Invite the Light

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It's accurate but rather misleading to consider Invite the Light to be the first Dām-Funk album in six years. Toeachizown, a quintuple-LP set issued in 2009, provided enough high-caliber content to keep funk fans satisfied through an extended creative hibernation, but Damon Riddick was active through the release of his second proper album. He teamed up with Steve Arrington and Snoop Dogg for Higher and 7 Days of Funk, was behind a clutch of shorter-form releases and collaborations, continued to DJ, and even backed Todd Rundgren for a lengthy U.S. tour (unfortunately billed not as Dām-Runt). All the while, at various points, Riddick recorded Invite the Light in his bedroom. Substantial enough to require three pieces of vinyl (the CD version is a single disc with three fewer tracks), it's more outward-looking than Toeachizown, not only through its dizzying and multigenerational list of collaborators, but also through Riddick's increased ability and confidence as a vocalist who promotes positivity, whether it's blissful escape or strong-willed perseverance. There are instances, exemplified by the bounding "We Continue," where he goes all out. They're balanced by moments when he uses his voice as he tended to do before, as an atmospheric element offering mantras. "O.B.E.," an airy but taut eight-minute groove, works a persistent light stomp and clap as a serene Riddick prompts the listener to unwind, while "Floating on Air," containing colorful input from Flea and Computer Jay, is among Riddick's most to-the-point cuts while displaying new details with each dazzled listen. There's a bounty of slow to midtempo tracks that involve vocal collaborations, most prominently the churning "I'm Just Tryna Survive (In the Big City)," with a complementary uplifting verse from Q-Tip. A couple later inclusions further exhibit Riddick's deep roots in the enduring sound of Los Angeles: the swaying "Virtuous Progression" incorporates a hook from Jody Watley, and the descriptively titled "Glyde 2nyte" is fronted by Leon Sylvers IV with support from his father, Leon Sylvers III. Appropriately enough, the manner in which the standard album begins and ends is just as funky -- like nine cans of shaving powder -- via "transmissions" from Junie Morrison, the Midwest funk legend whose work with Ohio Players and P-Funk, and on his own, has been embraced and emulated by the West Coast funk-flag flyers, Riddick included.

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