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Ramsey Lewis: Taking Another Look–Deluxe Edition

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Back in the mid- to late ’60s, when he was in with the in crowd, Ramsey Lewis, first with his trio and then on his own, was the rare jazz artist to place a number of both singles and albums in the upper reaches of the Billboard charts, largely on the strength of sunny, accessible covers of popular rock songs. By 1974, that approach had gone stale for him and Lewis decided to shift gears, teaming up with a former trio member, drummer Maurice White, who had since formed the highly successful soul-funk outfit Earth, Wind & Fire. Together they fashioned Sun Goddess, an album that moved Lewis definitively from acoustic jazz into the more electrified rhythmic grooves of the day and became his final album to go gold.

Flash ahead to 2011. In the ensuing decades, Lewis’ formidable keyboard chops have never waned, but his popularity as a recording artist has (although he remains a draw in concert). For Taking Another Look, Lewis took Sun Goddess‘ 10 tracks and either re-recorded or remixed them, with Lewis (playing both piano and Fender Rhodes) and his Electric Band (Joshua Ramos, bass; Charles Heath, drums; Henry Johnson, guitar; Tim Gant, keyboards) not so much totally reimagining the ’70s recording as giving it a new coat of 21st-century paint.

The “Deluxe Edition” designation refers to the addition of three bonus tracks to the original Taking Another Look, each offering augmentation by a guest artist. Of the three, the new “Jungle Strut,” with Dr. John’s naturally greezy piano virtually replacing Lewis’ Rhodes, is the most successful overhaul. “Tambura” features the funk mob Kung Fu; Rob Somerville’s tenor saxophone courses throughout much of the track, bringing to it a contemporary grit. Finally, there’s “Sharing Her Journey,” whose neo-fusion, via TAUK, removes the hot guitar and balanced mix of the original in favor of an overdose of sound that often approaches a gloppy cacophony. Is Ramsey Lewis even in there anymore? Hard to tell.

Originally Published