July 26, 2011

Curtis Mayfield can’t be topped but he’ll never go out of vogue. Throw down a funky bassline and chase it with a trill falsetto and someone will always make room for one more. And with Thundercat, My Morning Jacket and The Stepkids, its a boom time for those slanted towards weightless jazz fusion.  Lately, Stones Throw has gravitated towards the same sweet spot. That broken window between Bitches Brew and Joe Jackson, where acts like Osibisa, The Temptations, Mandrill, et. al all flew in, and jettisoned formal genre boundaries in favor of psychedelic smears of color, delirious organs, rum punch grooves and black light soul.

The press kit claims their crates contain punk and jazz, West African and 1960s folk, neo and classic soul, classic funk and 20th century classical. That sounds accurate. They produce, engineer and record themselves on reel-to-reel. First time I saw them was a Stones Throw showcase and the album that kept on popping into my head was The Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack., a record that captures a soul group going off the rails (or inhaling them).

Directed by Stones Throw hitman Henry Demaio, the video for “Wonderfox” distills the group’s aesthetic: color corrected lenses and burning heads, and enough Mannequins for Andrew McCarthy.  Originally touring band members with 50 Cent, Lauryn Hill, and Alice Keys, the groove is heavy and in-pocket but unafraid to wander. They might be Stones Throw’s first act ready-made for the jam circuit. Nor do I mean that as a perjorative. Rock music that swings is always in short supply and Curtis Mayfield isn’t ever coming back.

MP3: The Stepkids-“Shadows on Behalf”
MP3: The Stepkids-“Legend in My Own Mind”

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