Mtume Theatre Of the Mind

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Mtume The Theater Of The Mind HOW time flies! Do you realise that it's been two years since the last Mtume album, "You, Me And He"? On the other hand it probably has taken the gifted one that amount of time to really create his just-released "Theater Of The Mind" concept album ? a veritable musical masterpiece! "Not quite," he smiles. "But it took more than seven months of working fifteen-sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, it got to the point where I built myself a little apartment above the studio!


HOW time flies! Do you realise that it's been two years since the last Mtume album, "You, Me And He"? On the other hand it probably has taken the gifted one that amount of time to really create his just-released "Theater Of The Mind" concept album ? a veritable musical masterpiece! "Not quite," he smiles. "But it took more than seven months of working fifteen-sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, it got to the point where I built myself a little apartment above the studio! "I actually cut two albums ? but I didn't feel totally satisfied with the first one so I destroyed the tapes. I burned 'em all! I didn't feel that I was being as truthful as I wanted to be and since this was going to be my message album, I wanted it to be as close to my idea of perfection as possible.
"The real purpose behind "Theatre" is to present questions ? not necessarily to answer them. I want to encourage people to think for themselves so that if they listen to this album, maybe it'll point to the truth. "You know my basic concept ... I want my music to get to people's heads as much as to their feet. Partying is only one aspect of life ? there's a whole lot more to being alive than that. But the truth is that I can only reach those people who want to be reached."

From a strictly musical viewpoint, there are two cuts of special interest on the "Theatre" album. Firstly, "I'd Rather Be With You", a dirgelike ballad that was written by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Gary Cooper and first featured on Bootsy's first album, "Stretchin' Out". "I always loved that song," Mtume responds. "It's my Henry Mancini approach to funk!" Secondly, there's "I Don't Believe You Heard Me" ? sub- titled "A Tribute To James Brown". "James Brown is the originator of funk as we know it," Mtume says forcefully. "To deny that is to deny that there's rain! In my case, I felt the need to pay tribute to James Brown ? both from a personal viewpoint and also from a political one. "When "Living In America" hit so big, I felt so happy for him. In recent years, the funk has become mesmerized by all of the glitter and credit has been given to a whole lot of people who simply didn't deserve it. The imitators became the originators! But James Brown stayed true to what he had always believed in and it paid off for him. In any case, I guess I felt a responsibility to speak out."

THE question of what is funk and what isn't has always been a delicate one. More so of late, of course! "Funk has never left ? it's been pushed into a sort of cosmetic closet," Mtume suggests. "But you can't fake the funk. They have tried to find white kids who can play funk and while I respect their musical ability, it really isn't the real thing. "What they have brought to the funk is a different kind of tapestry. "But it's been the white kids who have really discovered funk, too. Look at the responsei that James Brown and George Clinton are getting from the white audiences. "My biggest crusade for the funk is going to be with the journalists ? black journalists! And black magazines, black radio stations and black DJs. I call it the Nose-Job Syndrome! Why do so many black acts go to the New Face Deli? We ? Black people ? we have to remedy the situation for ourselves. We can't deny our roots. This is America so we have to do it through the media. The truth will always surface. Crossover (to the pop charts, for example) is not what you play anymore ? it's become what you look like, and that's wrong."

UNTIL Mtume exploded on to the scene four years back with "Juicy Fruit", his name was more associated with his talents as a songwriter and record producer. During those four years, he has shied away from both ? except in terms of writing and producing for his own three albums. However, I detect a change in strategy for him ? and his first big client will reunite him with Stephanie Mills after a six year hiatus. "I'll be doing at least three and maybe four songs on Stephanie's next album," he exclusively informs B&S readers. "You know, we hadn't seen each other in more than five years and I happened to catch her show in Atlantic City. The response to my songs made me choke! It made me want to work with Stephie again. In short, it was a very humbling experience for me." Other projects include an album on Tyrone Brunson, his debut for MCA ? and, of course, the long-awaited debut offering by Tawatha, Mtume's oft-used lead vocaliste on his own albums. "We have one song complete on Tawatha that I feel really excited about ? it's called "He Don't Want Nothing But Your Body" and it has a kind of vignette around it that will make it more exciting. "You know me, I'm a freak for what I consider to be perfection. I will always guarantee you quality ? but not necessarily hits!"

ONE OF the high spots of 1985 for Mtume was his all-too-short trip to Europe. "It's funny but London has been on my mind for the last three days," he laughs. "I'd love to go back to England and really tour properly. I'd like to do a couple of days at Hammersmith and then get to other parts of the country. It's not about the money ? I just feel people need to see us to find out about us. "I am very aware of the international market place and one of my greatest desires is to be able to take my music to the world." "Theater Of The Mind" has been available in Europe for a few weeks now and it is an album that I would wholeheartedly recommend. Not just for its musical content but also for its lyrical content. It's already been referred to as the first Black concept album since Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and while that is admittedly heady praise, it's also valid. "A friend of mine told me recently that if Sting had made this album, people would have said it's a revelation ? but since I made it, it'll probably be referred to as a revolution! "But I am thoroughly happy with this album. For the first time in my career, I'm not worrying about singles and hits ? this album goes way beyond that." B&S Aug '86

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