Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Bamboos -- Listen! Hear!! The Bamboos Live!!! (2008)

The Bamboos -- Listen! Hear!! The Bamboos Live!!! (Tru Thoughts)

This Aussie soul revue is in fine form on this concert document. This was recorded at the Metro Theatre in Sydney just over a year ago, and the seven piece band, augmented on some songs by vocalist Kylie Auldist, is a well oiled machine.

Okay, during the opening instrumental medley, it is a bit jarring to hear a distinctive Down Under accent greeting the audience, and talking about "super soul." But the guy ain’t lying. The medley includes snippets of Sly Stone and James Brown and allows everyone in the band to show what they can do, especially the three piece horn section and Ben Grayson on the Hammond organ.

Lance Ferguson’s chicken scratch funk guitar gets things going on the second instrumental medley, which essays a variety of funk sounds with some strong jazz overtones at times. This medley (of "Hot Pants Break Down", "Captain Buckles", "Upstairs on Boston Road", "Ghetto Funk" and "Sister Janie") may strike some as a bit too slick. The Bamboos are certainly not the grittiest outfit out there. I think that’s because the band’s brand of funk emphasizes the rhythm section and the Hammond organ, rather than the dirtier sound of the guitar. I think it works pretty well.

It works even better when Kylie Auldist is thrown into the mix. Auldist, whose 2008 debut showcases a terrific modern soul singer, has a honeyed voice that adds a bit of grit to The Bamboos’ recipe.

Auldist steps in, appropriately enough, on "Step It Up", an original Ferguson composition. This song is a workout, with a prominent bass line and the horn section punctuating Auldist’s invocations of the title phrase during the chorus. Ferguson also gets a chance to play a fast and clean solo over the constant moving rhythm. This isn’t a song -- it’s a work out.

Grayson and Ferguson composed the languid "I Don’t Wanna Stop". This is a perfect Young-Holt Unlimited or Rascals-type summer soul shakedown. On this track, the melody rules the day and Auldist is so darned inviting.

She shows off her more rugged side on "My Baby’s Cheating (I Sure Get the Feeling)". The band’s James Brown inspiration comes through yet again. The funk isn’t quite as hard as what The Godfather and the Famous Flames and the JB’s could cook up, but Auldist needs a bit more space (as opposed to Brown’s gospel cries and funk grunts) for her voice.

Her best performance is saved for last on "Never Did I Stop Loving You", which is featured on her recent solo album. This is a great soulful pop tune, somehow balancing the fizzy joy of Northern soul with the earthier vibe of Southern soul. Auldist, as always, does not oversing and conveys every feeling perfectly. As good as her album is, Auldist is a notch or two better live.

This album makes me want the price of gas to really go down so The Bamboos can hop on a jet and fly here to the States. But if they would happen to leave Auldist at home, then I’d be inclined to stay home too.

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