When it comes to post Parliment funk, The Gap Band is often over looked for more exotic flavors like Cameo or for the sophistication of Earth Wind and Fire (EWF). But like those two bands, The Gap Band brought funk to the suburbs and eventually the pop charts.
Unlike EWF, The Gap Band did it with a formula that did not stray too far from that laid down by George Clinton. The Clinton template applied only to The Gap Band’s uptempo funk aspirations. As the band was equally adept at making Quiet Storm ballads and up lifting mid-tempo songs. Nowhere was this more apparent than on their 6th album, the ironically named Gap Band IV.
The three Wilson brothers (Charlie, Ronnie and Robert) had seen their band grow and shrink from the era of big horn sections to electronics that would take their place on stage and the studio. Even as they became increasingly more electronic, they maintained the presence of real horns. By 1982, much of it’s horn heritage lived on through Charlie or Ronnie. Each member was a multi-instrumentalist, although it was Charlie Wilson who was the band’s main vocalist.
As possibly the best Gap Band album, Gap Band IV was a great example of the band’s diversity and flexibility. For instance the band’s signature funk sound, almost a mirror image of George Clinton’s was augmented with ballads and mid-tempo songs that were all made dynamic thanks to Charlie Wilson’s electrifying vocal delivery.
When they were not sounding like Parliament with “Flashlight” clones (“Talkin’ Back”), they were excelling at making smooth love songs like “Lonely Like Me”.
Of course, it would be songs like “You Dropped the Bomb On Me” , “Early in the Morning” and “Outstanding” that made The Gap Band a household name. On top of that, many excellent radio friendly tracks like “Seasons No Reason to Change” made Gap Band IV a well-rounded collection of songs. It’s like a mini greatest hits actually. The album was so good that most Gap Band greatest hits collections contain three to four tracks from this album alone.
Gap Band IV was just the start of a brief period of chart domination that ended after the release of “Party Train” from next year’s follow up Gap Band V: Jammin’. With each album release afterward, the band’s influence wavered as R&B moved towards Hip Hop and New Jack Swing. Currently, The Gap Band’s lead singer Charlie Wilson’s solo career has enjoyed a resurgence of interest.