1. I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)
2. Help Yourself To My Love
3. Are You The Woman
4. Send Me Your Love
5. I’m In Love (lead vocal: Meli’sa Morgan)
6. So Fine
7. Livin’ For Your Love (lead vocal: Meli’sa Morgan)
8. Love Come Down
9. Kashif’s Groove Session
10. Inside Love
Source: Soundboard Recording
Format: 320kbps MP3
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If you ever happen to come across some of the more devoted fans of particular musical artists (especially Prince), one of the most recurrent topics of discussion will be “bootleg” recordings of live shows. While some may not quite see the appeal of capturing familiar songs outside of the (often rigorously rehearsed) confines of a studio, especially since overdubbing has been a part of the lexicon of recorded music, this very quality is precisely why these recordings are heavily sought by collectors and devoted fans. Often, a song that may seem sterile as recorded can be given a different arrangement, or an extended break that was not present in the recorded version, giving it new life. Live recordings also serve as much a “moment in time” as the studio recordings can be — for example, if one happens to be fan of a certain aesthetic (say, the earthy soundscapes of a 1970s Stevie Wonder), hearing a familiar song in that context can enhance the emotional response to a song that may not have been notable to the listener.
That Kashif, an artist whose musical vision is almost entirely dictated by technology and the confines of the studio itself, not only performed his hit songs live, but at least one of these concerts was fortunate enough to have been recorded in his “prime”, is particularly surprising. Kashif, whose albums are only now starting to see reissue, is much an unsung artist today, for as popular and as sought-after a songwriter and producer he once was. Holding one of the most unique sounds of the 1980s in R&B, rivaling only the Minneapolis maestro Prince and his New York-based contemporaries The System with his unique embrace of technology, Kashif was a force for a brief moment in time. That spirit is captured in this entertaining, but regrettably short set.
If one is familiar with Kashif’s music, one has to wonder how the carefully “stacked” and programmed sounds of Kashif’s catalog will translate into a live setting. While there is some obvious pre-recorded assistance for things such as the familiar “E!” chant of “Lover Turn You On”, some of the keyboard textures are absent, and the drumming is understandably not nearly as crisp as a drum machine can muster — the spirit of each song is retained for the duration, and not a single note is missed (if you excuse Kashif’s ever-exuberant vocals, which are stretched to their idiosyncratic limits, without the restraint of the studio surrounding him).
There is no traditional bass guitar player in Kashif’s live ensemble, but whoever is playing the synthesizer bass is outstanding. On every single track, the pace is dictated by the synthesizer bass, injecting life into every track — particularly the selections included from Kashif’s 1983 eponymous debut. “Help Yourself To My Love” has a bouncy bassline not present on the studio track that vaguely resembles that of Guy’s “Groove Me”. On “Are You The Woman”, Kashif informs the crowd that he is going to join the army of keyboard players and when he does, he embarks on a solo that brings none other than Herbie Hancock to mind — lively, cerebral, and forceful, rousing the crowd at its apex, as the accompaniment slyly and briefly shifts into “Edgartown Groove”.
Perhaps the most fun bits in this show are Kashif’s venturing into hit songs he’s produced for other artists; as he speaks with the crowd, you can literally hear the giddiness in his voice as he talks about working with Evelyn King, Howard Johnson, and Melba Moore. Kashif gracefull defers to Meli’sa Morgan on “I’m In Love” and “Livin’ For Your Love” (a much underrated piece from Melba Moore’s Never Say Never album), but it is surprising to hear Kashif take the helm on “Love Come Down” himself. Here especially, you almost wish Evelyn was around to wrest the mic from the man, but Kashif is having so much fun with his compositions, you can’t fault him for going the extra mile. Kashif’s humorous “Groove Session” (including a very interesting comment about rap records) segues into the closer, George Benson’s “Inside Love”, which doesn’t quite sound the same without Benson’s guitar licks in the opener, but definitely sounds right at home in Kashif’s hands.
Hearing something like this recording really captures the draw of live concerts — the energy, the humor, the musicianship. With Kashif, who is largely known as a studio wizard, you not only get the above, but a great attention to detail. One can only hope that synthesizer bass player was fairly compensated for his efforts. It is rare that you hear a performance so critical to the output of a show.