Ronald Williams – Singles Review
The spoils of war.
According to legend, Ronald Williams has hundreds of songs already locked away in the vault like one of his main inspirations Prince was famous for doing. For just about every reason imaginable, I can justify this when it comes to making music; for one, it’s a clear sign that the creativity is in full bloom and that a ton of songs are being written…if there’s any reason I could come up with, that’s still gonna be the strongest one. Just. Make. Music. There are no RULES that say you HAVE to release everything you do right then & there on the spot. Hell – maybe you’ll never release it, maybe it’ll sit there in the vault for the rest of time even…you still gonna try and convince me that’s not a better use of an artist’s time than watching another YouTube video? When you’re in your prime, when you got all your capabilities and lungs full of air – why WOULDN’T an artist/band out there want to be giving it everything they have in the time that they’ve got? You get those tracks down right…I mean…maybe you can’t be movin’ like you used to at sixty-four, but your ears probably still work just fine & your fingers as well; I’m sayin’ if you build up a cornucopia of material and you keep them master files…you can do this music thang for as long as you can strap a pair of headphones to your face, you feel me? PLUS…like…if you DID take a route like this with your music, chances are, you’re gonna get most of your recording done in your youth, your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s maybe even…wherever that golden age of your own creativity might end up being, if you’ve got a bunch of material kicking around from way back when in the future sometime, you’re still gonna sound like you’re the age you were back when the track first got laid down. Add in a bit of whatever the auto-tuner of the future is to keep the new remix modern, and voila – you’re essentially immortalized in music forever at the age of your choosing…not a bad deal, I’m just sayin.’ Like so what if you gotta use a cane to get to the bathroom if you can remix the living daylights out of a killer track at age 80? Diaper me up & fire-up Pro-Tools homies, I’ll be just fine thank-you very much.
Anyhow the point is that Ronald’s got a whole bunch of music kickin’ around…who knows how/when/if it’ll all get released over the years and it’s probably pretty damn safe to say he’s still loading up the vault with a whole bunch more of his music even to this very day. And while it can be tempting to save it forever, there’s a time & a place for the right song – we all know that, we share that in common as listeners; whether it’s current trends or a cut that’ll change-up the game, offer a fresh perspective, or even just a comforting sound from the past made anew…the right time, is the right time. As an artist, you get a sense of when that comes along…like how Williams would put the finishing touches on an epic song called “I Am Here,” which would go on to become the end of his Funk Avenue album, which we reviewed in advance of the finalized release. So lineups get switched, sometimes singles are released – with Williams, you just never know what he’ll do with it all next & where these songs might end up tomorrow. As long as they end up on a playlist or two out there, I’m sure the rest is just mere details. You get the idea, keep your eyes & ears glued to his pages out there & you’re bound to find these songs I’m reviewing from Ronald Williams pop up somewhere on the internet I’m sure…if not now, then later.
Knowing that the whole stuffing music into the vault thing isn’t the only thing Ronald’s got in common with the almighty Purple One…I gotta admit, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that “Freaky Nikki” wasn’t the “Darling Nikki”-esque song I suspected that it might be. Williams can get right into his influences to dangerous peril at times, riding that edge between what he loves to listen to & what he creates, incorporating similar vibes that are twisted just enough to be familiar, but still different. Like take the chorus of “Freaky Nikki” for example – that’s not Prince, that’s the Notorious B.I.G. right there – slightly different pace, different direction in sound, but at the roots of the melody, that’s “Hypnotize” right there. Even dressed up in Ronald’s flashier style & sound, I’d imagine it’d be damn near impossible for the majority of listeners out there to not notice the similarities between the two songs – and that’s a spot where Williams is gonna have to be careful. In the most Freudian of twists to this story, the chorus of “Freaky Nikki” even contains the word “Hypnotize” – so either Ronald’s embracing the comparisons that are gonna come his way & proudly willing to combat the haters out there that will say this isn’t quite a fully original idea by making sure we notice this part as clear as day – or maybe these similarities all somehow got past him. I’m not entirely sure about that last part personally…seems like this would be a purposeful move by an artist like Williams, who’s more than capable of creating his own catchy hooks at any given time. Oddly what I am sure about, is that no comparison or similarity would likely hinder anyone from turning up what’s certainly a whole lot of fun. The real truth is that the vast majority of the song is different from anything else, has relentlessly enticing & vibrant sound, and any familiar moments you’ll feel like you recognize still have a twist on the sound & its completely welcoming, invitational vibe. I ain’t sayin’ I don’t dig it – I do – I dig pretty much most of what Ronald creates as a whole, he’s got a solid catalog…does it concern me at times that those influences he loves bleed a bit too much into his music like here on “Freaky Nikki?” For sure! Of course it does. But career-wise, Williams is still plenty on the side of new when it comes to how long he’s planning to go on for…the time for those influences on us all as artists to show up the most is at the beginning, it’s a natural byproduct of the magic that got us involved in music in the first place & one way or the other, it pretty much happens to us all at some point. Like I said, still a fun tune totally worth your time & fully turn-uppable…just be careful RW, that’s all I’m sayin’ my man…very little reason to borrow too much at all with the creativity this guy has inside.
