Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1086

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The Deep MO: Funk in the 3rd Quarter (Groove4Dayz)

The Deep Mo: Funk In The Third Quarter (Groove4Dayz Records)



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UK release date 05.11.2011

Surgeons and pilots hold lives in their hands. A huge responsibility. One slip, and itâs curtains. Now I cannot possibly claim to do a job where I have that same level of responsibility. That would be plain crazy. But, I do take it very seriously when reviewing something, as I realise I have the ability to crush someoneâs dreams with one flick of the wrist on a PC keyboard. Pen being mightier than the sword.

So if I criticise something, I do not do it lightly. I am well aware of the time, blood, sweat, tears and expense that go in to every single project. Then out of your hands when the album, book, DVD or performance is out there for others to judge, and be chattered about on the net. But I also donât believe in paying lip-service. There is no progress in life, if everyone blows smoke up other peopleâs rear ends just to avoid hurt feelings.

Case in point: Deep MO, âFunk in the Third Quarter.â Not actually pressed up as yet, due for full worldwide release next year, the only people to have a copy on this planet right now, are the artist, the record label and me. A band fronted by bassist Yolanda Charles. So I wanted to get it on the CD player very quick. I have listened to the album about half a dozen times now, all the way through. Overall, it is a brilliant job. Really is.

But on first listen and last listen, I could not avoid the thought that despite it being a cut above the rest, something is still not quite right here. But how do I tell the woman whose baby this is, what it is I mean without upset? Talking of babies, picture the sceneâ¦â¦â¦a sunny Spring day, a stroll through the park with newborn in the pram, and along I come and tell Mum her child is uglyâ¦â¦â¦â¦.but not to worry as it has beautiful eyes! Any mother would pick up the nearest blunt instrument, and beat me to death with it. Or at least introduce me to the ducks, with a firm shove in the middle of my back toward the water!

The music on the album is just about faultless. I could have done with maybe a sax or flugel horn solo here and there. I could have done with a little more guitar, and a few instrumentals with such a world class ensemble present. I would have liked to showcase the bass more in at least one song. It is billed as funk, it is funky for sure, but more a soul album. But they are not the issues bugging meâ¦â¦â¦â¦ it is this; the vocals need work, and so does the song-writing. There. I said it.

What I mean by that is; Yolanda is a fine singer. The girl has pipes, for sure. But, some of the songs lack solid vocal arrangements, and therefore her phrasing is often cloned on each song. When the right structure is there, she can fly and some of her soulful runs are a joy to hear. But a lot of the time she is shackled to a vocal arrangement that ties her vocal hands. And she can be right on the edge of her range, which can sometimes make it a slightly uncomfortable listen, wondering if she is going to hit that note. She does, Iâm happy to report!
But she stays in her comfort zone in range all the time. I mentally willed her to take risks and get busy. But with the way the songs are arranged, not going to happen. She wants to be taken seriously as a female musician, we are told. I was not even going to reference the fact she is a âfemaleâ bass player. That is irrelevant too. She is for me, quite simply a shit hot, funky, mother (of three!) - A real bad ass on that bass.

One of the best bassists I have ever heard in fact. I am seeing a certain Mr Nathan East soon for a chat and a photo shoot, and I intend to tell him about this lady, sorry, this bassist. Her husband Miles Bould on drums, is one half of the nucleus of Usonic, and together Miles and Yolanda are a formidable team on her project. They nail that groove track after track, and never let up. But they can also be sensitive when called for, and use splashes of colour instead of out and out funk. This is the A Team. Gender does not come in to it. Big balls x 4.

Track one; âIn My Fantasy,â finds the groove within seconds, some inventive bass playing from the off, the song a bit too long and repetitive at 5.07. But a good start. Next in; âAre You Ready?â we get horns and retro funk, stepping onto the New York streets of a 70s cop drama, pinning the groove up against a graffiti-filled wall. A very American sound, but the vocal maybe lacking the same level of aggression as the music delivery. Nice stuff though.

âThese Times.â Tasty Geoff Whitehorn/Mike Stern guitar licks from Scott Firth and John Robertson. Track four; âCalling,â leaves the vocal pretty exposed, the song maybe a tad wordy. I feel Yolanda could benefit from a co-writer bringing something to the table; to help give her vocal lines a decent arrangement, to create a vehicle for her undoubted talent in the singing department. At the end of this song, we get very close to Stingâs âI Want My MTVâ vocal lines, from Dire Straitâs âMoney For Nothing.â

On track five; âBorn To Love,â there are some gorgeous Eric Gale/Cornell Dupree licks on guitar, from the very versatile Scott Firth. So controlled and soulful. A fine bassist himself â the other half of Usonic with Miles, but not required on bass here, of course!

This song is the best vocal of the set so far, with Yolanda comfortable and relaxed, and in Jill Scott vibe. A sweet soul ballad, where she can offer a sultry delivery, the key and the arrangement perfect for her. Yolanda sings that she wasnât born to be solo. Well on bass she may have been, but here she has a mighty cast to support her. She hits a spine-shivering vocal run, and this proves that it is all about the material being the right vehicle for a singer. It has to be like a hand in a glove. This one is.

The band dig deep to find a dirty groove, some wicked bass lines and a heavier sound on âPromised Land.â Bass and drums lock together like a five -lever mortice, that Mr Yale and Mr Chubb would be happy with. Good song. Good vocal. We get some Robben Ford, Yellow Jackets guitar licks at 4.36 from Scott. Brilliant playing and the band pick it up, to take us on a funky journey for almost two minutes more. Joe Sample style piano from the talented Robert Mitchell, who shares keyboard duties on this album with Gary Sanctuary. Bernard Purdie drums from Miles. Next is; âDo That Thing,â with some strong vocals on a commercial song. Yolanda stretches vocally on this, but it is in her zone and works well. World-class bass playing too. Man this has groove. Nice BVs too.

I liked the understated horns on âThe Message,â a superb arrangement from Nigel Hitchcock, sounding like he took the Greg Adamsâ approach. Mica Paris territory on vocal. Maybe even Carleen or Jill Saward. A flugel or sax solo would have added value to this one perhaps. Huggy Bear in his pimp car and fur coat crops up again, on track nine; âSister.â With wah wah and horns a-plenty, a funky retro 70s feel. There is even a nod to Stevieâs âSir Dukeâ in the horn arrangement. Last track of the ten, we get âFuture (album mix)â - an uptempo mutha with an evil bassline. A song having a pop at politicians. That lyrical topic always leaves me cold, along with songs about war, and here we have three of those.

I think a guest singer or two, and maybe a duet may have added value, but I quite understand this is Deep MOâs debut, Yolandaâs baby, all tracks written and arranged by Yolanda, and she produced the album. So she is commended for that aspect. But it also means there is no one else to point fingers at, for the things that do not quite work.

A pitfall of having the last word when you produce your own stuff, is perhaps being too close to make detached decisions for the good of the project, and the bigger picture. But away from microscopic attention to detail, this is a sparkling debut, from a mega Brit talent we should all be very proud of, and who is going to grow and get better as an artist.

Bugger all to do with gender. All to do with the music, the passion, artistic expression, the loveâ¦â¦â¦. and now this review is out there, the avoidance of that muddy duck pond for me.

* The band play a gig at Londonâs âThe Hideawayâ on 5th November, to celebrate the new album.

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