By 1980, the disco boom that had supported the rise of MFSB was on its way out the door. Their stylish sound was in need of a makeover to keep up with the times, and this was accomplished by allowing Dexter Wansel
, the producer/writer behind a string of jazzy solo albums like Life on Mars, to take the reins. The result was the stylish and jazzy Mysteries of the World
. While this album is as mellow as the rest of the latter-period MFSB recordings, it never forgets the group's soul music underpinnings. For example, "Manhattan Skyline" fortifies its easygoing melody with a percolating, hard thumping bassline and some well timed blasts of horns. "Mysteries of the World" also keeps the new, softer style of MFSB from drifting into easy listening blandness by playing up the jazz underpinnings of the group's sound. For proof, look no further than the title track, which wraps an array of exploratory keyboard riffs around a busy bassline. Elsewhere, the album adds surprising little twists to keep things fresh: "Old San Juan" builds its mellow soul groove around an atypical flamenco guitar hook, and "In the Shadow" works an otherworldly synthesizer line into its bossa nova groove. The end result is an album that manages to bring a new freshness to their sound without completely severing ties with its old style. Mysteries of the World
may be a little too soft and jazzy for funk fans accustomed to the likes of "Love Is the Message" and "T.S.O.P.," but it remains a fine album of jazz-inflected instrumentals that is likely to please anyone who likes soul music at its most elegant.