In Search of the Rainbow Seekers
With their second album for Epic Records, Mtume perfected their recipe for sweltering yet tightly woven funk tunes. Stealthier than songs by Chic and more intricate than songs by Slave, “Give It on Up (If You Want To),” “So You Wanna Be a Star,” and “Spirit of the Dance” opened the door on a whole new era of post-disco pop singles. James Mtume’s minor obsession with Parliament-Funkadelic lingers on “Mrs. Sippi” and “Dance Around My Navel (Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, Just Cents),” but the group continued to develop an individualized voice. For all of Mtume’s musical sophistication and experience—he was, after all, an alumnus of the Miles Davis band—the outfit’s secret weapon was undoubtedly vocalist Tawatha Agee. Neither bombastic nor generic, Agee could play the sparkling everywoman on songs like “We’re Gonna Make It This Time” and “Everything Good to Me.” Whereas bands' female vocalists had often been pushed into the spotlight in previous generations, Agee always felt like a totally integrated part of the group. But even when her voice blends into the background of a track, her magnetism remains the group’s focal point.