Sunday, March 02, 2008

Was (Not Was) all-star line-up on new album BOO!

You have to hand it to Don and David Was; they've got the funky, jazz-fusion soul brother vibe down pat. Their new album, BOO!, is their first studio album since 1992. Simply put, it's a mindblower.

The minute you slap the CD on, out pops a the funky soul workout "Semi Interesting Week", complete with soul backing vocals, guitar and a cooler-than-now horn section. You begin to ask yourself, "The only other band who can pull this kind of funky stuff off, is Steely Dan, but even the Dan is too clinical sounding when it comes to the dirty raw sound of Was (Not Was)."

Second track which I like to refer to as the 'hit single' is like a throwback to Booker T. and the MGs or the Temptations. "It's A Mircale" is like a wake up call to the authentic Detroit sould of yesteryear, horns a pumping, great vocals from Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens. Suddenly they sing the lyric, "Who broke the fucking TV?" You don't say?

Third track, "Your Luck Won't Last", is quite possibly the most cynical song title of the year. It's the kind of shit Prince should be churning out. It's like a cross between Cameo's "Word Up" and something off the "Sign O' The Times" album. Retro modern, funky, electro wah-wah heavy LA cool. Was (Not Was) reign supreme.

The band show their true feathers with another colour when the fourth track hits the speakers. "From the Head to the Heart" is the only ballad "There's a story in the paper about a young boy laying dead. He tried stealing a TV set, when he should have been in bed."

It's like a merry-go-round New Seekers vibe, lots of piano and strings. The perfect chill out track after you return from an expensive restaurant with bad service and lots of ugly people staring at each other. This track reminds me of something from Paul Anderson's "Magnolia" movie. This song will make you cry 96 tears in the motor city.

Track 5, "Big Black Hole" brings you back to familiar Was territory, all rhtyhm and blues, funky soul and smoky jazz lounge nightmares. Very laid back, cool, funky, something familiar and comforting. Very cinematic. Was (Not Was) like to think big screen. Popcorn for everyone.

Track 6, "Needletooth" is the bands experimental robotic, futuristic tour de force. It's wack. Time signatures all over the place. 2 minutes and 14 seconds of anything goes. This is eccentric Was (Not Was). No Was album would be the same without a track like this. Hilarious fun, completely pointless and essential.

Track 7, "Forget Everything" - 5 minutes and 16 seconds of big kick drum beats, Hammond organ, sexy horn section, choppy rhythm guitar, a salute to the late James Brown, a return to chest pounding funk. Yabba Dabba Doo. The soul review just pulled into town, and guess what? It has a sense of humour.

This album makes Donald Fagen's "Morph the Cat" sound like James Blunt with a hangover. Jazzers will love this track. Losers in your local bar will lose their minds to it.

Track 8, Sweet Pea Atkinson belts out "Crazy Water", a staple Was (Not Was) R&B workout. Sings Sweat Pea, "The Senator's son and the President's daughter, all came to town for that crazy water." Not sure if that's a baritone sax or a trumpet pumping out, but it sounds like a Mississippi soul picnic jam. Is there no stopping the Was army?

Track 9 - it's probably the best track on the album, and for good reason. Not only does it have the best song title, "Mr. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore", but the track is co-written by non-other than Bob Dylan, David Was and Don Was. It's reminiscent to something from an Ike and Tina Turner concert, when Tina actually meant something. Great drums and superlative wah-wah guitar. Martin Scorcese must be digging this song. It's no surprise that Kris Kristofferson appears on the closing track on the album.

Which brings us to Track 10, "Green Pills in the Dresser", a bluesy C&W, Mexican heatwave of a song. Says Kristofferson, "He says Hitler's a hero, and that God is a giraffe." It's stunning, momentous and the perfect way to end an album.

David and Don Was have worked with a list of artists which reads like a Who's Who of rock. They've collaborated with stars such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Elton John and Brian Wilson. Now, as artists in their own right, "BOO!" will put Was (Not Was) back on the scene as one of music's true innovators. They have the knack of effortlessly mixing soul, R&B, funk, blues, pop, rock and electronica into a melting pot of originality.

BOO! is a magnificent achievement.

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