Weldon Irvine ‘Time Capsule’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 5/5

Recorded in 1973 on his own Nodlew imprint, Weldon Irvine’s ‘Time Capsule’ became a landmark album which continues to inspire on many levels, having a profound effect on many artists and listeners. The music is timeless, suffused with Weldon Irvine’s deep sense of context and spirit woven into the narrative which crosses elements of funk with soul, jazz and spoken word creating a unique picture of the 1970s; formidable and always captivating.

Weldon Irvine was a lyricist, composer and musician; a mentor to many New York hip-hop artists, including Q-Tip and Mos Def, and In 2003, Madlib, Mr Dibbs and Breakestra produced a tribute to Weldon Irvine, “Suite for Weldon”. The following year, Madlib released the full-length album ‘A Tribute to Brother Weldon’. The classic album by Boogie Down Productions featured a sample from Weldon Irvine’s keyboard contribution on Stanley Turrentine’s ‘Sister Sanctified’. It’s easy to see why many contemporary creators would gravitate towards his music and his sensibility. His lyrics for Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, led to the song being dubbed the “official” Civil Rights anthem.

Time Capsule has everything within. The eloquent futuristic spoken word, electronic inquisitiveness and the incredible acoustic sounds created by the love for the music and the seriousness of the artform. The space and balance are evident throughout the album. ‘Soul Sisters’ features trumpeter Jimmy Owens and George Cables on electric piano with some nice organ touches by Weldon; it’s a perfect counterbalance for the more introspective tracks with a funk edged soul-jazz vibe, . Recording on his own label exacted much more freedom and authenticity than under the umbrella of a record company, although the reception from his first two albums did lead to some interesting future collaborations with both Strata East and RCA before Weldon’s hiatus in the late 1970s. it would have been interesting to hear more albums with labels like Strata East.

Spontaneous Interaction’ is a driving uptempo jazz fusion piece with Weldon Irvine’s harmonica like Melodica keyboard adding an emotive depth towards the interplay with Clint Houston bass and probing inventiveness of pianist George Cables. The electronic sound adds both a progressive and reflective essence to this futuristic composition.

‘Watergate—Don’t Bug Me!’ airs the commentary of the political activist sentiment which surrounded Weldon Irvine’s life. It’s a deep piece with a spoken word narrative bound for future minds. Drummer Lenny White and percussionists Tony Wiles and Napoleon Revels add weight and propulsion to this rocket-fuelled funk fusion track. It’s an important track for future generations listening in, looking for context or understanding.

‘Bananas’ is a superb instrumental funk jam with a tight groove that was faintly reminiscent of the Mizell Brothers. It’s only just over two minutes long but it’s another memorable piece from the album.

The title track is a soft word in the ear for future prosperity. A commentary on the music and a revealing position from within. The subjects of harmony, thoughts, feelings and vibrations, sealed with the word within the Time Capsule. The recitations by Weldon Irvine and Charlette Cook share a platform with subtle interplay from the keyboard which adds to the atmosphere and the message.

‘Deja Vu’ is one of the most popular vocal cuts from the album. The track headed Luv N’ Haight’s superb compilation from 1992 titled ‘Deja Vu’ alongside such tracks as ‘Sweetie Pie’ by Stone Alliance and ‘Can I Be our Squeeze’ by Chuck Carbo. It’s another buoyant composition which begins with a recitation from narrator Charlette Cook, whose voice seems perfect for the temperament throughout the album. Vocalist Emerson Cain features alongside the voice of Weldon Irvine as they both lead the track towards a juncture where it opens up into a mid-tempo jam fronted by Flugelhorn players Jimmy Owens and Preston Williams. It’s the longest track on the album and this adds room for all the musicians to stretch out with some really warm inventive solos. The track features bassist Alex Blake who played alongside many great musicians including Sun Ra and Randy Weston.

The album has a soulful modality that is never constrained or predictable and seems to be one of those albums which has many layers. It’s a fantastic indie release that has all the elements and it remains one of those timeless recordings that you can always revisit.

Previous to the recording of ‘Time Capsule’ Weldon Irvine featured on albums by Nina Simone, Richard Groove and Freddie Hubbard. A later fascinating connection appeared through his contribution towards LTJ Bukem’s label Good Looking Records with contributions on Big Bud’s album and the Earth 5 compilation. His contribution spanned decades with a timeless appeal and many of his written tracks featured on pivotal compilations such as ‘London Jazz Classics’ and the ‘Rare’ series back in 1987

A stone-cold classic remastered and reissued by the Pure Pleasure record label.

Mark Jones

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Weldon Irvine ‘Liberated Brother’ 180g Vinyl (Pure Pleasure) 4/5