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(Independent Release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 12/5/2012)
Recently, there has been something of a revival of large funk and soul groups with horns. They are drawing their influences from various quarters from James Brown style funk, to more jazz-oriented groups to world music to New Orleans style brass bands. They range from tight polished jazz-style arrangements to a rougher-edged sound influenced by alternative rock. But most such groups tend to stick with one kind of sound.
This week, we have a group from Minnesota that is rather wide-ranging incorporating everything from blues to soul to ska to reggae. They're called New Primitives, and their new CD is named AmericaNomad.
New Primitives got their start back in 1999 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, where the group was founded by two percussionist/vocalists, Stanley Kipper and Mark Chico Perez. Previously, Kipper spent some 20 years in the Los Angeles area touring and recording with such artists as Joe Walsh, Minnie Riperton, Bill Withers, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley. Perez has been an active percussionist on the Twin Cities scene for many years, playing with various regional bands and also working as a drum-maker. Given their diverse musical backgrounds, they were interested in making good-time music that combined their various influences such as ryhthm-and-blues, ska, reggae and other world beat music.
The current lineup includes two guitars, keyboards, bass and sax, added to the drums and percussion from the two leaders. Saxophonist Daryl Narum is sometimes augmented by trumpet and trombone provided by some studio musicians, and sometimes he overdubs his sax, so the recording can have that large horn-band sound.
AmericaNomad is at least New Primitives' second album, and according to the band's publicity it was four years in the making. The CD is fairly polished sonically, with more studio effects than is usual for this kind of group, but it's handled well and often adds an interesting touch. The material is mostly original but there are a couple of somewhat obscure covers. The diversity of this album also means that some material works better than other parts. The band is best when they are in the upbeat, vaguely tropical mode, especially their reggae-influence material, and as less effective on slower, more ballad-oriented songs. Because the co-leaders are percussionists, there are a couple of short percussion interludes on the CD.
Leading off is one of those percussion segments called Love Walks In <<>> which serves as a prelude to an original tune by Stan Kipper called Didn't I Tell You. It's a funky rock tune that takes a number of interesting turns musically. <<>>
Showing the band's influence by both ska and reggae is a track called It Must Be Love also written by Stan Kipper. Once again, the band comes up with an interesting mix of influences and stylistic shifts while keeping the tune danceable. <<>>
New Primitives can be at their most appealing when they go for a kind of good-time reggae sound. A song called Average by one of the band's guitarists, Joel Schaan, is one of the CD's highlights. <<>>
Rogues Moon continues in the reggae mode but with a rather distinctive turn toward a more atmospheric sound. It's another example of the band's eclectic bent and creative direction. <<>>
Featuring just the two percussionists is a track called Brand New Day written by Chico Perez. The results are mixed -- with the out-of-tune kalimba detracting from the sound. <<>>
While most of the tracks on the CD are love-songs, AmericaNomad has a piece called Working Man, another composition by Stan Kipper, which though it has to do with a relationship, is a song about the workaday world, with a bit of a ska-rock beat. <<>>
The band covers an old song called Sally Go Round the Roses, first released in 1963 by a one-hit girl group called the Jaynettes, and then covered by the English folk band Pentangle in 1969. New Primitives version has a kind of retro party music sound. <<>>
The band's attempt as a soul ballad is probably the least successful track on the CD. An original tune called Holding on to Yesterday is not a particularly good fit for either Stan Kipper's voice or the kind of African percussion that the band includes. <<>>
AmericaNomad the new CD from the Twin Cities band New Primitives is a worthwhile recording from a kind of big horn band that is more eclectic than most, bringing in world music, reggae and ska, and other calypso and other tropical sounds added to funk and soul. The album features some interesting arrangements that show off their eclecticism and high quality musicianship. With the group including as many different influences as they do, and sometimes switching within a given track, there are some moments and a couple of tracks that are not as stellar, but overall it's all quite listenable and appealing.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an "A." The band and co-producer/engineer Brian Snowman Powers use a surprising amount of studio effects, especially echoes and other atmospheric treatments, but they really do enhance the sound adding further interest to the eclectic nature of the music. The mix is punchy and vocals handled well. Dynamic range is fair, by current low standards.
Danceable music that is also interesting and stylistically creative is not very common. New Primitives new CD, while not flawless, is does manage to achieve that rare combination.
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