Joe Sample

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In case anyone has forgotten how ingratiating and prolific Joe Sample the songwriter has been, the master of elegant funk re-records 14 songs here. And it is a cooler, more reflective light in which Sample and producer George Duke see his old tunes in the '90s: with relaxed, uncomplicated, to-the-point acoustic piano leads; a mildly percolating beat; and a veneer-thin garnish of electronics. It is both safe and risky to revisit the past -- safe because one is surrounded by comfortable material and risky because artists seldom recapture all of the old spark. Alas, more often than not, the latter applies to Sample's attempt to go home again, though the good tunes remain good tunes. Some of the songs go back to the Crusaders; "Free as the Wind" especially lacks the energy of the original, but "Put It Where You Want It," thanks in part to Sample's use of a funky old Wurlitzer electric piano, has a nice groove. Finally, just for fun, Sample slips in a jaunty solo benediction courtesy of Jelly Roll Morton, "Shreveport Stomp."

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