Rediscovering his dancing feet, groove visionary moves on up to get down further down the line.
His ability to lay down intricate fusion in the company of John McLaughlin never got in Narada Michael Walden’s way when it came to simpler rhythms, and lately the drummer’s been riding back to the essentials of his style. While "Thunder 2013" saw Walden in a jazzier environment, “Evolution” shifts the groove towards dancefloor, connecting contemporary R&B to the genre’s origins and playing with the listener’s perspective. As a result, “Billionaire On Soul Street” isn’t an infectious bank statement boasting but a passionate paean to Narada’s daughter who’s being taught the title word in the album’s beginning, whereas “Me And My Girl” – one of the two Lionel Richie co-writes here – might be a descendant of a certain Smokey Robinson song, because there’s a lot of reflection going on.
Aside from rather faithful cover of “The Long And Winding Road” with its elegiac nostalgia revealing the nuances of Michael’s voice, a dewy-eyed glance back – as MAHAVISHNU and President Obama get namechecked in “Heaven’s In My Heart” – gives the veteran an optimistic outlook on the present. Yet if “It’s The Sixties” is filled with a soft twang – a perfect vehicle to bring past times, when everything seemed possible and the artists listed in the rap section rose to fame, to the current decade of Walden’s life, his creative renaissance – Narada’s heartfelt, but funky, take on Richie Haven’s “Freedom” bares a harder, social conscious edge, Matthew Charles Heulitt’s heavy guitar taking the piece from delicate drift to a desperately spiritual spot.
Not so with “Tear The House Down” – an epitome of disco given a modern twist and an all-American call to action – but the imperative for “Show Me How To Love Again” feels gentle, though aurally insistent, “again” stressing the incremental nature of it all. That’s the gist of evolution.