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The New Mastersounds: The Deplar Effect
(Color Red/Eleven Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/11/2023)
One would be hard pressed to find something as very American as funk and soul music. But in recent years, a number of European bands have taken up the mantle of classic funk and in many cases, have doing a very good job at it. There is Redtenbacher’s Funkestra from the UK, Beat Funktion from Sweden, and Novox from France to name a few. This week, we have a new recording by a long-running British band who has been serving up this kind of music since 1999. The band is the New Mastersounds, and their new release is called The Deplar Effect.
The New Mastersounds are from Leeds, England, and were formed when guitarist and producer Eddie Roberts was running a dance club in the city, which expanded to a larger space and had room for live performers. Roberts assembled some friends with who he had played previously as The Mastersounds, and with updated personnel they became the New Mastersounds, with Sim Allen on drums, Peter Shand on bass and eventually Joe Tatton on keyboards. On the new album Lamar Williams, Jr., son of Lamar Williams the bassist from the Allman Brothers Band does some vocals.
Most of the New Mastersounds’ albums have been self-released, and not widely distributed in the US, despite some American tour dates, including in New Orleans and also in at Equinunk in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Their new album, actually their seventeenth, was the first released by a label founded by a travel company, and the group went to a recently opened studio in Iceland, near one of the company’s resorts, to record. The New Mastersounds found themselves inspired by the Arctic setting, so they decided to call the album the Deplar Effect. The recording also marked a kind of reunion and reactivation for the band, who like so many other groups, were not able to perform for about two years due to the pandemic.
The new album features the band’s tasteful brand of funk and soul, influenced by Booker T and the MG, the Meters and perhaps Tower of Power, minus most of the horns. There are no synthesizers to be heard, the keyboards being the iconic Hammond B3 organ and Rhodes electric piano. About half the album is vocal with the rest, instrumental. The vocal tracks are not too profound lyrically, but with the music being so groove-based, that doesn’t matter much. It’s all well done, with strong but not particularly flashy musicianship, and infectious rhythms.
Opening the generous hour-long 13-track album is a short piece called Watchu Want which the band dedicates to the classic New Orleans group The Meters. It re-establishes the New Mastersounds’ funk bona fides. <<>>
The first of the vocals with Lamar Williams, is called Gonna Get in My Way, intended as the album’s first single. It has the kind of lyrics that seem intended to amplify the rhythmic groove. <<>>
With a slower beat with a couple of guest horn players is Hot Tub which evokes 1960s Memphis soul from the likes of Booker T and the MGs. <<>>
Perhaps inspired by the band’s northern Icelandic recording venue, is the track Let Me In From the Cold, with another vocal by Lamar Williams. The group gives it a kind boogaloo beat. <<>>
Highlighting Joe Tatton’s B3 organ is a tune with the appropriate title Organism. They again evoke Booker T and the MGs on this strong instrumental track. <<>>
Probably the “wordiest” song on the album is Meet You in the Sunshine which takes up the state of the world and its injustice. It’s done in an almost Southern Rock style, which is perhaps understandable with Lamar Williams being the son of a member of the Allman Brothers Band. <<>>
For me, probably the best track on the album is the instrumental Northern Lights another title probably inspired by the band’s northern Icelandic recording venue. It’s a more extended, but easy-going jam with a chance for some good solos by guitarist Eddie Roberts and keyboard man Joe Tatton on a classic Rhodes electric piano. <<>>
The album ends with another of its highlights Before a tastefully soulful ballad about longing for change for the better. <<>>
The Deplar Effect the new seventeenth album by the long-running British funk and fusion band The New Mastersounds, is a worthwhile recording that tastefully brings some retro sounds into the current day. With the band’s previous music not widely available in the US, this album may be for many, like myself, the first chance to hear this veteran group, which reassembled after the disruption of the pandemic, and went to Iceland to record. It’s another good example of a European band carrying on a very American style, and getting it right.
Our grade for sound quality is a B-plus. The mix has everything in the right proportions, but the clarity of the instruments is not very good due to excessive volume compression.
Funk and soul has been at the very foundation of a lot of today’s commercial pop music. It’s good to see that there are practitioners on both sides of the Atlantic who are keeping the classic style music going.
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