The heritage of old school R&B is one of the richest legacies in American musical history. Groups like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, The Isley Brothers and Curtis Mayfield created an enduring legacy of music that still echoes today. The latest tribute to this era is the duo “Silk Sonic” with their album “An Evening With Silk Sonic.”
Silk Sonic is a duo consisting of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars. The two first met in 2017 during Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour, where .Paak opened for Mars and the pair began working on music. After a hiatus, the group teamed up in 2020 with Parliament Funkadelic legend Bootsy Collins, who labeled the pair Silk Sonic.
The pairing released the lead single for the album “Leave the Door Open” in March, to major commercial success, later performing the track at the Grammy awards and certifying double platinum.
The lead single “Leave the Door Open” embodies the style of Silk Sonic, an homage bordering on over the top if it didn’t just sound so good. The track is so detailed, beautifully recorded and takes perfect advantage of the talents of Mars and .Paak. Mars offers a beautiful, soaring vocal performance that is a magnificent counterpoint to .Paak’s hoarse, rougher delivery.
The two combine to perform a romantic duet over a pillowy, luxe backing of a full string section and .Paak’s fantastic drumming. There is even a particularly musical key change in the back half of the track, further demonstrating the tight ensemble and talents of both the lead and background musicians along with a deft hand for writing, mixing and engineering.
This is ear candy largely the case of the rest of the album, greatly to its merit. Both Mars and .Paak have drawn significantly on their roots of early R&B, and under the sound guidance of Bootsy Collins, the duo sound entirely at home over a beautiful variety of glossy retro instrumentals. From emotional tracks like “Put On A Smile”, to triumphant slow jams like “After Last Night” with Thundercat, at no point do either the performances or the instrumentals sound cheap, instead sounding deeply musical and natural.
“777” sounds much like Mars’ earlier efforts on “Uptown Funk” featuring a similar fuzz guitar and horn section, but with the addition of .Paak’s rapping and powerful drumming, truly raising the song to a new artistic level.
I’m rather surprised it wasn’t a lead single for the album, and even as the shortest track with the exception of the intro, the track offers just enough thematically instrumentally and performatively to justify its inclusion to the tracklist.
At 31 minutes, there is no room for filler in this album, with the exception of the intro, which offers a sonic entry to the stylistic realm of Silk Sonic narrated by Bootsy Collins and later bookended by his signoff on the climactic and unique “Blast Off.” Collins, along with contributors Ray Charles, and James Faultneroy comfortably anchor Silk Sonic in the past while Mars and .Paak modernize the style to the present.
I am unbelievably impressed and think this is a fantastic addition to the discographies of both Mars and .Paak. The duo sounds perfectly balanced, with .Paak’s rapping perfectly balancing Mars’ vocals while still vocally contributing.
This album is such a fun listen, with a foot in both the past and future, amazing instrumentals, fantastic performances, a variety of concepts, and tempos. I rate “An Evening with Silk Sonic” 5 out of 5 stars.