LIGHT OF THE WORLD-LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD-LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
One of the bands who were at the forefront of the UK’s jazz funk movement during the late-seventies were Light of The World, whose name pays homage to Kool and The Gang’s 1974 album Light of the Worlds. They went on to release five albums between 1979 and 1999. Their debut album was Light of The World, released in 1979. A year later in 1980, and after the tragic death of percussion player Chris Etienne two new members joined Light of the World and Round Trip was released. In 1981, Light of the World split up for the first time. This would result in two new bands being formed. Kenny Wellington, David Baptiste and Breeze McKreith went on to form Beggar and Co., while Jean Paul Maunick, Peter Hinds and Paul Williams went on to found Incognito. With Light of the World having spilt-up, Light of the World Remixed was released in 1981. Then with a new lineup, Light of the World released Check It Out in 1982. After this, Light of the World wouldn’t release another album until 1999, when Kenny Wellington got most of the original band together. Inner Voices was the result of this reunion. Since then Light of the World haven’t released any more albums. Now thirty-three years after Light of the World released Light of the World, the album will be rereleased by BBR Records on 27th August 2012. After, I’ve told you about the background to the album, I’ll tell you about the music on Light of the World.
Light of the World had been signed to Ensign Records by Nigel Grainge. He had a track record for signing successful bands at Phonograph Records. Two of his most successful signings were 10cc and Thin Lizzy. After seven years working at Phonograph Records, Nigel decided to start his own label, Ensign.
Having founded Ensign, one of Nigel’s first signings were wannabe punks The Boomtown Rats. Nigel had been alerted to the popularity of what was called Brit Funk by Chris Hill. The term Brit Funk came about when Hi Tension, one of the first wave of Brit Funk groups signed to Island Records. Soon, Ensign would have their own Brit Funk outfit, Light of the World.
Joe Williams, who owned a record shop North London selling funk and soul, heard Light of The World and thought the group had potential. He let the group rehearse above his shop. Then one day, hearing an argument in the rehearsal space, one of his employees in the shop Jean Paul Maunick, went up to investigate. He started trying to convince the group to let him join. He joined, as did a new drummer. Soon, the group were honing their sound in North London clubs. Next step was for Joe Williams to arrange a recording of an acetate of a track Light of The World had been honing. It was passed to the so-called “Funk Mafia,” a collective of London DJs. Soon the word spread about Light of The World, with word reaching Ensign Records’ Nigel Grainge.
When Nigel Grainge at Ensign Records heard Light of The World, his original idea was to record and release a single, with the possibility of an album following. However, he decided to send the group into the studio to record an album. Light of The World would head into the studio with American producer Vinnie Castellano, who’d later work with Grandmaster Flash. The resulting album Light of The World was recorded at London’s Chappells Studios. Nine tracks were recorded during the fall of 1978, with the album Light of The World set for release in 1979,
Swingin’ was chosen as the lead single and released in April 1979. It reached number forty-five in the UK. The second single released was Midnight Groovin’ in June 1979, which reached number seventy-five in the UK. When Light of The World was released in 1979, it failed to chart in the UK album charts. For a new band, having their first two singles chart was a reasonable start to Light of The World’s career. However, what does the music on Light of The World sound like?
When Light of The World opens with the lead single Swingin’ the sound is funk from the get-go. Chiming guitars and a driving rhythm section combine with blazing horns before Neville McKreith’s punchy, joyous vocal enters. Key to the sound is the pounding, funky rhythm section, with Paul Williams’ bass at the heart of the arrangement. His slap bass is augmented by sizzling guitars, bursts of blazing horns and percussion. Backing vocalists accompany Neville’s punchy, deliberate vocal, while Light of The World give a Brit Funk masterclass. They take you on an irresistible, seven minute funk-laden musical journey and by the end of the journey, you wonder why the single wasn’t a bigger success.
