Steve Arrington made his reputation as the front man from the group Slave - an outfit that showed the world that love songs didn't have to be slow. Slave made some of the funkiest get-your-rap-game-on songs during the 1970s and early 80s. A couple of guys I know tried to use that opening line from the song "Slide" as a pick up line. Of course, they didn't have Arrington's nasally drawl that could go from being laid back and smooth on joints like "Slide," to expressing a sense of urgency and vulnerability on a tune like "Just A Touch of Love." Arrington used the formula to strike gold when he went solo in the early 1980s on songs like "Way Out," and the oft sampled "Weak in the Knees."
By the mid-1980s, Arrington started moving in a different direction. Songs such as "Dancin' in the Key of Life" and "Nobody Can Be You (But You)" allowed him to explore a more serious and spiritual side of the music. The funk and the drawl were still there, but the message went from sensual to inspirational. Oddly, it worked because there was a market and a need for those kind of tunes back in 1985. Plus, Arrington's musical arrangement on those tunes maintained the hard funk sound that his fans enjoyed.
There is still a market and a need for inspirational and spiritual songs, and Arrington seeks to fill that need with his latest work, Pure Thang. Arrington still knows how to make heads nod. However, the project falls short of what his longtime fans have come to expect. There are a few songs where it all comes together, and Arrington is able to deliver that classic Slave funk along with his sly vocal delivery and clever lyrics. Some of the better tracks include "Time To Ride, " "Nobody Else," in which Arrington's vocals make monogamy sound cool and "Holla." Tracks such as "Holla" show that Arrington can merge his old school funk with new school lingo in the interest of bringing forth an inspirational message that looks at people who overcame the naysayers to achieve spiritual, political and professional victories.
For all of the funk filled, head nodding arrangements, the words are what will make or break this album. When Arrington is able to combine his sly delivery with some equally tight hooks and interesting lyrics, Pure Thang pops. However, the moments when that happens are too infrequent on this record. For example, the up tempo "Power," a tune in which Arrington sings about the enduring power of funk, cries out for a money hook. However, nothing pops out at the listener. No line with the kind of ear warmish ability to insert itself into the listener's brain in the way Arrington manages to do on the equally uptempo "Time to Ride."
It is great to hear Steve Arrington back again, and Pure Thang has moments where everything comes together just right. However, at 17 tracks, there is a bit too much filler that bogs down this highly anticipated return, leaving it more of a hit-or-miss project than the triumphant comeback that this reviewer was hoping for. Mildly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes