The Lewis Connection, made up of Minneapolis, Minnesota brothers Andre and Pierre Lewis, recorded their debut album, The Lewis Connection in 1978. Comprising six songs, the effort was recorded in various studios across Minneapolis. The effort is reissued (becoming more widely available than it was ‘back-when’) in 2013 via Numero. Just over 30 minutes, the album successfully utilizes funk cues popularized by preeminent funk-soul bands the likes of Parliament and Earth, Wind and Fire. In addition to alluding to such established figures in the ‘70s, The Lewis Connection also serves to preface Prince, the Twin Cities’s most notable musical success.
True to funk roots and the timbre cultivated at the time, the music is oft-times highly repetitive, built upon memorable riffs and ultimately constructed around feel-good grooves. Production is characterized by big time bass lines, biting horns, and a preference for electric piano/keyboards. Of the six tracks that grace The Lewis Connection, five are mid-tempo or faster with “Got to Be Something Here” delivering the sole deviation from that blueprint.
“Get Up” initiates, easily embodying the perfect transitional song between ‘70s and ‘80s R&B. Not extraordinarily flashy by any accounts, the cut is in the pocket, easily grooving alongside better known cuts such as Parliament’s “P Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”. Focused on living it up and embracing the nightlife, “Get Up” goes as far to cheekily spell out “P-A-R-T-Y”, just in case the listener didn’t quite comprehend the vibe of the seven-minute ball of fun.
“Higher” one-ups it, literally, topping out at eight minutes. Instead of exposing its deck of cards from the onset, “Higher” takes time to set itself up, giving up the first minute to mysterious instrumental music. Soon enough, the groove sets in and the listener basks in the smooth ‘70s ambience, laden with horns, fat bass, and keyboards. Aside from the production itself, the falsetto easily shines, inciting the flying nature of the cut, which seems a natural musical allusion to substance use. “Feel Good To Ya” keeps the party (and excesses) going strongly with spry tempo and an unapologetic carefreeness.
“Got to Be Something Here”, penned by bassist/vocalist Sonny Thompson (and featuring Prince on background vocals and guitar), slows things down following the energetic “Feel Good to Ya”. The band gets serious, delivering a ballad that easily makes one think of Tower of Power’s best ballads like 1972’s “You’re Still A Young Man” or 1973’s “So Very Hard to Go”. The quality of the recording isn’t particularly great, but emotion and heart-wrenching lyrics easily prevail. “Dynamic Duo” and “Mr. G” close The Lewis Connection instrumentally. The music definitely makes for a sound soundtrack, but also affirms to the scattered makeup of the album itself.
Overall, The Lewis Connection provides a superb snapshot into the world of ‘70s funk/soul. It doesn’t supersede the albums or contributions better known legends, but definitely supplements them and sheds more light into the soundscape of the 1970s. The album is scattered, but given its classicism and musical intentions/history, it is easy to overlook that impropriety. More disappointing is the sound quality of this gem. But, a gem is a gem.
// Notes from the Road
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