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Places and Spaces (1975)

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Donald Byrd

Reuniting with Larry Mizell, the man behind his last three LPs, Donald Byrd continues to explore contemporary soul, funk, and R&B with Places and Spaces. In fact, the record sounds more urban than its predecessor, which often played like a Hollywood version of the inner city. Keeping the Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and Sly Stone influences of Street Lady, Places and Spaces adds elements of Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Stevie Wonder, which immediately makes the album funkier and more soulful. Boasting sweeping string arrangements, sultry rhythm guitars, rubbery bass, murmuring flügelhorns, and punchy horn charts, the music falls halfway between the cinematic neo-funk of Street Lady and the proto-disco soul of Earth, Wind & Fire. Also, the title Places and Spaces does mean something -- there are more open spaces within the music, which automatically makes it funkier. Of course, it also means that there isn't much of interest on Places and Spaces for jazz purists, but the album would appeal to most fans of Philly soul, lite funk, and proto-disco. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine