Lonnie Liston Smith

A Song for the Children

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When Lonnie Liston Smith was recording for Columbia in the late '70s and early '80s, he generally did a good job of balancing commercial and artistic considerations. Jazz's hard-liners denounced the pianist/keyboardist as a sellout, but even though his music had grown slicker and more commercial, it still had substance and integrity. 1979's Song for the Children is typical of Smith's albums from that period in that it is dominated by instrumental fusion and crossover but also contains a few outright R&B items. Lyrical, melodic instrumentals like "Nightlife," "Midsummer Magic," and "Aquarian Cycle" fared well among quiet storm audiences, while "A Song for the Children" and "Fruit Music" are sleek soul-funk numbers that feature singer James "Crabbe" Robinson. Cosmic Echoes vocalist Donald Smith wasn't available this time; so Lonnie Liston Smith went with Robinson, who is more of a belter. And while Donald Smith's charismatic singing is missed, Robinson proves to be a suitable replacement. Song for the Children isn't among Lonnie Liston Smith's essential albums, but it's decent and pleasing more often than not.

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