I’m Loving Jungle’s Loving in Stereo
Back in the 1970s, I would have hated Jungle’s new album Loving in Stereo. In fact, I would have hated all of Jungle’s music. That’s because they are unabashedly retro but more specifically disco and danceable R&B. At that time, I was all about progressive rock and then punk and new wave. I even had a “Disco Sucks” t-shirt. Now, I’ve grown. I’m still not a 70s disco fan but appreciate the influence it had, especially on 80s techno and dance pop. Without disco, there would not have been Madonna, and I do like Madonna. In Loving in Stereo, Jungle goes even deeper into retro dance music, well beyond just disco. There are elements of funk and 80s dance music as well. The Jungle formula includes high harmony vocal choruses (a holdover from doo wop), a string orchestra, horn sections, and creative use of synths. They blend these elements together into a swirling bath of sonic fun, perfect for the dance floor or driving to the beach. Jungle has out discoed disco and created music that even a disco hater could love.
The album starts with an orchestral piece with chorus-like vocals called “Dry Your Tears”. This is clearly an introduction and not meant to be a whole song. Jungle keeps this intro short so that it doesn’t dominate the album. It transitions directly into “Keep Moving”, a late era style disco song. This is a song more like early 80s Lipps Unlimited, of “Funky Town” fame, than old school K.C. and the Sunshine Band type disco. By that I mean, the song ditches the repetitiveness of early disco in favor of a real song structure. It immediately provides a sense that this album is not going to be just a remake of the 70s but will include a variety of R&B influenced retro dance styles.
“All Of the Time” keeps us in the late 70s or early 80s with another disco song only this one is more of a funky R&B tune. Think of it as Earth Wind and Fire with fewer horns. As was common late in the later disco era, there are a number of genre elements involved that give it that transitional feel, like late Donna Summers. “Romeo, Featuring Bas” keeps that party going. Jungle takes the disco late 70s base and has Bas take it into old school rap territory with a smidge of reggae. Listening to “Romeo” took me back to the early 80s clubs where rap from Grandmaster Flash or LL Cool J played alongside the new wave common in the alternative clubs of that time.
Jungle starts to change it up a bit with “Lifting You”. It is more R&B than disco with the lightest of disco beat. It’s that strain of R&B that included 90s hip hop acts like Lauryn Hill. The album transitions into early 70s R&B with “Bonnie Hill”. There is no disco here, only a swinging soul beat, like the Temptations or Marvin Gaye. We are still deep in the 70s but out of the clubs and into the bedroom. The following song “Fire” is even more of a radical departure. “Fire” is funky, as in real funk. A funk style slap bass, equally at home in Parliament and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, undergirds the song by providing that funk structure. They add organ (not synth) sounds and wordless singing to makes this one funky mother. Another funk tune “No Rules” has an amazing walking bass line driving a 70s funk soul sound. Listening to “No Rules” and you immediately get that Isaac Hayes, “Shaft” feel. More funk happens later in the album with “Just Fly” which also features Isaac Hayes style beats.
The variety keeps coming as the album includes “Talk About It”. This song has that the syncopated drumming typical of 80s and 90s house music. “Talk About It” is trippier than classic disco with rhythms that nearly push this into the tribal house subgenre. “Truth” is so very 80s. It has a driving beat with chorus vocals, which sounds like the 80s new romantics meets the Go-Gos. It is incredible catchy and fun, the kind of music you listen to on the way to the Jones Beach, L.I. in 1983. “What D’You Know About Me” provides a bridge from the 80s back to the 70s. The song starts with Kraftwerk-like space age sounds and rhythmic chanting but quickly morphs into a classic disco beat with vocals right out of a post “I Feel Love” Donna Summers-Giorgio Moroder collaboration that never happened. The drums provide a typical late era disco thump thump thump, just right for driving to the club.
Towards the end of the album, we’re treated to two, more unique songs. “Goodbye My Love, featuring Priya Ragu” is still very retro but more like soft R&B. Ragu’s sweet, Minnie Riperton-like, vocals make this a heartfelt love song. Not wanting to end on a quiet note, Jungle finishes up with “Can’t Stop the Stars”, a pre-disco era R&B dance song. It’s upbeat in an O’Jays kind of way and ends the album on an energetic note.
Loving in Stereo from Jungle refines their retro sound to include more adjacent genres. That keeps the album interesting and, above all, fun. No depressing or down songs here. It’s just the kind of album you need around when heading out for a night of (COVID safe) fun. Jungle keeps the party going.