Album of the Day: Imani, “Out of the Blue”

This privately pressed four-track EP by a group called Imani, released to the San Francisco market in 1983, commands insane prices on the collectors’ market: Only 500 copies of the original were made, and one of them sold for $1000 on Discogs in 2018. Finding any information about the members is impossible—their names are far too common to Google, and none of them seem to have done anything after Imani broke up. Which, in a way, makes it all the more fascinating that these five people (and a few guests) came together, created these four shockingly original and exciting songs, then went their separate ways.

There are no concessions to the dominant sounds of 1983 on Out of the Blue—no new wave slickness or thick layers of keyboard cheese hampering their jazzy R&B style. The first two songs, “Just Another Love Song” and “Somebody’s Love,” are dancefloor-friendly anthems that combine disco and Philly soul, with female backing vocals adding extra lushness. The EP’s second side is something else entirely. “Byrd’s House,” named for the band’s bassist and co-founder Pam Byrd, is a churning jazz-funk instrumental dominated by searing, Santana-esque guitar solos from Eddie Braden, and the final track, “Friendship Cover Charge,” features scat-style singing from co-leader Preston Phillipps and near-constant saxophone soloing from Jim Miller.

Who were Imani? Did they perform live? Did they have more material? We may never know. But whatever their story is or was, this fully licensed reissue will bring them out of the darkness of the collector’s marketplace and—hopefully—bring their music the wider attention it deserves.

-Phil Freeman

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