[Review] George Duke: From Me To You (1977)

Between searchingness and reachingness, there is this perfect slice of dukeyness.

Kronomyth 11.0: The Grand Duchy of Lavinia.

George Duke’s journey from the courts of The Grand Wazoo to Parliament is more or less chronicled on the twelve records that he released between 1974 and 1979. That’s right, you heard right, twelve albums (a rate of two per year). You’d think there would be one or stinkers in that bunch, but nope. Smack dab in the middle you’ll find From Me To You, evenly split between jazz-rock fusion and funk.

While his next album, Reach For It, marked a commercial breakthrough, it was also a turning point for Duke’s career in the sense that every album after would include at least one or two readymade funk singles. From Me To You doesn’t have an obvious single, although the duet with Diane Reeves, “You And Me,” only lacked exposure to be an R&B hit. Even without a recognizable hit, this record is one of my favorites from Duke. The opening “From Me To You” instantly evokes the complex horn arrangements of The Grand Wazoo, and Duke the master arranger reappears on “Up On It,” “Seasons,” “Carry On” and “Scuse Me Miss,” deftly moving between funk and fusion.

The backing band is typically oustanding: Ndugu returns on drums, Byron Miller assumes full-time bass duties (with Stanley Clarke guesting on several cuts) and an impressive 22-year-old Mike Sembello steps into Daryl Stuermer’s shoes on guitar. Duke handles the vocals himself and does a fine job, although a good half of the album is instrumental, if that tells you anything. While the Zappa influences are to be expected, the Corea/RTF influences (“Seasons,” “Broken Dreams”) are an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Even with the forays into funk, I would rank From Me To You among the better fusion albums from the mid to late Seventies. It’s also a perfect bridge between Duke’s fusion and funk personalities, and thus may be the quintessential recording from his most creative period.

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Original LP Version

A1. From Me To You (1:44)
A2. Carry On (4:35)
A3. What Do They Really Fear? (4:27)
A4. ‘Scuse Me Miss (3:34)
A5. You And Me (3:39)
A6. Broken Dreams (2:47)
B1. Up On It (9:02)
B2. Seasons (5:45)
B3. Down In It (George Duke/Stanley Clarke/Mike Sembello/Leon Ndugu Chancler) (1:21)
B4. Sing It (4:07)

All songs composed and arranged by George Duke unless noted.

The Players

George Duke (keyboards, vocals, percussion on A5), Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums), Byron Miller (electric bass), Mike Sembello (electric and acoustic guitars), Jessica Smith (background vocals), Julia Tillman Waters (background vocals), Maxine Willard Waters (background vocals) with Bobby Bryant (trumpet on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4), Stanley Clarke (acoustic bass on A1/B2, electric bass on B1/B3), Glen Ferris (trombone on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4), Walt Fowler (trumpet on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4), Bill Green (flutes, piccolos & saxophone on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4), Lou McCreary (trombone on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4), Diane Reeves (vocals on A5/A6), Emil Richards (percussion A1/A6/B2), strings: Murray Adler, William Kurasch, Jay Rosen, Pamela Goldsmith, Polly Sweeney, Allan Harschman, Jacqueline Lustgarten, Raymond Kelley (A1/A5/A6/B1), Ernie Watts (flutes, piccolos & saxophone on A1/A2/A4/B1/B4). Produced by George Duke; engineered by Kerry McNabb.

The Pictures

Photography by Bruce W. Talamon. Graphic illustration by Cynthia Marsh. Design by Nancy Donald.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in March 1977 in the US (Epic, PE 34469) {orange label} and the UK (Epic, S EPC 81850) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #192 on the US charts and Top 20 on the US Jazz charts (charted on April 9, 1977).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Epic, PE 34469) {black/blue label}.
  2. Re-released on Blu-Spec compact disc on February 12, 2014 in Japan (Epic, EICP-30031).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on November 8, 2017 in Japan (Epic, SICJ-256).

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