Boney James - Send One Your Love

  Boney James
  Send One Your Love

  1/2 out of 5 stars
  Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Boney James...playing in an elevator near you.

Maybe I should cut Boney some slack because he was smart enough to change his name from the very non-catchy James Oppenheim to his current nom de plume and he spent his youth in New Rochelle, a stone's throw from my own home town. NAH. He got his nickname because constant touring with the likes of Morris Day (the scene stealer in Prince's "Purple Rain"), and Bobby Caldwell left him looking like a starving musician. Based on his playing, they may have decided not to pay him. An admirer of Grover Washington Jr., James has boned up on Washington's brand of smooth jazz since his mentor's passing. In fact, he seems to have stolen Washington's entire sleep-inducing act. Boney's somehow managed to record a dozen previous albums, including "Boney's Funky Christmas." You're kidding me with that one, right James?  

Boney's playing has a lot of melody, but no meat to it. He plays effortless, breathy tenor sax in the opener, "Wanna Show U Somethin'," which shows us nothing. He's flawless, but unexciting, a steady hum with all the brevity of a test of the National Emergency System. If his sax was hooked up to a heart monitor it would flat line. Boney borrows the samba beat from Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (which was stolen to begin with) and has Sue Ann Carwell on board to provide chirpy chicky vocals. That should tell you somethin'.
"Send One Your Love" is one of Stevie Wonder's better off forgotten hits from the mystifying "Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants" album. The mostly instrumental effort made Stevie sound as if he was smoking his plants. He should have shared a toke with Boney - it might have at least made him an innovator instead of a tacky telegrapher delivering a note for note rendition minus the best part - Stevie. Boney's soprano sax playing is made saxier by layered strings and Tim Carmon's caramelized soft electric piano asides. But do we really need the oohing and aahing trio of Kim Brewer, Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway? Nothing's brewing thanks to embarrassing cooing - and ace session guitarist Dean Parks (Crosby and Nash, Steely Dan) sounds asleep at the pick. It's music for the boudoir - providing you're Billy Dee Williams or Barry White.
Rob Bacon provides a comfortable acoustic beginning for "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" before Boney breezes in. In the Chris Wood School of adventuresome sax playing, Boney still rates a zero. He never strays outside his cloudy comfort zone. It's all bacon fat, no sizzle. After three snooze-packed songs, his style is beginning to molder instead of smolder.

A primary offender is Boney's take on James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." It's the only lead vocal on the album, which marks the introduction of "Quinn,"
who pretends to have the same vocal dexterity as Teddy Pendergrass. He's certainly not the Mighty Quinn. He's more like Anthony Quinn, a great actor, but a lousy singer. Boney's meatless blowing is more effective than usual because he only has to slide in during the musical break, but Quinn's sham singing makes this take on Taylor's classic as cheesy as Velveeta on Filet Mignon.

It would stand to reason that one of Barry White's bedroom ballads would be appropriate fodder for Boney's lothario licks. "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" has a darker, sexier undertone than the previous tunes. James wisely cuts down his breathy technique during the verses ...AHA! Variety at last. You might actually want to hear James jam on this one again.

The chimes in the background let you know you've entered the cool section of town in "City of Light." It'd make a decent film noir soundtrack for a Grade B Robert Ryan flick, but doesn't make for stimulating listening, despite the hollow vibraphone vibrations of Stefon Harris. Step on, Stefon.

"Butter" is smooth, but so is suet and I don't like pig slop. The closer, a take on the Brothers Johnson's "I'll Be Good to You," ends the tenor sax terror with the same sensual but sleepy delivery Boney's been bringing since the opening cue. It also marks the return of Brewer, Fiddmont, and Hathaway. This time they've brought along an accomplice, Lamont Van Hook. In vaudeville, they used to yank the bad acts off the stage with a long, crooked hook. Exit stage left, Lamont. The Brothers can't need a payday so badly that they'd condone the pasteurization of their funk.

Boney is bad to the bone. He rates ½ a star for being savvy enough to try and record "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and "I'll Be Good To You." However, he should have his sax melted down for turning them into jazzy junk. "Send One Your Love" is so mellow it has no backbone. Its seduction music for those who think they're suave; background noise for the fireplace and wine sect. Next time you light up, instead of tossing another log on the fire -- throw in "Send One Your Love."



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