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Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band The Secret Life of Us Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A beautifully realised fourth outing for Dave Lee’s disco-heavy big band.

Daryl Easlea 2012

It must be great to be Dave Lee. As Joey Negro he’s been an in-demand DJ for almost two decades, producing enough commercially successful dance records to enable him to indulge his passion in other areas of music.

Although primarily a house producer, Lee has worked within other genres with his on-off session outfit, The Sunburst Band. Having first emerged in 1998, this group has been the source of his most joyous work.

Their fourth outing, The Secret Life of Us, is a slinky, retro confection paying respect to his roots – and it’s frequently irresistible. Groovers of a certain vintage can don their anorak and play spot the homage, but it is so much more than pastiche.  

My Way takes a delicious sample of T-Ski Valley’s Catch the Beat over a sweet incessant chug of synth with a vocal pattern reminiscent of Nights Over Egypt by The Jones Girls. Pete Simpson adds a sweet breezy melody to Caught in the Moment, itself a generous nod to The Doobie Brothers’ What a Fool Believes.

Lee is a well-known aficionado of Chic, and Where the Lights Meet the Music is a great tribute to the fabled New York dance ensemble. It takes Bernard Edwards’ bass part from We Are Family and pays a big-hearted compliment to their 1980 album track, You Can’t Do It Alone. With its muted horns, and vocalists Donna Gardier and Diane Charlemagne doing their very best Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin, it’s a sun-kissed serenade to another era.

The instrumentals add a soulful gravitas: there are echoes of dub on Jazz the DMX, and the rolling down-tempo of Opus De Soul takes you back a decade to when St. Germain’s nu-jazz centrepiece Tourist was the album on every coffee table. It’s lovely to hear the missing-in-action Vivienne Mckone singing on Trust Me, and Love One Another ends the album in suitably upbeat, celebratory style.

The Secret Life Of Us may not be the sound of the future, but its nostalgic stylings are sweet, professional, beautifully realised and incredibly played. The Sunburst Band hardly put a foot wrong here.

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