ANDRE CYMONE-LIVIN’ IN THE NEW WAVE.
ANDRE CYMONE-LIVIN’ IN THE NEW WAVE.
Andre Cymone and Prince had been childhood friends, growing up together in Minneapolis and even shared a house. Later, Andre became the bassist in Prince’s band, before they became The Revolution. Then, by 1981, the year Prince released the platinum selling album Controversy, Andre thought it was time to step out of Prince’s shadow, and embark upon a solo career. This lead to Andre singing for Columbia, where he’d release three solo albums between 1982 and 1985. The album that started Andre’s career was 1982s Livin’ In the New Wave, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 16th April 1982. This was the same year Prince released 1999, his first top ten album in the US Billboard 200. Would Andre’s decision to leave Prince’s employ and become a solo artists prove the right move, and would Livin’ In the New Wave prove anywhere near as successful as Prince’s album Controversy?
When Andre Cymone was growing up, it was as part of a stable family immersed in music. His friend Prince Rogers Nelson like Andre, loved music, but wasn’t blessed with such a stable family life. This lead to Prince often staying with the Cymone family and was the start of a long-lasting friendship, which saw Andre and Prince learn their musical trade. Their first band was Grand Central, whose name paid homage to Grand Funk Railroad. After this, the group changed their name to Champagne, a group which built up a large following on the Minneapolis club scene. Then in 1978, Prince signed to Warner Bros. Records, and Andre’s unique bass sound can be heard on Prince’s debut album For You. Andre stayed with Prince until 1981, when he signed to Columbia, releasing Livin’ In the New Wave in 1982.
The last tour Andre undertook as Prince’s bassist, was a tour of Europe in 1981. Andre chose to do the tour free, so when he arrived back in Minneapolis he needed to earn some money. Then Andre’s brother bought him a four-track portable studio. This allowed Andre’s sound to evolve and mature. The next step for Andre was to phone Columbia Records telling them he wanted to sign for them. They told him to send in a demo, which he did. Then, a few months later in 1982, after sending his demo, Andre was celebrating signing with Columbia at the Palm Restaurant in Hollywood. Next step for him would be recording his debut album, Livin’ In the New Wave.
Recording of Livin’ In the New Wave was recorded at the American Artists Studios in Minneapolis. On the album were nine tracks, all written by Andre, who also produced the album. To record the album, Andre used drum machines, sequencers and synths, to produce the innovative fusion of funk, new wave and R&B that can be heard on Livin’ In the New Wave. With the album complete, how would Livin’ In the New Wave fare on its release?
Before the release of Livin’ In the New Wave, the title-track Livin’ In the New Wave was released as a single in July 1982, reaching number seventy-nine in the US R&B Charts. The second single was Kelly’s Eyes, was released in October 1982, which reached number seventy-two in the US R&B Charts and number 107 in the US Billboard 100. When Livin’ In the New Wave was released in November 1982, the album reached number forty-nine in the US R&B Charts. Although Andre’s debut album Livin’ In the New Wave didn’t quite match the commercial success of Prince’s debut album For You, it had been well received, hailed as a innovative, pioneering album. Why is this the case? That’s what I’ll tell you, when review the nine tracks on Livin’ In the New Wave.
Opening Livin’ In the New Wave is the title track, Livin’ In the New Wave, the lead single from the album. As the track opens with a myriad of drum machines, synths and sequencers, Andre’s bass is key to the sound, which mixes elements of funk and eighties new wave. When his vocal enters, it powerful and impassioned as Andre spreads his message. By now, the tempo has risen, hitting 118 beats per minute. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear different time signatures amid the drums, sequencers. However, it’s not just eighties technology that’s key to the tracks’s success. Add in multi-tracked vocals, a funky bass and searing, sizzling guitars to the crunchy beats, frenzied, jumpy rhythms and effects and result is a fusion of funk with a magical eighties new wave makeover.
Kelly’s Eyes sounds like something you’d hear on an early Prince album, which isn’t surprising given the pair’s friendship. The arrangement isn’t as busy, and has a more poppy sound. It’s just a wash of synths, drums and bass, with Andre’s vocal sounding just like Prince’s. With stabs of synths, drums and his vocal multi-tracked, the arrangement is hugely catchy, helped greatly by some hook-laden lyrics. Once you’ve heard this irresistible track, I guarantee you won’t be able to get it out your head and will be singing it for days. That’s the mark of a good pop song and what makes this one of the highlights of Livin’ In the New Wave.
All I Need Is You sees another change in style, with the track slower, with a more dramatic sound. The slower tempo and combination of punchy keyboards and wash of synths and drums is perfect for Andre’s emotional and almost sensuous delivery. Standing behind Prince playing bass, has allowed him to learn how to deliver a track passionately and sexily from a master, and Andre puts this to good use here. Later, when the track slows way down, with just guitars, drums and his bass combining with his vocal is a masterstroke, adding to the drama and sensuous sound of this song. With the ability to write, produce and sing a track as emotively and seductively as this, it’s no wonder Andre’s decided to step of out Prince’s shadow.
