ONENESS OF JUJU / PLUNKY & ONENESS / PLUNKY — Bush Brothers & Space Rangers (review)

ONENESS OF JUJU / PLUNKY & ONENESS / PLUNKY — Bush Brothers & Space Rangers album cover Album · 1996 · RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
On the wave of the unfading popularity of African influenced jazz in England, UK-based label Strut continues their series of US funk-RnB bands from 70s Oneness Of Juju reissues. The band's debut, "African Rhythms", has been reissued by Strut in 2002, and in 2018 once again. Band's second album, "Space Jungle Luv"(originally from 1976), has been reissued by Strut in 2002 and 2021. "Bush Brothers & Space Rangers", chronologically the band's third recorded album, received its European reissue in 2022 for the first time ever (recorded in 1977, this album has been released for the first time in 1996 only, and reissued only once after - in 2002 in Japan).

Oneness of Juju were the mid-70s continuation of early 70s SF/NYC - based sax player James Plunky Branch's avant-garde jazz band Juju, who moved to Richmond, Virginia in late 1974 and switched the direction towards funk and RnB. Their debut album (still partially with old Juju line-up) under the new name, "African Rhythms", was critically acclaimed, and contained more commercially popular music for the time with a mix of funk and RnB with African-spiritual jazz elements.

For their third album, recorded two years later, the band adds guitarist Ras Mel Melvin Glover, drummer Tony Green (instead of Babatunde) and pianist Brian Jackson (both - from Gil Scott-Heron's band) and percussionist Okyerma Asante. As a result, they loose a bit of funky edge, but receive a more sophisticated sound.

The album's opener,"Breezin'", is probably better known from George Benson's instrumental version, but it's originally a Bobby Womack song, and it comes with vocals here, a nice dreamy relaxed RnB piece. "African Rhythms", Plunky's original, is represented here by a longer very percussive acoustic version, and it sounds even better then on the band's debut, one of the album's top tracks. "Nooky", another Plunky original, is placed somewhere between the band's earlier funk-jazz and the more polished RnB, with soloing sax on the front all the time.

Side B opens with an interesting example of an early "ecological" protest song, "Be About The Future". "Afro Beat" is a very percussive funky song. "Plastic (Is Easy To See Thru)" is another one of the album's top cuts, very much a George Clinton-like piece of P-funk. The album's closer, "Rhythms Timelessness", is a two minutes-long funky instrumental with lots of guitar soloing on the front.

Japanese P-Wine reissue for the first time presented 5 never before released bonuses, on the latest Strut reissue they are available as downloads. "West Wind" is a longish relaxed African-ballade with a flute, "All Blues" is a bluesy RnB with lot of sax and piano soloing and strong vocals, sounds a bit out of place here though. "The Stuff To Make You Move", is danceable RnB and the more funky, "Get Your Head Together", with male vocals, both don't add much to the album.
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