KASHIF/Help Yourself To My Love: The Arista Anthology review!

Kashif Saleem – formerly a member of Funk giants B.T. Express – was at the forefront of synth-fueled smooth R&B in the early ‘80s. He was one of the first artists to embrace modern technology when it came to creating Soul and Funk music yet he still managed to make it sound human and heartfelt. While his name may not be as well-known as many of his technology-loving contemporaries like Stevie Wonder, Kashif helped usher in a new kind of sound that changed the course of Soul and HELP YOURSELF TO MY LOVE: THE ARISTA ANTHOLOGY is all the proof that you need. Spanning the years 1983-89, this is ‘80s electronic Funk/Soul/R&B at its finest.

The charm of Kashif’s recorded output was not only what he put into the music but what he left out.  Expertly produced and smooth as silk, Kashif never made a record that was too busy. His music was meant to convey an emotion or an idea and it was up to the listener to process it. When a track is not filled with layer upon layer of over-dubs, there is plenty of empty space to explore, emotionally. And those empty spaces were dictated by the listener’s mood.  Tracks like “I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On),” “Help Yourself To My Love” convey a sense of longing AND bravado, depending on where your mind and heart are at when listening.
While Kashif’s albums may sound dated thanks to decades of advancement in technology, the charm is in the groove, the soulful vocals, the production and the songs. Coming from a Funk background, Kashif’s compositions don’t use the Pop-oriented verse/chorus/verse formula – they are groove-based tracks that feature delicious, melodic vocal hooks. The lyrics focus on politics of the heart (ie: love, romance and ‘doing the naughty’) and fit well with the sexy grooves. As the collection progresses, it is fascinating to hear the new technology that Kashif embraced during his solo career. It may not have changed as quickly as it does now but back then, each Kashif album benefited from those changes. The production does get a little busier on Disc Two but the mood and groove are classic Kashif. This man was never too busy for love and grooves!
Other highlights: “Loving You Only” combines a Prince-inspired groove with early ‘80s rap courtesy of Doug E. Fresh. “Love Changes” (with Meli’sa Morgan) and “Love On The Rise” (with Kenny G) are catchy and inspired collaborations. “Personality” is fun and catchy as sin (and most certainly Prince-inspired)! “Kathryn” is a lovely instrumental. “Baby Don’t Break Your Baby’s Heart” is flawless Funk.
Do yourself a favor and dip your toes into Kashif’s career with this most excellent overview.

Keep on truckin’,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee