Force of Nature

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Sun was definitely a revolving door in the late '70s and early '80s. By the time the band provided its third album, Sunburn, in 1978, Kym Yancey and head honcho Byron Byrd were the only remaining original members. And when Sun recorded its sixth album, Force of Nature, in 1981, only Byrd remained from its original lineup. Yancey left after 1980's Sun Over the Universe, and this LP marked the arrival of two newcomers: bassist Don Taylor and rhythm guitarist Anthony Thompson. Despite all those personnel changes, Sun always managed to sound like Sun -- something it can thank Byrd and Beau Ray Fleming for. Together, Byrd and Fleming (who wasn't an actual member) produced all of Sun's Capitol LPs, which is why the Sun of 1981 was recognizable as Sun even though it had only one original member left. But Force of Nature is a departure from Sun's previous albums in one sense: Byrd handles all of the writing himself this time, and the material he gives his band to work with is competent but not mindblowing. "This Is What You Wanted," "Jamming in Brazil," and "Reaction Satisfaction (Jam Ya'll: Funk It Up)" aren't funk masterpieces -- they aren't in a class with early-'80s treasures like Rick James' "Ghetto Life," Cameo's "Shake Your Pants," or the Gap Band's "Burn Rubber on Me," but they're still fairly catchy (if predictable and not terribly imaginative). Similarly, "It Seems So Hard" is a pleasant soul-pop ballad even though no one would mistake it for a Gamble & Huff treasure. Force of Nature isn't for casual listeners, but the band's small following found that it had more plusses than minuses.

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