No question: Minneapolis was a hotbed of music genius in the 1980s. Have you checked out Numero Group‘s Purple Snow compilation yet? You should. That set gives you just a taste of the music that was flowing through that cold Midwestern community; a community that gave us Husker Du, Semisonic, Soul Asylum, and, of course, on the funk side, Prince, The Time, and many others including Andre Cymone.
For those unaware of the backstory, Cymone is a childhood friend of Prince’s. The two were housemates as teenagers (Prince sought refuge from a turbulent childhood in the home of Andre’s mom Bernadette) and Andre was an integral part of Prince’s band during the latter artist’s first years of success. After cutting a solo path in the early Eighties, Andre recorded three well-received albums for Columbia and most notably produced tracks for artists ranging from Adam Ant to Jody Watley.
Then he disappeared. Andre left the music business in the mid Nineties to focus on his family, and to his fans, it seemed as though he’d retired and/or fallen off the map completely and would never be heard from again. Thankfully, we were wrong. 2014 brings forth a brand new solo effort from Andre called The Stone. To say it’s highly anticipated is a bit of an understatement-it’s Andre’s first album release in a mind-boggling twenty-nine years.
What may also be mind-boggling to some is that The Stone is a completely rust-free effort. It’s not a throwback kind of “remember when I used to do this?” kind of record. It’s spirited and vital in a way that you’d associate with new artists more than you would a veteran with almost four decades in the biz. From a musical standpoint, I’d compare it to recent (good) releases like Van Hunt‘s What Were You Hoping For? and fellow legendary soul/rock rebel Nona Hendryx‘s Mutatis Mutandis. The Stone is no throwback exercise, and there are no Oberheim synthesizers or Linn drum machines to speak of. On this album, Andre is letting the Hendrix that lives inside him fly free, carrying the torch for the brothers and sisters out there who know that rocking is our birthright, not just an activity relegated to assumed cultural outliers. Although best known as a bassist, Andre plays lead guitar on the majority of The Stone’s tracks, and he’s supported by a crack band that manages to sound raw without sacrificing chops.
The overwhelming message of The Stone is positivity. While his touching tribute to Trayvon Martin doesn’t make an appearance here, The Stone‘s overwhelming message is socio-political and focuses on love and peace without seeming pie-in-the-sky unrealistic. “Live Life” is a prime example of this philosophy-it’s uplifting, expertly played and easy to sing along with. The wistful “One Day” is another winner, and Andre even indulges his inner Spaghetti-Western lover with “The Horseman.” It’s a diverse collection of real music, made by real musicians. Hmmm…I feel like I’ve heard that line used somewhere recently…
The past five years have brought forth quite a few unexpected treats from the Twin Cities scene: The Time, The Family and Jesse Johnson (to name a few) have all made solid albums despite long layoffs. Add Andre Cymone to the list. The Stone is definitely worth checking out–a ray of sunshine in an increasingly cloudy musical world.
The Stone will be out physically and digitally on February 18th. (preorder on Amazon.com here)