Kansas City Original Sound


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In 1995, some R&B optimists argued that soul music was making a comeback. It did and it didn't. Some of the more impressive urban artists of the 1990s (Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, among others) did have a strong appreciation of classic 1960s and 1970s soul, but they weren't totally retro either -- hip-hop was a major influence on their work. One of groups that favored a soul-meets-hip-hop approach in 1995 was Kansas City Original Sound, whose debut album, K-otic, falls short of remarkable but is decent more often than not. R. Kelly, Jodeci, and Aaron Hall are among the male vocal quartet's more obvious influences, but if you listen closely -- and if you really know your R&B history -- you can also hear elements of the O'Jays, the Isley Brothers, and the Gap Band. Ronald Isley was a major influence on R. Kelly, and the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson was a big influence on Hall -- so even if those Baby Boomer favorites aren't direct influences on this CD, they are indirect influences. But K-otic is far from retro-sounding; this is R&B for a hip-hop generation, and the hip-hop elements are as prominent on the up-tempo funk selections as they are on the romantic ballads and slow jams. K-otic turned out to be Kansas City Original Sound's only album; the group never provided a follow-up. But while K-otic is only a footnote in 1990s R&B, it's a pleasant footnote.

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