Itaal Shur, co-writer of Santana's hit "Smooth," will be getting a little sticky this summer as he takes the plunge into a new dance music project, Milk & Honey.
Shur, who won a Grammy for his collaboration with Rob Thomas on the Santana song, is set to release his first album under the Milk & Honey name, 10 Hits to Bliss, on August 21 though copies will hit some markets in July. With a sound that's reminiscent of a retro-leaning Basement Jaxx, the album takes a more song-oriented approach than most modern dance music.
"I just think a lot of dance music could be cool if it had more structure, and it [wasn't] like an incessant 'boom, boom, boom,' " Shur said last week from his Manhattan recording studio. "They turn it up so loud in the club and you're like, 'What's the difference between that record and the one I just heard?' "
The album's first single, "Touch," begins with rich synth chords and then morphs into a minimalist funk track, driven by live-sounding bass thumping and of-the-moment vocoder vocals. Other tracks delve into classic disco, electro and house sounds.
"I have a lot of interests in music," Shur said. "Milk & Honey represents something that I grew up with, which is basically funk and soul I've always been interested in that from the beginning. I've always been a big Prince fan, [and a fan of] James Brown, Funkadelic, classic disco and funk music. That music has always been the soundtrack to my life even if I don't create it all the time."
The project picks up where Shur's first album, 1998's Music From the Aural Exciter, left off, he said. Shur released that album also a dance project under the name Big Muff, and had been working on the Milk & Honey album as a follow-up until he was interrupted by his work on "Smooth" and the numerous offers that followed.
Shur is also working on several songs for possible inclusion on new albums by Santana, Christina Aguilera and other artists, as well as on his own upcoming solo album, to be released under his own name.
Shur is nearly done with the solo album, which he said will include "Escape to Brazil," a groove-rock track in the vein of "Smooth," and "Don't Say Goodbye," a passionate anthem with echoes of the Beatles and Elton John.
The singer/songwriter plans to finish the album and then find a label that will allow him artistic freedom in releasing it. After that, he hopes to mount a full-scale tour.