The Time: What Time Is It?
“Fellas (yeah), where’s the party at?” “Right here under your shoes.” “Fellas (yeah), what time is it?” “Time to get wild and loose.”
Oh yes. Let me take you back to the days of Ronald Reagan and when R&B was still dominated by actual musicians. Miles Davis gave birth to George Clinton and without George Clinton we wouldn’t have The Time. Yes they did exist before “Purple Rain” and in 1983 “What Time Is It?” was (and still is) the ultimate party album. Not only is it 40 minutes of funky fun, the music is also very good.
Now of course when considering The Time there is an understanding that Prince was involved. His sound is all over the album and is even rumored to have played every instrument on “What Time Is It?” I don’t know if that is true, especially since the band was more than up to the task. Well, at least there is no doubt about the talents of Jesse Johnson, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. Anyway, so what if Prince did play studio God. They guys wrote the tunes, and Morris Day is one of a kind. Just ask him.
Morris screams “What time is it?” to begin “Wild and Loose” and there is no need to check your watch. The sentiment may seem a bit immature, but what a jam. Besides, the misogynistic schoolboy attitude of The Time’s egotistical front man has always been tongue in cheek. Just check out the spoken vignette in the middle of the song. Special guest star Vanity goes on and on to her friend about how great the concert was, and how cool Morris is. We he rudely blows her off she exclaims, “Jerk! That was the worst concert I’ve ever been to.”
The big time funk jam is “777-9311” and features some really cool syncopation between the bass and drums. “Onedayi’mgonnabesomebody” is just as tightly packed and faced paced as the way the title is written. The band yelling “We don’t like New Wave” at the end is very ironic since the tune is closer to that than funk. “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” keeps a straight face in a soul ballad that is far from serious. While “I Don’t Wanna Leave You” is the only truly serious thing on the album.
Besides the opener the highlight track is “The Walk.” This one was a party staple in my college days. Musically the song is actually very repetitive, but it’s the vocals that make it. The first part is pretty much silly banter with the guys in the band. The second part is Morris with his date, once again played by Vanity. The dialogue revolves around him trying to get her to put on a camisole, and it is funny stuff. Jesse also does some great guitar work.
The stuff these guys were doing was very unique at the time. And outside of Prince, really hasn’t been heard since. What set the Minneapolis funk sound apart was the embrace of the era. Strong lead guitar and synths were not exactly standard issue before then. Obviously this has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and it never seems to get old. It’s just some of the most fun, infectious music ever recorded. If you can’t enjoy “What Time Is It” perhaps it’s time to see a doctor.
Morris Day – vocals
Jesse Johnson – guitar
Jimmy Jam – keyboards
Terry Lewis – bass
Monte Moir – keyboards
Jellybean Johnson – drums