The Greatest Hits

Sun

The Right Stuff / Capitol Records, 1998

http://www.sunishere.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/28/1998

Quiet, surprise admission coming up... I have been humbled by one of my industry contacts, who sent to me a "best of" CD from a group I had never heard of.

I will pause now so that the loyal members of the Pierce Posse can grab their smelling salts.

I was shocked, too, I can't lie. Here was a CD from a late '70s-early '80s funk group, Sun, that I honestly can't ever remember hearing as a child. (Of course, I was in grade school when Byron Bird and crew were at their peak of success, and disco had invaded almost every aspect of life at that time.) Here was a group that had surprised then-struggling acts like the Commodores by hitting the big time with their first single, "Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic)".

Problem is, acts like the Commodores and Earth, Wind And Fire are still remembered, while Sun set back into obscurity after their glory days ended around 1982. But this also leaves the door open for a whole new generation to discover them, even to hear how some groups like Boyz II Men might have found influence in them. The recently released The Greatest Hits offers that opportunity, and despite an occasionally dated sound, the end product is still rather enjoyable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The major hit, "Wanna Make Love (Come Flick My Bic)", is surprisingly still fresh as it was in 1976. The use of the talkbox by Roger Troutman is one of the more innovative uses of the device I've heard in years of reviewing music, and actually found myself looking forward to hearing more of Troutman's talkbox work as the disc rolled on. What is also intriguing is the idea of mentioning a commercial product so prominently in a song; these days, even if the reference was flattering, you know there'd be some asshole corporate lawyer with a cease-and-desist order in his hand the day the album came out.

In fact, quite a bit of the funk here has maintained its crisp sound despite the passage of some two decades. Cuts like "Radiation Level," "Super Duper Super Star," "They're Calling For More" and "Jammin' In Brazil" all are locks to have the listener tapping their foot to the beat, if they're not lifted out of their Barcalounger to start dancing. When you hear songs like these, you have to wonder why Sun have not remained a household name.

The cuts where I could hear sounds similar to Boyz II Men were the slower, more introspective works, like "I Had A Choice" and "Baby I Confess". While these might not have been my personal favorites, hearing a possible influencing factor on some of today's music was rather fascinating.

The one drawback to some of Sun's music is that it seems to drag on, even if the songs themselves aren't any longer than the others on The Greatest Hits. Some cuts like "Sun Is Here" sound almost tentative, while others like "Light Of The Universe" and "Reaction Satisfaction (Jam Ya'll: Funk It Up)" just don't click for me.

Another drawback to the overall package is that the disc doesn't present Sun chronologically, nor does it offer easy to reach information as to when each song came out. A. Scott Galloway's liner notes do help, but you really have to search them to find out information about the tracks.

Despite these criticisms, The Greatest Hits provides more enjoyment than any skeptic might think possible, and it serves as an interesting introduction to a band that we probably should know better than names like Vanilla Ice and Milli Vanilli. Sun was a band that helped shape not only the world of funk, but they also laid the ground for more modern R&B acts - and for that, they should be grateful.

If you lived through the era when Sun was high in the sky of popularity, this one will cause you to flash back to the days of bell-bottoms. For members of Generation X like myself, The Greatest Hits is an interesting slice of musical history - proving that even an experienced critic has a lot to learn.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Right Stuff / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.