MUSIC | The legacy of One World

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When Stanley Kipper, Chico Perez, and Joel “Family Man” Arpin got together as the nucleus of One World—a 1991 fusion of R&B, soul, and Latin rock culled straight from the old San Francisco sound—they couldn’t’ve had the first idea what they’d wind up doing for Twin Cities music. Surely, they thought they were just starting a band, not forming the genesis of five outstanding acts.

First, of course, was One World itself. You had, on their album Straight from the Sun, Stan (vocals, timbales), Chico (percussion), and Arpin (drums) along with “Sweet” Kandii Matthews (vocals), Jeff Christensen a.k.a. “Boday” (guitar), Keith Mack (bass), and Liz Kuivinen (keys). (Barbara Meyer joined the group after the album was cut.) And what an album it is! Forget finding a copy—unless you have a way to twist Stan’s arm or you’re willing to beg long enough, it’s out of print and you’re out of luck. Recorded live during a single set at P.D. Pappy’s in Stillwater, it’s tighter than most bands manage with a month or more of studio time.

Off the top, Straight from the Sun has two eye-popping surprises (“Crosstown Traffic,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and one bonafide eyebrow raiser (“Didn’t I Tell You”). Nobody, especially fans of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, expects anyone to have the guts to cover the classic “Crosstown Traffic.” It’s tantamount to sacrilege. One World pull it off with style, turning this avalanching cascade of trainwreck energy into a party jam of laid-back funk. Similarly, only a vocalist of Matthews’s caliber could get away with coming anywhere near Bonnie Raitt’s timeless signature song “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” What Matthews winds up doing is making it her own. New Primitives devotees are used to hearing Kipper sing the steamy gem “Didn’t I Tell You.” Here, Matthews joins him in the lead and they tear pure, absolute hell out of the song. Other highlights: Christensen plays very smart guitar, knowing when to raise hell all over the place and when to drop back and be economic; the songwriting includes Kipper working with Andrew Gold (yes, that Andrew Gold, who worked Linda Ronstadt among other heavy L.A. names).

After One World, Jeff Christensen a.k.a. “Boday” kept going, switching gears from rock to what folk nowadays call smooth jazz or neo-soul. From 1997 to 2008, the gifted guitarist released Boday, Do You Know, French Vanilla, and Butterfly Legs. Highly recommended from his newest, Butterfly Legs, are the extremely tasty original “Brite Nites” and a magical take on Sade’s “Hang on to Your Love.”

Singer-songwriter Barbara Meyer has come along well—as represented by her album, Barbara Meyer, which Kipper produced. She’s picky about gigging, so when she does play out, you don’t want to be slow about marking it on your calendar. The lady is an ace at delivering salty, sometimes downright sultry rockabilly. The album’s highlights include “Watering The Dead” and “Does It Always Have To Be About You.” When she’s at the clubs, odds are Kipper and amazing bassist Bill “Honey Bee” Hulett (also formerly of One World) are supplying backup with Meyer on guitar.

A big reason up-and-coming funksters Soulacious are well up and coming along just fine, thank you, is co-lead performer, front lady Kandii Matthews, who has dropped the “Sweet” but still sings smooth as silk and there are times you’d swear her lungs are on fire. Off Soulacious’s slammin’ debut Strange Love, check out “Lookin’ for a Better Place” and “The Way You Love Me, Baby.”

The best-known successor to One World is Afro-Cuban rock powerhouse and four-time Minnesota Music Award winners New Primitives, featuring One World’s nucleus still intact. For the New Primitives the structure, basically, is One World with one lead vocalist—which makes the long delayed album American Nomads (due this month) something of a throwback with Javier Trejo (guitar, vocals) more or less replacing Kandii Matthews. Actually, there’s a limited-release disc Live at Project Earth, which you can buy at New Prims gigs, a full set that includes Jav performing his crowd-slaying arrangement of “Buscando La Gente.” With Kipper, Perez, and Arpin in New Primitives are Bruce Jackson (keys), Terry Eason (guitar), Jeff Kartak (sax), Tommy Peterson (bass), and producer Brian “Snowman” Powers (Oleta Adams, Excelsior Gospel Choir) pitching in on sax and helping with the songwriting. Highlights: Powers’s “Bring Me Down” with Matthews sitting in on volcanic backup; and Jackson’s wry drag, “Bangkok Ellie,” which Kipper sings with sly humor.

Mention also must be made that, though she never recorded with One World and left before the album was cut in 1995, premiere vocalist Jenny Sanford, currently of Bella Diva renown, was an original member. Stan Kipper extols, “She was the original and the prototype. The girl is super bad still.”

There can be no denying that One World have left a rich legacy indeed.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.