In the event that you're still not familiar with the name PJ Morton, chances are that in the last few years, if you’ve seen a Maroon 5 performance, you’ve seen him and his signature glasses on stage as a permanent member playing keyboards. PJ Morton is a singular talent himself, with a list of who’s who that he counts among some of his biggest fans.
After being signed to Young Money/Cash Money Records and releasing his debut major label album New Orleans in 2013, PJ had been relatively silent music wise, especially after the greatness that was his first single, “Only One” with the indomitable Stevie Wonder, from that album. 2015 brings a new song "Claustrophobic," which allegedly lays out his gripes with his label, and a new live recording that he recorded on Friday, May 8th, which is a follow up to his much ballyhooed live album released in 2008, Live From LA.
At the live session, PJ whirled through an amazing setlist with much gospel and soul aplomb as ever -- something not seen much these days in terms of the mainstream music industry. PJ, being an amazing musician and songwriter, wielded the funk and sizzle of his crack band The Crusade throughout the hour long set, and it was a treat for all in attendance (and those who were watching the live stream via Twitter’s Periscope app). A one-of-a-kind live recording at the historic Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, PJ had multiple rooms of musicians at his beck and call -- a full string section, horn section, bass, guitar, drums, percussion and every Gospel-raised musician’s best friend, a Hammond organ.
PJ whirled through songs from his own catalog and also threw in a few covers and special guests to make the evening truly magical. Guests such as Mali Music dropped in (“Heavy”) along with R&B’s elusive chanteuse herself, the magnificent Tweet (“Love You More”).
His covers were what really showed PJ’s musicianship, in terms of a live setting, both as a musician and bandleader. You’ve not lived until you’ve heard his version of The Throne’s “Otis” -- such a simple song becomes a roiling, rocked out jam in the hands of PJ and The Crusade. Also of note was his cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love,” which had the crowd bopping and feeling the vibes as if they were transported to the islands in real time.
PJ Morton’s own songs still sound great and stand up well, especially the introspective and encouraging “Mountains and Molehills,” which along with the help of some of the amazing singers and special guests in the audience like songwriter extraordinaire Eric Dawkins, gospel star Anita Wilson and more, became a testimony and deliverance service in and of itself. His single “Lover,” which featured Lil Wayne in its original form, got the rock gospel treatment, which gave the song a whole new life and makes you wonder if it shouldn’t have been in this format in the first place.
This PJ Morton and The Crusade live album recording was a gloriously funked-out, soul-drenched and gospel-fied time that you definitely missed, even if you weren’t a PJ Morton fan. You can tell that PJ enjoys and loves being on stage, serving up his wares for the enjoyment of all that listen. The intimate vibe of the event made it feel like you were amongst family, and it felt like it would have been alright to equally kick off your shoes and relax your feet, or to let go and let the Spirit move you as you got swept up in the Holy Ghost vibe that PJ’s band brought effortlessly into the same historic studio that the iconic “We Are the World” was recorded in.
Fittingly enough, PJ closed out the show with the always warm and familiar theme song from The Golden Girls mixed with the theme song from Cheers. PJ Morton’s music feels like something you’d enjoy with friends, and by the end of the night, you definitely were glad you came and you knew his name. Don’t forget it, as this live recording is sure to mark a new musical chapter for him.