Ron Louis Smith II – “Spank”
The son of Ronald Smith, a founding member and horn player with disco legends KC and the Sunshine Band, scores big with the release of his album The Prince of Sunshine. Ronald Louis Smith II unleashes a dazzling eight song collection that explores an assortment of voices while maintaining a constant tether to a hard-charging, sharply defined dance music aesthetic. Other musical influences exert a hold over his approach and his command of fundamentals strikes an interesting contrast with the album’s glossy, modern production.
The album kicks off with a vital, engaging cover of Jimmy “Bo” Horne’s 1979 single “Spank” and written by Smith’s father. There’s little question in comparing the two that the younger Smith has remained faithful to the original’s vision, but he’s moved one step further and further realized the song. The percolating tempo is sharper, more insistent here and the layered production sounds like a veritable symphony of pop and dance complete with horns, strong bass, and Caribbean flavored rhythms. Funk guitars slice through the mix and make themselves heard, but they don’t play a dominant role. “Spank” personifies the near-perfect balance between instruments and vocals that major talents like Smith can find in any song.
Smith makes the most out of “Party Music” as well. Like the first song, this track features an extended opening before Smith’s vocal enters for the first time and runs nearly nine minutes in length. It might seem like a bloated running time, but “Party Music” delivers a plethora of surprises and musical embellishments. “Can’t Let Go” has some of the same lyrical sentiments explored on the album’s other tracks, but its poppier edge gives it a lighter effect. “Love Talk”, however, is all about effect. Smith and his collaborators turn towards crafting a slick, seamless homage to Barry White style romantic balladry without ever completely losing touch with its primary aims.
“Come On and Do It” reaches for the pop brass ring and grabs it tight. The sparkling, positive melody communicates nothing but wide smiles and good times. Smith’s stylish delivery does the same and gives some added structure to the track by playing his vocal effectively against the melody. “Real Good Time” turns Smith back to more adult fare with its seductive groove and unadorned simplicity. It has an irresistible drive that helps it stand out as one of the album’s best tracks. “Party Freaks, Come On” is going to please many club and concert goers with its live power, but the recording isn’t shabby either. The Prince of Sunshine’s sparkling production strengthens the presentation enormously.
The album’s last track “Don’t Hold Back” invokes a similar mood with Smith’s urgent singing over a percolating R&B attack. The strong beats that have, in part, marked the entire release are a positive here but the brass section and other instruments generate a real swing that helps the finale stand out. It’s a highly appropriate ending to a solid album that looks to please the listener from beginning to end.
8 out of 10 stars