Yamaha Entertainment Group
When I was 13 years old I saw an Eric Clapton concert, my first big-name international gig; it was certainly a formative experience. The band was phenomenal, ex-members of The Average White Band and people who had recorded with Michael Jackson and toured with Stevie Wonder and the bass player was Nathan East. He even took the lead vocals on the Blind Faith classic, Can’t Find My Way Home. That was it. For the next few years I looked for East’s name in the record cover credits of many of my favourite albums. I found his name a lot. This guy really had played with everyone.
I then bought a collection from his band, Fourplay. It was the most ghastly, wet, music-school dinner-jazz. It made soft-porn soundtrack music seem – suddenly – very exciting.
East’s still turning up with great players and appearing on great albums. A few years ago I saw him as part of Herbie Hancock’s band. His version of I Just Called To Say I Love You was not at all a similar experience to having heard him sing Can’t Find My Way Home 20 years earlier. It was revolting.
But last year he was one of the session stars on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
And now we have East’s debut, self-titled solo album. Some 30 years in the making and with several “special guests”.
It’s like a snapshot, a CV in microcosm and the best think you can say about it is that East probably really means it. He might even, on occasion, be feeling it.
These sorts of albums seemed prevalent in the 1990s – or perhaps that’s when I was looking for them – this album feels like it was made and should have been released some 20-30 years ago.
There’s Fourplay-like/lite crud, the sort of funk that might make your dentist’s waiting-room playlist. There’s a version of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke where East’s bass is the lead voice – it sounds like a Karaoke guide-track. Or something you hear when waiting for the ads to start up at a movie screening. You’ve never been so keen to see some fucking ads. Later he kills Stevie’s Overjoyed with far too much kindness too.
Elsewhere there’s smarmy cash-ins such as a track called Daft Funk – it feels like the sort of Daft Punk covers band you might hear at a family smorgasbord restaurant; the type that punctuates each shitty cover with some joke along the lines of announcing the results of that day’s sheep dog trials – you know, all the sheep dogs were found not guilty…thanks and try the veal, or anything else you can stockpile on your plate.
The next thing that’s particularly hard to swallow further along the conveyer belt ride of East’s former triumphs is a revisit of that Clapton tune, Can’t Find My Way Home. It should assist in bringing back up that veal.
There are turgid covers and flaccid approximations of the real deal. There’s yet another version of Moondance – like the world needs that; here it’s given a cruise-ship snap. And it’s fucking atrocious, natch.
But worse, the mawkish rendition of Yesterday – East’s young son playing the piano and kicking off the track with a coy, “are you ready dad?”
But it can only get more comical – you see America The Beautiful is served up as a scatting, clap-happy fiesta; the sort of segue music you hear on American breakfast TV; a particularly vapid young ditz throwing to the weather guy or gal, you know, they’re outside at the big state parade, possibly dressed as a cow, about to interview a farmer and work in an udderly ridiculous pun. And the three couch-dummies in the studio wet themselves and what’s left of their soul drains out onto the bright red cushion.
Nathan East is a wonderful bass player. His album is the proof he’s never had any idea of taste beyond what’s in his mouth – and anyone but the most boorish of Rock Shop bass slobs would be wise to stay away from this. Because it is fucking absurd, ridiculous, smarmy and schmaltzy and meaningless. It’s like one long elevator ride with, well, with Nathan East…drizzling out all that’s left of his session-star soul.