Ramsey Lewis - 1974 – Sun Goddess
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Pianist Ramsey Lewis first came to fame as the purveyor of swinging soul-jazz in the mid-’60s, but like a lot of musicians he underwent some major changes by the end of that decade. Sun Goddess (1974), Lewis’ biggest success of the decade, is miles away from the finger-snapping supper club sounds of “The In Crowd.”
By this time, Lewis had transformed himself into a jazz fusion funkateer, riffing on electric piano and synthesizer amid arrangements that meld jazz with funk, R&B, and yes, even touches of progressive rock. Sun Goddess is also something of a stealth Earth, Wind & Fire album, as it features most of the key players from that band, and bears echoes of EW&F’s jazzier, more atmospheric side.
A1 Sun Goddess 8:29
A2 Living for the City 5:20
A3 Love Song 5:53
B1 Jungle Strut 4:40
B2 Hot Dawgit 3:00
B3 Tambura 2:53
B4 Gemini Rising 5:50
By Shining Star
This album was released during one of the most productive periods of Ramsey’s career. The early to mid 1970’s were truly a time of exploration in music and Ramsey was no different. He was a major player in the Jazz-Funk period that saw albums released by Jazz artists like he and Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis amongst others that would take Jazz to a whole other place creatively and reject the idea of being forced into only a traditional point of view.
SUN GODDESS is one of my favorite albums for this reason, Ramsey was experimenting with some wonderful grooves on this and the previous release FUNKY SERENITY. To do this, he once again teamed up with his good friends from his Chess Records days, Maurice White and Charles Stepney, and together they put together a truly wonderful album. The title track is 8 min and 30 sec of pure, unbridled Jazz-Funk heaven. It was composed by Maurice and Jon Lind and is very much in the vein of the outstanding compositions Earth, Wind and Fire were recording at the time and is the perfect way to begin this album.
Next is a instrumental cover of the epic “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder, it is a beautiful rendition that gives Ramsey the perfect canvas for his improvisational skills. “Love Song“, which is one of personal favorites on the album, is the next track and has some great rhythm changes within it and gorgeous orchestrations. Then you have the very Afro-Centric themed “Jungle Strut” which, although not written or produced by Maurice, has his Afro-Centric stylings all over it including someone speaking Swahili in the background.
Next is another song by Maurice and Charles Stepney titled “Hot Dawgit” and just as on “Sun Goddess” it has backing, Philip the congas and Johnny Graham the guitar. This is a purely funk oriented song and has the same feel as the jam “Tee Nine Chi Bit” which The Elements would release on their smash album OPEN OUR EYES the same year. Next you have 2 songs in “Tambura” and “Gemini Rising” which are the most strictly Jazz oriented songs on the album and the latter having a wonderful “Jazz Swing” feel to it and the former more of a “smooth jazz” feel.
Overall this is a 5 star album for sure and a preview of things to come, it would be his biggest selling album of the decade and one that truly shows that Ramsey was indeed a man of many musical hats who could play and write not only great Jazz songs but great songs from any genre period.