A classic 1977 jazz-funk album, which has been out of print for more than 20 years but widely sampled, has now officially been reissued by Chiaroscuro.
James Mason’s Rhythm Of Life is deserving of the “classic” album tag it’s small but fanatical cult following has awarded it. Smoothly soulful and spiritually uplifting throughout, the album’s blend of funky fusion and progressive R&B is definitely reminiscent of Mason’s former employer, Roy Ayers and the album features Philip Woo (keyboards) and Justo Almario (saxophone) from Ayers’ Ubiquity.
After one listen, fans will immediately understand why this is considered a masterpiece in rare groove circles. Mason played all the guitars and synths (two different ARPs and Fender Rhodes), and was largely responsible for the instrumental arrangement of every track. Clarice Taylor’s vocals are far more soulful than the jazz-funk norm; what’s more, the songs, all but one co-written by Ninoska Escobar aren’t just perfunctory groove vehicles, but are far more structured than is typical for the genre, at times they take on a transcendent, almost spiritual quality.
On its release, the album was not a success and suffered from poor timing as tastes shifted away from jazz towards a more mainstream disco beat.
However, over time, Rhythm Of Life has taken on a new life of its own. The album’s rich, textured sound, robust, funky arrangements, and Mason’s solid musicianship was integral to the development of the acid jazz movement in the 90s. At least four tracks, Sweet Power Your Embrace, Free, Funny Girl, and Slick City have now become raregroove club standards, while the title cut is an absolute monster.