Rodney Franklin

Rodney Franklin/You'll Never Know

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This two-disc set from Superbird in the U.K. combines Rodney Franklin's first two albums from 1980. His self-titled debut recording is a fine weave of soulful, lightly textured fusion and funky jazz with tight arrangements by Tom Tom and Patrick Williams. Franklin plays both acoustic and electric piano, often overdubbed on the same track. Highlights include an excellent cover of "Windy City," the shimmering "On the Path," and the easy, spine-slipping funk in "I Like the Music, Make It Hot." You'll Never Know moves one foot out of electric fusion and into what would become known as "crossover" or "smooth jazz," with some acoustic post-bop in the mix as well. The album's single, "The Groove," an infectious, instrumental meld of jazz-funk and soul, was a bona fide radio and club hit. Franklin reveals twin talents as both composer and soloist on wide-ranging pieces that include the ethereal "The Watcher," and the modally adventurous post-bop of "Return," the dreamy yet melancholy "Journey," and the dancefloor stepper that closes this set out, "Parkay Man." Given the price, sound, and musical quality of both these records, any fan of sophisticated, R&B-flavored fusion and smooth jazz from the era will be delighted by this comp.

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