Produced by Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and “Stix” Hooper
Label – MCA
By 1979, Crusaders were a well established jazz fusion crossover act with leader Joe Sample providing keyboards, Wilton Felder saxophone, and “Stix Hooper” drums and percussion. Whilst viewing some chaotic scenes at the beginners slope at the Mammoth Mountain California resort, Sample came up with the idea for a song titled “Street Life” which reflected his love for the hubbub of the city. Along with writer Will Jennings, the pair crafted a catchy instrumental with a rare lyric to complement. The requirement for a classy singer to light up the song led to the keyboardist approaching solo artist Randy Crawford. They had previously worked together on Crawford’s 1976 debut album “Everything Must Change”, and the familiarity leads to the relaxed, almost frivolous and yet truly magical title track. Clocking in at over eleven stunning minutes, the song develops from a soulfully atmospheric intro leading into the explosive horn led party stomp, and virtuoso solos from Sample and Felder. But it’s Randy who steals the show, effortlessly rising through octaves as she joyfully delivers a performance that would instantly draw attention and eventually lead to a successful international solo career.
With such an outstanding and dominant opener, it’s difficult to view the remaining five songs without feeling a shade of anti-climax. That said, “My Lady” beats out a rhythm heavy slow groove which benefits from the celestially rising backing vocal harmonies. “Rodeo Drive (High Steppin’)” carries a delightfully upbeat saxophone melody, and “Carnival Of The Night” reflects the funky mellow approach that prevails throughout the collection.
“Street Life” is one of those rare moments where contemporary jazz and pop collide successfully, and although nothing can match the sparkling title track, the remaining five songs form a more than worthy collection of carefree gestures and cool tunes.
1 – Street Life (10)
2 – My Lady (8)
3 – Rodeo Drive (High Steppin’) (7)
4 – Carnival Of The Night (7)
5 – The Hustler (7)
6 – Night Faces (7)