I ranked my favourite Jamiroquai albums in reverse order for you to debate or agree with.
My list of best to worst Knxwledge albums was tongue in cheek but it appears people are taking it seriously enough to search for his best albums and finding the article. I was tempted to do the same for Jamiroquai but decided against it. And rather than have a best to worst list, I wrote a favourites list. You can’t argue with someone favourites but goddamn it somebody will. Anyway, here they are.
There isn’t a “worst” album in Jamiroquai’s discography. This was the first full album that made me a fan. For that reason, it should be higher up. But it isn’t. Why? It was a disjointed album. It featured a lot of session bassists who were brilliant (Derrick McIntyre played on 4 of them, including Time Won’t Wait where he excelled the most) but it affected Dynamite’s cohesion. It felt like a collection of singles rather than a gelled body of work. The loudness war also took some audible casualties but that’s the producer in me talking. Onto the positives: Feels Just Like It Should packs a dirty funk punch. The title track is a smooth disco number that doesn’t push as hard as previous attempts but it’s still worthy. There’s also a very special track on this album called Starchild. It’s where I got my production name. It’s cute and funky and almost gospel. All in all, a good musical menagerie but missing some sonic glue.
Other notable tracks: Seven Days in Sunny June, Electric Mistress, Tallulah, (Don’t) Give Hate A Chance, Hot Tequila Brown
This album took a while to grow on me. It was their most electronic-sounding album since A Funk Odyssey. The synth-centric tracks were back and a few disco songs to boot. The title track drew comparisons to Daft Punk but after a few spins, that notion dissipates. I loved the middle breakdown with some classic Jamiroquai strings and Jay Kay rapping(?!) Cloud 9 is a soft house track ripe for remixing and some great hooks. Summer Girl is pure disco through and through. Dr Buzz is my fave off the album though. The orchestration is superb, with slight theme variations across an array of soundscapes. Vitamin is D&B-esque, something the band haven’t dabbled in since Do You Know Where You’re Coming From back in 1996.
Other notable tracks: Superfresh, Nights Out In The Jungle
6. Rock Dust Light Star
5 years is a long time for an ageing band. The only people checking for them were the South American fans and me. When I heard about the debut single, White Knuckle Ride, I was beyond excited. It showed they hadn’t lost their magic, and I could hear the early “organic” vibe again. The tightness of previous albums remained but determined by experience rather than expression. There were throwbacks to their old days. She’s A Fast Persuader was very Travelling Without Moving. Hey Floyd was another modern version of Just Another Story, blending cinematic funk with a funky reggae mid-section. Again, it’s so low on the list because there were 5 albums I preferred more. When a discography is this good, you have to make tough choices.
Other notable tracks: All Good In The Hood, Hurtin’, Blue Skies, Goodbye To My Dancer
5. Emergency On Planet Earth
I predict a lot of older UK music listeners would have put this as their #1. The only reason it’s so low on my list is because there were 4 other albums that captured me more. That’s not to say EoPE was poor by any means. The killer-to-filler ratio was very high and catapulted the band into stardom. The conscious themes still ring true today. When You Gonna Learn and Too Young To Die were millennial anthems before millennials were a thing. In fact, a lot of the tracks on this album could be anthems for that generation. It’s a growing up album of sorts, with musical acts of rebellion and free spirits. Horns were a major melodic focus and the expansive drumming of Nick Van Gelder. Zender’s bass play was very open too as everyone tried to find their way in a new genre: acid jazz.
Other notable tracks: Hooked Up, If I Like It, I Do It, Blow Your Mind
Disco was the main theme on Synkronized. Stuart Zender’s departure meant songs involving him were removed (and tragically destroyed). Nick Fyffe replaced him and while his bass play was top quality, it didn’t have the same freeness of Zender. Still, we got amazing disco numbers like Canned Heat and Soul Education (the latter sounded incredible live in Montreux in 2003). Black Capricorn Day feels like a sequel to Just Another Story (watch the video and you’ll visualise it better). Falling and Destitute Illusions are great cool down tracks. Interestingly, the bonus track, Deeper Underground, remains the band’s only #1 in the UK. A travesty, given their single discography but they never got the love they deserved on home turf. Alas, this album felt like it was on a high but a self-destructive one.
Other notable tracks: Planet Home, Supersonic, Butterfly, Where Do We Go From Here?
3. A Funk Odyssey
The last album to feature the late Toby Smith and an underrated gem in the Jamiroquai discography. A few years ago, this would have featured lower in the list. But I’ve grown to appreciate it more having heard the demo version. Still, a lot of the raw funk and disco-pop of previous albums replaced by a lot more electronic synth work. Little L was the final hurrah and still one of their best tracks – who knew breakups could sound so funky? Love Foolosophy was high octane; a modern version of Cosmic Girl. There were a few contemplative tracks on this as well such as Black Crow and Corner Of The Earth. Jay Kay’s break up with Denise Van Outen and his drug abuse were major influences on the album. There was darkness in the sound like Return of the Space Cowboy, but with more vulnerability than cheeky youth. That’s why it resonates so much.
Other notable tracks: Feel So Good, You Give Me Something, Stop Don’t Panic, Picture Of My Life
2. Travelling Without Moving
Shock horror, this isn’t #1. Don’t forget, this is a favourites list, not a “best” list (else this would definitely be #1). It was a tough call to keep this in second place because it was their best selling album. Virtual Insanity is a revelation even without the video, taking a 7-bar chord progression and creating an iconic classic. It was so cool, I wrote about it for a uni presentation (and got an A, so thanks guys!) You can hear everyone – especially Jay Kay – was feeling themselves and it was their tightest album to date. The funk was still there but the song structures were sturdier. Disco was rearing its head on tracks like Cosmic Girl and elements on Alright.
Other notable tracks: Cosmic Girl, High Times, Travelling Without Moving, You Are My Love
1. The Return of the Space Cowboy
To start an album with a funk concerto, packed with raw jazzy arrangements telling “Just Another Story” about a young drug pusher? It was a throwback theme executed brilliantly. It was also the first album to feature Derrick Mackenzie and Sola Akingbola, the percussion dream team. Everything was tighter on TROTSC but with the loose flowing forms of its predecessor and added darkness and grit. And, of course, the semi-title track Space Cowboy about, yes, drugs again. It might not be Jamiroquai’s best album but it was their last foray into the wonderful world of British jazz-funk.
Other notable tracks: Stillness In Time, Light Years, Manifest Destiny, Scam