For further proof of what Ronald Williams can do when left to his own devices, click “I Am Here” below.
At over ten minutes in length, it’s definitely got that finale potential; Ronald would have made a good move in ending his Funk Avenue record with a track that’s as ambitious as this is. Ultimately, it’s a medley by design…lots of ideas coming together here in one big melting pot. You’ve got the choir/gospel influence at the start of the song with the all-vocal approach, you’ve got the bust into BIG Pop-inspired sounds shortly after…and kind of a theatrical/grandiose set of chorus-like hooks after that. Then as you approach the four-minute mark, RW busts out the orchestral magic for an instrumental section of “I Am Here” that reveals a ton of imagination to begin with; and then hearing the switch back into a ballad-style slow-jam around the 4:40 mark? Amazing. Love the guitars around this part of the song as well, love the way Ronald sings this moment, love how incredibly fluid the transformation of sound is between the fourth & sixth minute of this tune…it goes from mild to wild, shifting into dramatic & intense bass & a Disney-esque nightmare-like sequence in sound to follow. Eventually after this expanded adventure into the artistic side of music, Williams will head back into the synth-pop inspired sounds of earlier on, bringing out the vocal hooks once again on the way to the finale of what’s truly one massive journey in music. As to what the people out there will make of “I Am Here” – I honestly couldn’t tell ya…anything progressive with multiple parts…I mean, it’s just a given the more pieces you add the more people you tend to lose sadly…but the ones that stick around through the complexity and challenging structure a song like this has, they’re the true fans for sure. You can think of “I Am Here” like a balanced scale with the orchestral elements as the mid-point…on each side you’ve got the chorus, the Pop hooks, only in opposite order as the song plays on; one direction to build, the other to deconstruct. Concluding this gigantic tune with searing guitar notes – including THE scorching note from Prince’s “Purple Rain” (hmmm…or is it “Let’s Go Crazy” – it’s one of’em!) played in a similar fashion (carrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreful RW) – before lighting up the frets on the way out the door in a slow exit full of exquisite tones & notes floating around through the air. Overall, “I Am Here” is definitely satisfying for sure…it’s a seriously ambitious tune with a ton of unique elements to keep you interested along the way, which in a track over ten-minutes long, needs to.
According to some of the scattered notes I’ve got here, “Revenge Of The Funk” was almost titled “Funk Avenue II” before a last minute switch, which was a good call in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, “Revenge Of The Funk” is definitely a decent tune and flexes a ton of what we love about Williams as a singer & performer…but “Funk Avenue” it is not…not quite yet anyhow. That’s just on strength of hooks alone homie…when it comes to Ronald’s performance, I think he does an exceptional job on executing what he’s got here with “Revenge Of The Funk,” but it’s about 100% more involved on a listener-level to get right into than the ease of “Funk Avenue.” So not to dwell on the point, but the name switch was a good call to make – these are two very separate experiences and likely, shouldn’t really be compared beyond the fact that they might have at one point had something in common with the titles they’d have. I think the sounds he’s using are bright, they’ll pull people in cause the synth is a vibrant hook that’ll grab the attention for sure as “Revenge Of The Funk” starts out, and naturally people will always dig on a beat like this song has. If I’m being as entirely honest with RW as I always have been, this cut has got an issue or two…and he knows that…I don’t really need to tell the guy because I know he hears music much the same as I do; the reality is, sometimes we can only ever ask so much when it comes to what we can do and the limitations we have. So not that I want to disrespect someone’s contribution to his music, but the facts remain; the backing vocals here aren’t working out and they’re one of the first things you hear. As an idea, not too bad, I can hear that it could work; as it is now with the layers clashing and dissonant tones radiating through what’s supposed to be a sweet melody…I mean…it ends up making what’s supposed to be a bright feature in the song and turns it into a flat one. While I felt like Williams does his best to rescue this cut with an inspired performance of his own that includes several highlights when it comes to this set of singles…I honestly can’t claim 100% that it’s going to be enough. I think as it stands, right now the moments that have major conflicting tones are likely featured a bit too much throughout “Revenge Of The Funk” and that in general, this song & the other two probably wander a bit focus-wise in comparison to the tightness we’ve experienced with him in the past. Part of that’s a great thing…that’s Williams searching for something unique to entertain ya with, which is good – part of that also leads to moments where you kind of wish these tunes did have those vibrant “Funk Avenue” hooks as well though…undoubtedly, these are much tougher tunes to sing along with. Not that that’s the defining characteristic of a song – but it has been a staple of Williams’ music in the past – so to find him drifting towards intensely ambitious, artistic & stylistic designs, is always going to come with a fair amount of risk in somewhat removing a piece of the puzzle the people think they’ve already solved. Well-composed, well-played, well-sung…as to whether or not these three songs have that degree of accessibility that Ronald Williams is so completely capable of at his most captivating…might be another question entirely. I suppose that’s up to you all to decide – power to the people! And good luck!
Find Ronald Williams at CDBaby here: https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/RonaldWilliams2