Stellar friends flex their funk muscle and push the limits of polished assault.
This tight-but-loose formation of veteran musicians have been teetering on the verge of delicious rawness and shiny melodicism for four years now, yet the songs on their third offering make a quantum leap towards a new, refined and refreshed, identity for the ensemble, one where burnished arrangements and feisty funk are not mutually exclusive, especially when balanced within heavy, riff-driven environs of classic rock. The unevenness of material that characterized the collective’s self-titled 2019 debut and its follow-up from 2002 is replaced on the series’ third chapter with arrestingly homogeneous, albeit no less infectious, sonics which allow bassist Randy Pratt and warbler Ed Terry, the group’s nucleus augmented here by the imposing presence of legendary drummer Carmine Appice, to streamline their vision and jive to the fullest of their ability. And bring out the best in their guests, a part of the band’s very concept.
Still, it doesn’t really matter that the invigorating opener “Street Corner High” finds two Pat T’s – Travers and Thrall – provide wailing licks, as it’s the incendiary rhythm section that rule the game by laying down a mighty groove here and onwards, while Terry’s overlapping voices rage and rattle such an ivories-softened cage until Bumblefoot and Derek Sherinian help the relentless “Looking For The Edge” rock and roll to cosmic delirium. But if the gloomy “Malevolent Fool” crawls across the bluesy terrain following Tracy G.’s guitar lead, the hypnotically belching “Electric Mind Control” and the shredding-spiced “Red Lines” shoots impressive hoops with a lot of urban swagger. However, the tasty, harmonica-enhanced cover of “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” shows how elegantly, especially with Pratt’s supple rumble at the fore, this group can handle passionate soul, whereas their pulsing take on “Cadillac Walk” which is smoothed with Jim McCarty’s slider and Appice’s cymbals feels as seductive.
Perhaps, “Far Too Long” has a little bit too much artificial anger about its serrated figures, the piece’s vocal harmonies toss their tangle into the sci-fi future, yet there’s luminous lightness in “Warm Oasis” which flutters under the dark clouds with Latino-tinctured lining, and the stomping “Hanging” that wraps up the album in a whirl of triumphant tribal dance, as though to prove this collective finally found their proper place on the musical orbit. Indeed, they did – in style.