Of all the tunes funk/fusion meisters Central Avenue Review may have chosen to cover on "New Old Stock," they've avoided the most obvious - Sly Stone's "Family Affair." 'Cause that's sort of what this disc is, as brothers Bill, Matt, and Morgan Gallagher lead a large ensemble through a funky, R&B-drenched set.
The party kicks off with the Joe Sample's fusion workout, "Did You Feel That." Featuring top-notch ensemble work from the horn section, it sets the pace with relaxed, easy-going groove. Next is "Got To Be A Better Way," courtesy of keyboard player Greg Davison. Again there's a slightly retro vibe, with touches of wah wah and electric piano reminiscent to me of the early eighties.
"I Want To Know" features the vocal talents of a certain Ms. Keely Bradshaw. Presumably a guest as she only appears on a pair of tracks, she's definitely a treasure, with a gutsy yet warm voice.
'Til now things have been somewhat low-key, the focus on groove rather than energy. But "Living The Blues" fairly blasts out of the speakers, with snarling guitar and big, brassy horns leading the way. Leon Russell's "I'd Rather Be Blind" continues in the higher energy vein, with sax player/lead vocalist Bill Platt injecting a raw passion into the proceedings.
Up next, another Greg Davison track, "Hiding From The Pain." A good tune, but this one suffers a bit in the production; the background vocals lack a certain oomph that would have raised the bar. Better is the Pomus/Rebennack classic "The Night Is A Hunter," where once again the horn section proves exemplary (though this one seems to stretch Mr. Platt's pipes a little; it might have been a good time to bring Ms. Bradshaw back). The horns continue to impress on the straightforward shuffle of "Nothing In My Pocket," sounding like Roomful at their brassy best. "Did My Best" stays within the twelve-bar idiom but mines a somewhat jazzier vein. Ms. Bradshaw makes a welcome return on the closer, "Never Make A Move Too Soon." Hard to say which I like best about this one, Keely's vocals or Matt's extra-funky bass lines; both are excellent, and take the disc out on a high note.
Overall, this is a satisfying outing; arrangements are thick and meaty with lots going on, yet no one overplays. Instrumental contributions may not be of the jaw-dropping variety, but both Bill and Matt Gallagher are tasteful guitarists, restricting solos to short, stabbing bursts. Morgan's bass work is a highlight, too; there's an appealing fluidity to his lines, and he keeps things moving along nicely. Mr. Platt shows promise as an arranger, and again he too contributes solos that are unfailingly direct and to-the-point.
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