Morris Day, the lead singer and irrepressible showman of The Time, can tour with the latest version of his band — featuring original keyboardist Monte Moir and drummer Jellybean Johnson — and call it by the name it deserves.
And at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Oklahoma State Fair's Chesapeake Energy Stage, when Day asks the musical question, “What Time Is It?” and performs party-igniting funk hits such as “777-9311,” “The Bird” and “Jungle Love,” he promises that it will be The Time, through and through.
“I feel like one of the last of the real entertainers, you know what I mean? I'm going to bring people the opportunity to see one of the last of the real deal,” he said with one of the huge laughs that made him famous in the mid-1980s, when Day delivered a memorable comic performance in “Purple Rain,” the musical starring his former friend and musical partner, Prince.
But Morris Day and The Time can only bill themselves as such in a concert setting, the result of a legal maneuver by the “Purple One.” The past year constitutes a complicated chapter in Day's career. In late-2011, Day reunited with keyboardist “Jimmy Jam” Harris, bassist Terry Lewis, guitarist Jesse Johnson, background vocalist and “valet” Jerome Benton, along with mainstays Moir and Johnson, to record their first album together since 1990. The new album, “Condensate,” featured the band's classic Minneapolis funk sound and a first-rate single, “#Trendin.”
The only catch was that Prince owns the name “The Time” for the purposes of recording. So Day, Lewis, Harris, Benton, Moir and the two unrelated Johnsons called themselves The Original 7ven for the record. They were still The Time in spirit, just not in name.
The reunion was a long time in coming. Day went solo in 1984 and released a pair of solo albums in the 1980s, “Color of Success” and “Daydreaming.” Meanwhile, Harris and Lewis became a hugely successful production team, helming Janet Jackson's “Control” and “Rhythm Nation 1814” albums, among others. Jesse Johnson also went solo and brought Sly Stone out of retirement in 1986 for a single, “Crazay.”
After The Time reunited briefly for the 1990 album “Pandemonium,” Day said the original members would get together every few years and work on new material, but a full-scale return never materialized. Then, in 2008, when Harris was chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, other members of the Grammy organization asked Harris to bring all the original members of The Time back for a performance of “Jungle Love” with a special guest.