Ron Louis Smith II – The Prince of Sunshine
Ron Louis Smith II, son of legendary KC and the Sunshine Band founding member and horn player Ronald Smith Sr., has decided to take up the family “business”. Anyone with such an impressive standard to uphold might have rightly felt intimidated by the idea of following in the shadows of a talented elder. Smith II, however, doesn’t run away from his past. He doesn’t need to because his new release, The Prince of Sunshine, provides ample proof of his ability to transform the past and give it relevant form today while still pursuing his own unique blend of musical styles.
The lead single from Ron Louis Smith II’s album The Prince of Sunshine, “Spank”, is a hard-charging, lighthearted dance track with surprising musical depth. Perhaps it isn’t entirely surprising that Smith II chose this song. Smith II’s father, Ronald Smith Sr, penned the track in the late 1970’s and it first appeared as a ’45 release from Jimmy “Bo” Horne, but Smith II fleshes the song out more than either Horne or his own father ever dared dream. However, the younger Smith never loses touch with the song’s primary aim – to get people moving and having a good time.
“Party Music” continues the first track’s trend and keeps the energy bobbing in the red. Smith and his cohorts working on The Prince of Sunshine have performed a superb job composing each of these tracks with a clear ear for building and maintaining tension. “Can’t Let Go” moves more in the direction of pop instead, but never loses Smith’s untiring instinct for delivering the dance music goods. The song pops and percolates while still impressing listeners with its melodic strengths. “Love Talk” grooves with stylish sophistication and the lyrics are a fine example of implying sexuality in a song without ever making it crassly obvious.
Smith dives headlong into pop melody with the bouncy and ebullient “Come On and Do It” and its catchy passages provide listeners with one of the album’s most memorable moments. “Real Good Time” conjures echoes of Michael Jackson, Prince, and James Brown, but this isn’t elaborate mimicry. It has the elements of an affectionate pastiche, but Smith does a supremely entertaining job of pouring old wine into new bottles. The mood turns breezy again with “Party Freaks” and its perky drive has a fresh edge thanks to the music’s confluence of genres. The key elements on The Prince of Sunshine are Smith’s elastic vocals and the varied percussion, but few tracks have them operating at such a level like here.
Smith ends The Prince of Sunshine with “Don’t Hold Back”, a rousing Motown-influenced romp propelled by another great tempo. The true highlight of the track, however, is another impressive flexible Smith vocal. It’s wildly entertaining to hear him try so many voices throughout the work and score with each stylistic turn. The Prince of Sunshine aims at offering listeners high-quality dance music unshackled from cliché and capable of keeping people moving all night. By that standard alone, and even more, his latest album is a resounding success.
8 out of 10 stars