Ron Smith II – “Spank”

Ron Louis Smith II – The Prince of Sunshine

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/ronls

Ron Louis Smith II – The Prince of Sunshine

With his father and uncle both members of the mega-popular legends KC and the Sunshine Band, Ron Louis Smith the II has good right to call his album The Prince of Sunshine. He is part of the blood lineage of a respected musical legacy that has sustained popularity far beyond the Sunshine Band’s golden era. His debut record is funky, fresh, danceable and full of an era that updates the 70s/80s specific vibes smackdab into the 2000s. If you came to groove and shake your booty you will have a grand ol’ time listening to this.

The debut single “Spank” relies on a big, phat bass beat bouncing off of a guitar sound that is straight from the disco era. Somewhere between KC, The Bee Gees and Katy Perry you will find Smith’s forte. Everything is all bass while the guitars jangle and jiggle behind Ron’s catchy vocal exclamations. He has soul in his voice, although he isn’t going for a typical r & b format. “Party Music” is more house than soul, and the flow of the vocal melodies feel like Usher hopped on caffeine. It isn’t exactly what you would expect from this prince of the golden age, but he manages to deliver just enough of the family feel to make the material appeal to both new and older listeners.

“Can’t Let Go” follows the same template without much variation; shaking up a seltzer of keyboards, plucky guitars and rhythm-centered pulsations to keep the dancefloor hopping hard. Perhaps what makes the album slightly piecemeal as it unfolds is the fact that it seems stuck in one particular tempo and one type of tune, even if it’s engaging enough to catch your attention. Slowing things down and incorporating prominent horn/brass arrangements into the mix (in additional to female back-up vocals) “Love Talk” is the first cut that does due diligence in breaking away from the pattern. I’m detecting some of Martin Gaye’s warm, soothing influence in this track and it’s the perfect song for romancing. Upping the pacing with a swift kick in the rear, “Come On and Do It” toys with some of the same elements as “Love Talk” but plays them out in a way where there is no shortage of shuck n’ jive action. “Real Good Time” and the finisher “Don’t Hold Back” are cut from essentially the same cloth with little variation to be found from what’s come before. If you like the other songs, they are plenty fun. The Mike Maurro mix of “Party Freaks” sees Smith cross-pollinating the vintage KC trademarks with rap and dance music for an interesting blend that is distinctly his own special sauce.

If anything holds back The Prince of Sunshine, it is the heavy leaning on too many feels and ideas that sound a lot alike. After the first few tunes pass by, everything starts sounding similar very, very quickly. That doesn’t mean this is a bad record, because the uplifting moods surely weave their way into your brain and stay there, but also render the album without much identity. Still, Smith has dropped a solid debut that leaves a lot of room for growth in the future.

7 out of 10 stars.

Jay Snyder
 

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