Clearly the D’aily Song Randomizer is trying to challenge me early. We’re only on the second day of this journey and I get “Fencewalk” from Live At The Jazz Cafe, a live album recorded in September of 1995 and released in June 1998. The 1998 release only contained six tracks, but the album was reissued in 2014 and included the complete show. It wasn’t until 2014 that we were able to hear D’Angelo’s brief rendition of “Fencewalk” live in London.
“Fencewalk” was originally released by Brooklyn-based funk group Mandrill in 1973. It was their most successful single reaching number 19 on the Billboard Singles Chart. D’Angelo’s Live At The Jazz Cafe version of “Fencewalk” is basically a note-for-note cover. His band at the time didn’t yet include any of the notable individuals from his better known live bands like Soultronics of The Vanguard, but they are funky as hell nonetheless.
What really shocks me about this performance is not the how well they play it, but the fact that they played it at all. This was a 21-year-old kid less than three months after the release of his debut album. He decided to open his show not with his own track, but instead a relatively obscure song from two decades earlier. He was announcing to the world early on that he wasn’t going to be your conventional 1990s R&B star. He not only had chops, he had a deep knowledge of funk and he was going to prove it before the audience even had a chance to enjoy one of his own songs. Bold move.
Since the song is brief, I’m keeping this brief as well. A quick funk fix for your Tuesday and an early indication that D’Angelo was not going to be like most of the dudes with R&B tracks on the radio. Back again tomorrow. Enjoy our Tuesday.
P.S. I’m curious about the shoot that produced the above photo of Mandrill. “Hey, fellas. Put on your coolest outfits and necklaces, then meet in the ditch over by the office buildings. Give me your best badass pose except for the guy in the middle. He should dress in all white and act nervous like you’re all holding him hostage. Trust me, it’ll look cool.”