Trouble sees Andre turn up the funk, using a fusion of squelchy synths that reverberate above the arrangement and adding the funkiest of bass and synths plus some crispy drumbeats. Add to this his powerful, punchy, pleading vocal and a dirty slice of funk unfolds. The combination of synths, guitars and bass works well, with Roger Dumas responsible for the synths and programming. Later, the arrangement reflects the punchy style of Andre’s vocal, as he fuses elements of seventies funk, with a classic Prince sound and plenty of eighties synths. The longer the track goes on, the more Andre’s vocal becomes frenzied and the funkier the track gets, with a vocoder added effectively to Andre’s arsenal of secret musical weapons. Taken together the result is a hugely satisfying slice of intense, dirty, funky music which features one of the best arrangements and productions on the album.
On Get It Girl, a track designed for the dance-floor the tempo rises to 125 beats per minute. What follows is one of the bravest and ambitious tracks on Livin’ In the New Wave. However, Andre manages to bring everything together, using a myriad of drum machines, synths, sequencers and vocoders, plus the more traditional guitar and bass. The drumbeats are crisp, crunchy and quick, the vocoder is used often, but effectively and the wash of synths have an edge. That’s not forgetting the funky, chiming guitars and of course, Andre’s rapid-fire vocal. Andre often uses the vocoder, but doesn’t make the mistake of overusing it. Meanwhile stabs of synths play an important part in this eighties dance-floor fusion of electro funk, which thirty years later, wins you over with its charms and delights.
Baby Don’t Go is one of the three slower tracks in Livin’ In the New Wave and is quite different from other tracks. It’s a love song, with Andre’s tender vocal accompanied by a jaunty arrangement that sees a wash of synths, drums and bass combine. The slower tempo and synth dominated arrangement is perfectly suited to the emotion, pleas and sadness in Andre’s vocal. When all this is combined, the result is one of the saddest, but most beautiful songs on the album.
Squelchy synths open So Fine, before giving way to an arrangement that sounds like something you’d expect Prince to have produced. Even the vocal is delivered in a similar style. A pounding, dramatic combination of synths, drums and guitars drives the track along, combining funk with an eighties new wave sound. Later, a sizzling guitar solo is unleashed, as Andre’s vocal soars, powerfully. Towards the end of the track, Andre lays down one of his trademark funk drenched bass lines, adding just the final, finishing touch to a track that’s both long on funk and synths, but sounds just great.
Voice On the Radio opens with a rockier sound than other tracks, with dual guitars driving the track along. Synths play a supporting role, while Andre delivers one of his best vocals. Similarly, the lyrics are some of the strongest, on the album. Throughout the track, it’s just the guitars, rhythm section and synths that augment Andre’s vocal that feature. Although there’s a rocky sound to the arrangement, the lyrics have a poppy quality, and are easily remembered and sung. This is key to the success of a single, which this would’ve made. Why this track wasn’t released as a single seems strange, given it had the perfect qualities for a single and radio play.
Closing Livin’ In the New Wave is Ritz Club, which sees another change in style. There’s a real edge to Andre’s vocal here, as there is with the guitar sound, which is edgier. The track’s best described as a new wave track, with guitars and rhythm section driving the track along, while a wash of synths provide an accompaniment. Even Andre’s vocal is rawer, more powerful and delivered in an angry, frustrated style. This demonstrates another side to Andre Cymone’s music and his versatility as musician and producer, on an album that’s ranged from love songs to funk, electro and now a new wave sound.
Livin’ In the New Wave, Andre Cymone’s debut album was an ambitious, innovative album. On it he fuses a variety of styles, with funk and an eighties new wave electronic sound prevalent on many of the tracks, while on other tracks, Andre delivers beautiful love songs, and on the closing track, changes to an angry, new wave style. This demonstrates his versatility and ambition. After all, many new artists would try to deliver a focused set of songs with just one style of music on each track. Not Andre, he decided to be innovative, fearless some might say, and did things his way. Of the nine tracks on the album, this mix of styles results in some great songs. These include the second single Kelly’s Eyes, the beautiful All I Need Is You and the funky Trouble. Add to this Andre’s emotive pleas on Baby Don’t Go, the Prince tinged So Fine and the radio friendly Voice On the Radio. All of these tracks demonstrate just how accomplished, polished and eclectic an album Livin’ In the New Wave is. Thankfully, now everyone who missed the album first time around, thirty years ago in 1982 can rediscover Livin’ In the New Wave. It’s been remastered and will be rereleased on 16th April 2012 on BBR Records, with two additional tracks, the single versions of Livin’ In the New Wave and Kelly’s Eyes. For anyone who loves either funk, R&B, eighties new wave or Prince’s music, then Livin’ In the New Wave is an album that will appeal to you, and I advise you check out this album on its release. Standout Tracks: Kelly’s Eyes, All I Need Is You, Baby Don’t Go and Voice On the Radio.
ANDRE CYMONE-LIVIN’ IN THE NEW WAVE.