Thursday, March 3, 2016

CD Odyssey Disc 840: Redbone

Being sick has made this week drag a bit. I can’t remember the last time I got sick (it rarely happens) but as long as it’s over by the weekend I’ll be happy.

Disc 840 is….Redbone (Self-Titled)
Artist: Redbone

Year of Release: 1970

What’s up with the Cover? Well that’s a red bone. I suppose this makes sense.

How I Came To Know It: My friend Tony would occasionally bring music to our weekly games night and one night he brought a Redbone album. I liked it and decided to get me some of that.

How It Stacks Up:  I only have this one Redbone album, so it doesn’t really stack up.

Ratings: 2 stars

Most bands like to wait until they’re established to release a bloated double album full of whatever weird stuff they came up with jamming in the studio. “Redbone” decided to make that experience their debut.

On the one hand I have to admire the chutzpah of a band that goes with 17 songs over 73 minutes as the way to introduce themselves to the musical world. Unfortunately the album while musically interesting, meanders far too much to hold my attention for even a fraction of its very extended playing time.

“Redbone” is a lot of things. They are mostly southern boogie woogie in the same vein as Little Feat, with elements of jazz and funk thrown in for good measure. Having just reviewed an album that showed how to blend different sounds around their common qualities (Guru’s “Jazzmatazz”), I was expecting more from Redbone than the boys were able to muster.

Redbone definitely brings the funk in places, and this is the aspect of their sound that first drew me. Lead guitar Lolly Vasquez has a bright and cheerful quality to his playing which I’ve never heard before, and that I enjoyed. He is particularly good on those songs when he gets a chance to show off a sprightly solo, which have a playful quality very unlike most rock guitar solos of the same vintage.

Unfortunately, the songs often bury Lolly in a bunch of odd tempo changes and meandering instrumentals that seem to have more in common with directionless modern techno music than they do with traditional boogie woogie grooves.

When the songs are shorter they show the band’s ability, but as soon as they start noodling (which they do often) they lose the script of their own melody. “Jambone” is a good example; a song almost eight minutes long that never seems to get started. Lolly’s guitar work is amazing, but by the time I heard it I was already too bored to refocus my interest.

Also, while this album is filled with groovy funk guitar, it never seems to sit down underneath an equally cool melody. It feels like a groovy lick, or a groovy solo, but without enough to hold all that together. There are a couple of times when the band fades out for what seems like forever, presumably because they aren’t sure how to wrap up a song that hasn’t gone anywhere.

There are some bright spots on this record (four of them in fact, all listed below under “best tracks”) but those bright spots aren’t enough to carry you through the ambling excess of the rest of the experience. If you like to just sit back and hear a groove without purpose (or if you like techno music) this might actually be for you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me, leaving me with the grim choice of whether I’m keeping it for these four songs. I’m going to go listen to each of them in turn and then let you know…

And I’m back. The surprising verdict: I’m going to keep this album for those songs. They are pretty damned good. I’ll just always remember to skip the rest of the album.

Best tracks:  Prehistoric Rhythm, Promise I Won’t Let it Show, Chance to See, (I Can’t) Handle It

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