these tunes! I’m not talking stealing, I’m talking heavily influenced and even derivative.
Not one song stood out as a winner which is why he’s not getting played on radio and that is his only shortcoming! Derivative writing and performing aside (it’s flattery, plain and simple) his workmanship and voice are first rate. If he had a song, radio would play it, even without backing, promotion money or a record label. This artist and his production are that good. His CD is easily worth $15 at any store – I mean seriously how many CDs do you people buy that you can listen to start to finish? There are few in my collection and this one counts as one of them.
If Jesse Morgan stuck his tongue through his cheek he’d be the Weird Al Yankovic of R & B, but his style and performances are dead serious so he’s not having fun with nor poking fun at these songs.
What Jesse desperately needs to find is his own “Lido” or “All Right” or “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” or “Here Comes The Sun” or “James Dean (Jimmy Dean)” and he would be propelled into mainstream. He needs to take a few lessons from David Bowie or his more modern counterpart, Beck (who can be derivative without overtly sounding like it), in learning how to go out on a limb, stand outside your own heroes and trying something really weird, really different and really good as a finished idea. It either needs to be a hot song like “Young Americans” or it needs to be left wing radical (“and the colored girls go: “du-du-du... do-do-do du-du-du” -- now that’s not very PC, but it worked).
Jesse Morgan is a consummate performer, song writer and producer. While no song shined through or said “I’m A Mega Hit” that whole album was pleasant to listen to, expertly produced, meticulously performed. The singing and songwriting is first rate and as a whole this CD is, for me, better than the average one for Cheryl Crow who often produces some cuts I completely want to bypass. I could play this Jesse Morgan album from start to finish in the background with no problem. On the downside some of his influences such as Steely Dan, the Who and some of lesser black R & B artists of the 70’s and 80’s are a little too obvious and the original artists often produce a better sound.
His album sounds every bit as good as a compilation of Steely Dan “B” sides, which is pretty good from a home-grown production by anyone’s standards!
Overall quality of the package is very good. Presentation is good. Workmanship is excellent. Creativity is good. Listenability is very good. Originality not really present.
Do I like this album? Yes! I’d like it much better if he had a hit song sporting a unique flavor and style.
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