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JAMIROQUAI (Buy CDs by this artist)
Emergency on Planet Earth (Orenda/Columbia) 1993
The Return of the Space Cowboy (Orenda/Work) 1995
Traveling Without Moving (Work) 1996
Synkronized (Work) 1999
A Funk Odyssey (Epic) 2001

While all involved will insist that it is a band, Jamiroquai is, for all intents and purposes, Jason Kaye, a skinny Mancunian with a '70s soul jones, a goofy hat (that's him in silhouette on the cover of both records) and a knack for replicating the sound of Stevie Wonder. Emergency on Planet Earth is an audacious debut, a solid set of soul grooves that are charmingly retro but not so reverent that Kaye doesn't take a few original liberties — who would have thought didgeridoo could be so funky? Jamiroquai is less a product of the British acid jazz scene than his own little world, one that plainly revolves around American soul. Not a bad thing at all.

With Return of the Space Cowboy, Jamiroquai turns away from railing against incipient environmental collapse and the injustices faced by native peoples, instead considering simpler pleasures, like the joys of marijuana. That change of focus not surprisingly results in a looser record. His m.o. is the same, but a little more refined, as Kaye settles into an increasingly personal style. The laid-back groove of "Space Cowboy" is a classic of the genre, regardless of the year in which it was recorded. Ultimately, Jamiroquai's biggest obstacle in being regarded as a major new voice in soul music may well be the uncanny resemblance of his voice to Wonder's.

[Scott Frampton]