Sweet Soul Grooves from the Brothers Goldman
Bay area retro soul groovemeisters the Brothers Goldman’s album Fonkology came out at the tail end of last year. It’s a party record, a laid-back mix of 60s-style instrumental grooves and also a handful of vamps with vocals, like a cross between the Meters and Booker T. & the MG’s with a little early James Brown thrown in. That may seem like ridiculously high praise, but those are the big influences that bandleader/guitarist Bill Phillippe goes back to again and again here. While the production, the grooves and the tunes are strictly oldschool, Phillippe has an interesting, individual style that mixes biting blues with casual funk: he doesn’t nick Steve Cropper licks. The rhythm section of bassist Tim Wagar and drummer Joe O’Loughlin swings the slow stuff and keeps the more upbeat stuff simple and in the pocket, while organist Wil Blades – a frequent Billy Martin collaborator – switches between lush washes of big chords and wry, dancing, staccato punches. And the horn section of saxophonist Joe Cohen, trumpeter/trombonist Joel Behrman and trumpeter Will Magic – whose slowly crescendoing solo on the album’s fifth track is one of the high points here – punch in and then hang back until it’s time to hit it again, hard.
The most interesting, original track here is a vocal number with a don’t-mess-with-me message, a bittersweet tune and some delicious Memphis soul horn charts. The most reverential one is a homage to the Meters that gives Phillippe a long launching pad for a chill guitar solo that slowly and methodically brings the energy all the way up. Most of the tracks go with a long, hypnotic vamp that finally turns around quickly on the chorus, although a couple of cuts switch unpredictably from slinky soul to edgy funk and in one case, a shuffling New Orleans beat. As the Meters would do, much of the time the whole band, or at least the guitar, organ and bass all run the hook together as a song picks up steam: they know that catchy hooks are catchy because they’re simple. People who need booming subsonics to rattle their windows might find the sound a little thin; likewise, fans of the classics from the 60s, or acts like Sharon Jones, will love the analog vibe these guys bring. It’s a great soundtrack for a rooftop cookout, a fire escape smoke session or just a lazy Sunday afternoon.