Review: Zapp – Vibe

Zapp – Vibe is one of the many overlooked and forgotten R&B/soul albums that is a classic in its own right. This is one of those albums that was overlooked and that went under promoted when released in 1989 on Reprise Records. Not surprising since Reprise Records never really promoted black artists properly back in the 80s and 90s. Reprise dropped the ball on a majority of their black recording artists who were signed to the label. The Zapp band is no exception. Vibe hardly made a dent on the charts in spite of having three singles, one of which had a music video to accompany the song.

Despite a lack of promotion from Reprise, Vibe is still a 5 star classic and a masterpiece of an album from Zapp. Smooth sultry R&B love ballads to wonderful cover songs is what’s inside this Zapp album. A couple of blues compositions are thrown into this album. Roger’s signature talkbox is all over this album. So you know none of these songs are going to be worth skipping. The album represents musical growth in songs such as Jesse Jackson and Ooh Baby Baby. The variety of musical styles on this Zapp album are really diverse. One example is the presence of contemporary blues which is strong on this album.

Ohio was a hotbed of funk in the 80s. Zapp was one of Ohio’s greatest contributions to music. Zapp’s Vibe was one the many great contributions to Ohio music. Vibe has that funk vibe and sound hence a funky vibe when you play this record.

Vibe was the last album to include frontman Roger Troutman (the brains and bread behind Zapp) and his brother Larry Troutman (the brains and bread behind Zapp as well) before their untimely deaths. Keyboardist Billy Beck was more hands on with the songwriting on songs such as Jesse Jackson, Ain’t The Thing To Do, and Fire.

Zapp did a spectacular job covering Smokey Robinson and The Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby. Roger can do no wrong when it comes to performing on the talkbox. You can’t go wrong with Smokey Robinson and/or Zapp. Ooh Baby Baby was the lead single off this album which had a music video. The single was heavily promoted and played on the radio in 1989.

Shirley Murdock and Roger provided the vocals with their soulful singing. Roger delivers his smooth melodic cadence and lends his extraordinary skill with the talkbox. Roger

I Play The Talk Box was one of the standout tracks selected by Reprise to be a single. Reprise made a wise decision of making I Play The Talk Box into a single because, soon enough, the single garnered radioplay across the United States and Canada in 1989.

Roger plays his signature talkbox which is what he uses to perform his vocals with as his signature talkbox is all over this song as well as with this album. Roger can do no wrong when it comes to playing the talkbox. His smooth cadence is what made I Play The Talk Box an electro-funk favorite.

Stop That is driven by a harmonica and a talkbox. The harmonics are what really stand out. Roger and Terry can do no wrong when it comes to instrumentation arrangement. The song Stop That pays homage and tribute to blues music. Now Zapp playing blues music and paying tribute to blues music is nothing as they have done so on albums such as Zapp III and The New Zapp IV U. Stop That is similar to contemporary blues.

Roger explains how his love for blues music came about in this Zapp song. His love for blues music started when he was a boy.

Zapp performed a unique cover version of Ohio Players – Fire on the song Fire. This cover version of Fire uses a talkbox. Zapp’s on fire! Now this cover version of Fire is excellent! Bill Beck’s outstanding performance on the keyboard is simply amazing. The Ohio Players connection is no coincidence.

For those who did not know, Been This Way Before is not a new song. You see, Been This Way Before came from the 1976 album Roger And The Human Body ‎– Introducing Roger. Been This Way Before incorporates the sounds of electro-funk and soul all into one song. The song has a breathtaking angelic vibe and sound in the vocals.

Roger was inspired by George Clinton when he wrote Back to Bass-iks. Clinton was even mentioned in the song too. Roger had once again went out of the way to give thanks to George Clinton the liner notes: “Thanks also to George Clinton and Bootsy Collins. No matter our differences, I still love and respect you both. I am ever grateful for your faith in my talent. May all good come to you.”

Inspiration of George Clinton was not the only thing that graced this Zapp song. Back to Bass-iks featured the bass vocals of former Parliament vocalist Ray Davis. So you can hear the influence and sound of Parliament in Back to Bass-iks.

Back To Bass-iks is also a tribute to Parliament singer Ray Davis as well. The intro has Ray singing on a street corner with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins performing doo-wop. His parents call him inside. His father tells him he has to go to church in the morning. They worry he might get into trouble if he keeps hanging around George Clinton. Ray Davis even begins singing his parts to Give Up The Funk and Atomic Dog in this Zapp song.

Jesse Jackson is the pro-black anthem of this album. All the members of the Zapp band pay tribute, homage, and respect to Rev. Jesse Jackson. The whole song is a tribute to Jesse Jackson. Billy Beck does a spectacular job on performing the vocals.

Dr. Arthur E. Thomas (then-president of Central State University) encouraged black Americans to continue aiming for higher education by getting them to donate money towards the United Negro College Fund. Dr. Arthur E. Thomas spoke in a gospel style of speaking. A fine example of black American cultural heritage is Jesse Jackson.

Ain’t the Thing to Do features all female lead vocals over New Jack Swing style music with use of electro synths. The song is similar to a sultry soul ballad or a 70s pop ballad. Notice the stop/start style with the. Some of the beats are quite softened. You can hardly hear the drums.

Sad Day Moaning pays homage and tribute to blues music similar to how the song Stop That did. Sad Day Moaning is similar to contemporary blues. Just notice the tempo and pace.

New Jack Swing and rock music meet each other on the song Rock Star. Rock Star has a guitar heavy presence.

Jake E Stanstill serves as an instrumental closer for the Vibe album. The music you hear on Jake E Stanstill is similar to elevator music with the mood being upbeat and cheerful. Jake E Stanstill is similar to a bossa nova style jazz instrumental. Zapp’s electronic flavor can be heard on this song. Jazz, funk, and electronic music all meet each other on this Zapp song.

I rate this album 5/5*****!!

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Writer, narrator, researcher, and content curator for Bout Dat Online.

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