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Keni Burke: Changes

Reviewed by Ismo Tenkanen

Rating: 10/ 10

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The original release on US RCA, 1982
1) Shakin'
2) Hang Tight
3) Can't Get Enough (Do It All Night)
4) Who Do You Love
5) Changes
6) One Minute More
7) Risin To The Top
8) All Night

Bonus tracks on the US FTG reissue:
9) Shakin' (7" Version)
10) Can't Get Enough (Do It All Night) (7" Version)
11) Risin' To The Top (7" Version)

The 1982 release Changes was even better than Keni's previous, excellent 1981 album You're the Best. Especially the midtempo and uptempo tunes were now stronger and classier - topped by the true club classic Risin' to the Top.

It is amazing how Risin' to the Top never succeeded in American radio play and soul charts, but in the U.K. it was a classic from the date it was released, and there's hardly a soul fan in the country who doesn't know the tune. In the States, it seemed only the hip-hop generation and later R&B and hip-hop samples (Mary J. Blige, Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J., Grand Puba, Peter Rock & CL Smooth etc.) of the tune finally made it popular years later.

Risin' to the Top is undoubtedly the crown of this album with its instantly captivating bass line, slowly creepin' groove and uplifting lyrics - this was soul music made in heaven. The original 12" version is the album version, so FTG couldn't find any better versions for the bonus tracks, the original album version is the best one.

Anyone who adores Risin' to the Top, will find the rest of the album a real treasure, as it continues in the same manner, with divine ballads and instantly memorable mid-tempo tunes. But this time we also had excellent uptempo tracks. Maybe the album was a bit "old-fashioned" in 1982 when it didn't focus heavily on synthesizers, instead the backings are played by real musicians, and we have real drums, meaty bass lines, wonderful horn riffs, hooky rhythm guitar riffs etc. Don Myrick, Rahmlee Davis, Michael Harris and Louis Satterfield of the Earth, Wind & Fire's legendary horn section were included in the line-up of musiciancs, as well as Steve Ferrone (of Average White Band) on drums, Doc Gibbs on percussion, Sir Gant on keyboards, Vince Montana on vibes and Tawatha Agee, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson, Evette L. Benton on backing vocals etc. You really couldn't fail with such a line-up, and with Keni's magical songwriting skills, the end result was brilliant, indeed. Tracks such as All Night, Hang Tight, Can't Get Enough (Do It All Night) are first class funky soul and sound as good in 2014 as they did back in 1982!

Finally, what makes Changes such an adorable album is that the ballads are right on the same level with the brilliant mid- and uptempo tracks. Keni may not be among the most legendary vocalists in the soul history, but as a composer, he is one the best, and he was able to create very soulful and memorable, tender soul ballads that would have been perfect for someone like Ronald Isley. Keni himself also does a good job interpreting the classic soul melodies like One Minute More and Who Do You Love?. The late Linda Creed contributed on the former song, and Allan Wayne Felder on the latter.

Expansion has also released Changes as a 2on1 CD together with You're the Best, including full musician details (that are typically lacking from all FTG releases, including Changes!) and liner notes by Ralph Tee. Keni Burke has continued recording on Ralph Tee's Expansion label.

Ismo Tenkanen

YouTube pick: Keni Burke - Rising to the Top

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