Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Vinyl Hampdin's Red

Dang it, if the band is named Vinyl Hampdin I should have received it on vinyl, right? I received it on CD, and of course it sounds great, but while checking out the Vinyl Hampdin website I found so much promotional material on the vinyl release of their new album, Red, that I felt kind of left out. Red, released on red vinyl, is available on CD Baby for just $15. So if I really want it...well, I should stop complaining now.

Who is Vinyl Hampdin? By checking out the website and other promotional materials, I feel like they're just another popular musical act that's flown over my thick noggin, but Red is their debut album so I can relax. They classify themselves as "Rocked Out Seriously Funky Jaw Dropping Ear Candy!"--the exclamation mark is not mine--and my first impression of this album was "let's put on a big show, but a really BIG ONE." This is big music indeed, full of pyrotechnics and theatrics that seem rare outside of Vegas or Broadway. Vinyl Hampdin is founded by trombonist/arranger Steve Wiest, and his idea was to combine a funky big band sound that's a cross between Tower of Power and Chicago before Terry Katz passed away. He's added four horns to a drums-bass-guitar-keyboards funk rock quartet and given them one task, to play the hell out of these songs.

The album is divided between Wiest's original compositions and a unusual cross-section of covers. He and the band starts off with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," which shouldn't be much of a stretch for a funk-rock-soul outfit, but the arrangement is so unique in the way it amplifies the scope and pumps up the volume. Wiest adds this grand scale to just about everything, from Bonnie Raitt's "The Road's My Middle Name" to Bill Withers' "Use Me" to even Paul and Linda McCartney's "My Love." According to the liner notes, Wiest employs the Charles Mingus strategy that "if you want a band that sounds big, bring in musicians with big sounds." The cherry on top, so to speak, is singer Lisa Dodd. She has perhaps the biggest sound of all, her strong and sexy voice inspiring everyone else on stage to put a little more elbow grease into it and keep up. (She's also written the lyrics for two of the Wiest compositions, "Pay For it" and "Billions," so she's invested in every word.)

I can't overstate that this is big, exciting and ambitious music. There's a lot to enjoy here, but the real star is Wiest's arrangements, referred to as "re-imaginations," and how he keeps adding the gasoline to an already raging fire. There's no doubt that he intends to make a strong first impression as the leader of this group. Red is the closest thing to sheer spectacle that I've seen in the world of contemporary jazz. It's not intended as a soundtrack for a quiet evening at home. But for a big night on the town, this might be the recipe for getting the party started.

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