Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, Traveling Without Moving

image

Okay, this was a long time coming. Hurdles aside, reviewing this album was actually easier than the others, being that this album has a feel of being composed and produced with a commercial intent, but stays true to the band’s roots in spite of its mainstream aim. As with a lot of Jamiroquai fans, this album was the first one I ever bought, and this album remains the band’s most famous and remembered. This is Traveling Without Moving.

Kicking off the album is the band’s most famous song, “Virtual Insanity”. The song is a smooth commentary about society’s obsession with technological advancement and the side effects that come with it (i.e., isolation, tampering with nature, etc.). Nineteen years after this song debuted, the lyrics are as relevant as ever, and the music is still catchy as ever. It’s no wonder the song and it’s accompanying video won so many accolades in it’s day.

The rest of the album is a must for the years. While “Cosmic Girl” and “Alright” are standard dance fair, “Use The Force” is a catchy, upbeat motivational track, an anthem for believing in yourself. “Everyday” is a slow groove, very reminiscent of The Isley Brothers’ slow jams, from it’s smooth bass lines to the violins in the background.

As the album progresses, Jamiroquai manages to merge their preachy side with their disco side with “High Times”, a narrative of how a disco junkie, both in the dance sense and the drugs sense, is so immersed in the high life that it’s killing her.

One especially catchy track is Jay Kay’s dabbling in reggae with the easy going “Drifting Along”. It’s the perfect song for a lazy afternoon, laying wherever you’re laying. The title track is a brief, but catchy and upbeat groove that stays with you. Something else that stands out with this Jamiroquai album compared to their others is the presence of not one, but two Didgeridoo instrumentals, with “Didjerama” and “Didjital Vibrations”. This can easily solidify the comparison between Jamiroquai’s use of the Didgeridoo, and Earth, Wind, & Fire’s use of the Kalimba, in that both bands are fond of using exotic and traditional instruments to enhance the respective bands’ modern sounds; the didgeridoo originating from Australia’s Aboriginal tribes, and the Kalimba originating from Africa.

Overall, Traveling Without Moving is an album that hasn’t aged one bit since 1996, and is an easy pick for any music lover. Anyone looking to get into Jamiroquai will have no trouble enjoying this album.

Tales From The Bargain Bin: Jamiroquai, The Return of the Space Cowboy

image

The same day I purchased Jamiroquai’s 1993 album, Emergency on Planet Earth, I also had the fortune of purchasing their 1994 follow-up, The Return Of The Space Cowboy. Amazingly, the first time I had heard of Jamiroquai was when this album debuted. I had the fortune of catching the music video of the album’s first single, “Space Cowboy”, on BET when I was 12 years old. Even then, I was hooked on the band’s sound, well before they eventually found massive success with their hit music video, “Virtual Insanity”, from their 1996 album, Traveling Without Moving. And while everyone has heard that album since that year, it can be said that only true Jamiroquai fans can say they’ve traveled with the “Space Cowboy”.

The band’s performance caliber had stepped up quite a bit compared to Emergency on Planet Earth. It could be said that the collective of vocalist/producer Jay Kay, keyboardist Toby Smith, bassist Stuart Zender, Drummer Derrick McKenzie, and Wallis Buchanan on the didgeridoo, had learned and matured  a bit between the two albums. The first single, “Space Cowboy”, an ode to weed (“at the speed of cheeba”), is a smooth, feel-good song to zone out to. The vibe smoothly transitions into a state of self-reflection with the second track, “Stillness in Time”, and revisits that self-reflection with “Light Years”, the latter track offering an uplifting hook to boot. (“Now I’ve got that sunshine in my life.”) Another change compared to Emergency is the presence of more love and relationship-themed songs, such as the broken heart anthem “Half The Man”, which reflects a man feeling that he’s missing his other half of himself after a breakup, and “Mr. Moon,” a lyrical plea to find that special someone, using the moon as a confidante for heartbreak.

The album does have it’s share of preaching, with tracks such as “Scam”, highlighting the common man’s economic struggle and the government’s efforts to tax the working class dry, “Manifest Destiny”, a somber reflection of the plight of the indigenous peoples of the world driven from their homes, and “Just Another Story”, a tale of a young man caught up in the drug game. The last song is as potent as Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City”. Much like Emergency, even the preachy tracks on Space Cowboy are catchy and infectious.

The Return Of The Space Cowboy is a great follow-up to Emergency on Planet Earth, and it’s a must for any true Jamiroquai fan. Of course, the strength of this album was dwarfed by the massive success of its successor, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving. Stay tuned for my review of that album.