Dreams has a slightly dramatic sound, with the guitar opening the track, as the sound pans from right to left. The tempo is dropped, the sound distant and the vocal pensive. Neville’s vocal is accompanied by the rhythm section, keyboards, guitars and keyboards. It’s a very different sounding track, with a slightly spacey, experimental sound. There’s a real seventies American influence, especially in the interplay between the lead and whispery backing vocals. As the track progresses, the tempo builds, and Light of The World inject their funky sound. A bass bubbles, sitting at the forefront of the arrangement, while the sound pans and the vocals take on a dreamy, wistful sound. Although very different from the opening track, I like the almost experimental nature of the track, especially the use of effects and that bubbling bass line.
Pounding drums, handclaps and a slap bass open Who Are You (Who Do You Think You Are?) almost explodes into being. Soon, the horn section and bursts of probing backing vocals join the fray. Neville’s vocal is impassioned, emotive and sometimes, even angry. He’s accompanied by backing vocals and an arrangement that’s fast, furious and gloriously funky. Again, Paul Williams slap bass is key to the sound, with bursts of rasping horns and percussion helping drive the track along to its emotive ending.
Midnight Groovin’ was the second single released from Light of The World, reaching a disappointing seventy-five in the UK. Here, percussion and a clavinet, which was a favourite of Stevie Wonder’s in the early seventies feature heavily during the track. Percussion is central to the sound, along with the rhythm section, punchy, blazing horns and clavinet. As Light of The World head on a Magnus Opus of a funky jam, Neville’s vocal are joyful, sensual whoops. The vocal is almost incidental, as the focus of your attention is the band’s performance. They unleash one of their most polished, accomplished and funky performance, as they head on their way to becoming leaders of the Brit Funk pack.
Aspects opens with an acoustic guitar and pounding drums combining, and providing contrasting sounds. You wonder where the track is heading, and settle back to enjoy the journey. It’s a more mellow sound, with guitars, percussion and the rhythm section combining, creating a much more soulful, less heavy funky sound. Although the track’s still funky, the tempo is slightly slower and the cascading tender vocals encourage you to lose yourself in the track. This you do, enjoying hearing another side to Light of The World’s music, one that’s quite enchanting and beautiful.
Mirror of My Soul is a mid-tempo track, where Light of The World toy with you, before the track begins to unfold. Percussion, guitars and a pounding bass are joined by emotive, bursts of growling horns. Neville’s vocal is tender, tinged with heartache and despair. Backing vocals accompany him, as searing horns reflect his hurt and heartache. The use of the horns by producer Vinnie Castellano is something of a masterstroke and along with Neville’s vocal, what makes this such a an emotive, beautiful and soulful song.
Closing Light of The World is Liv Together (The Greater London Funkathon), where Light of The World spread their message of unity to fellow Londoners. Banks of synths and keyboards open the track, before sizzling horns, guitars and a funky, driving rhythm section combine. The vocal is plea for unity and togetherness, which in 1979, when the album was released something that was sadly lacking in the UK. As the track progresses, they fuse punchy horns, the funkiest of rhythm section, handclaps and joyous, uplifting vocals, before keyboards fill out the sound further. By the end of the track, Light of The World provide a joyous jazz-funk soundtrack for London, one that thirty-three years later is uplifting, inspiration and hugely catchy.
Light of The World’s debut album Light of The World put them at the forefront of the Brit Funk movement. It’s an accomplished album that’s aged well in the intervening thirty-three years. Sadly, over the next few years tragedy and changes in the band’s personnel meant that the band never quite fulfilled their early potential. Members left the band, forming new bands, with new members joining when the band reformed. This meant there was never a consistent lineup. Maybe if tragedy and personnel changes hadn’t affected the band, they would’ve gone on to become a much more successful band. Everything was in place on Light of The World, with Light of The World becoming one of the best of the first wave of Brit Funk pioneers. On Light of The World, the seven tracks feature a fusion of some of the funky and soulful music. Of the seven tracks on the album, four tracks stand out. These are the irresistible lead single Swingin’ and Dreams, and two of the more soulful songs Aspects and Mirror of My Soul. For anyone who wants to rediscover the music of one of the pioneers of the Brit Funk, then Light of The World which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 27th August 2012 is a good starting point. Light of The World will also bring back memories of the British nascent funk scene, when a few British musicians showed that it wasn’t just American musicians who could play funky music. Standout Tracks: Swingin,’ Dreams, Aspects and Mirror of My Soul.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD-LIGHT OF THE WORLD.