‘Octopus –E’ opens up the groove with a strange robotic alien voice that slowly builds its way into carving its name into the heavy funk world forever. The group fills the space with a formula reminiscent of “The Meters” old “Cissy Strut” laying down the groove that flows along into a chorus before taking a swan dive into the kind of guitar solos that have highlighted Joe Bonamassa’s career as “the” all-star guitarist for hire. The groove takes a turn for the jazzier side of funk as Renato Neto shows us what it means to have been a member of The New Generation, taking his slice of the pie and laying down his keyboard solo like a pro. An abrupt stop brings us back to Mike Merrit on bass and Tal Bergman on drums to remind us that the meat and potatoes of the song were always there, and that they were there with a big “Funk You!” stamped on their foreheads. The song rebuilds itself to end on dime leaving us standing in awe of this impressive super-group.
With a heavy and sludgy intro that could easily have been the remnants of a stoner metal fans wet dream, ‘Work’ is soon passed to Mike Merrit on bass as he carries the song into its funky and remarkable timework. Renato continues to hold down the fizzy keyboard parts resonant of the psychedelic rock era before fading down into Ron DeJesus’ shining moment on guitar, reminding us all that he is the brainchild of such great guitar teachers as Scott Henderson and Joe Pass. As his twangey Telly tone comes to an end the song dives once more into that heavy riff before reemerging as Joe Bonamassa takes the lead only to pass it off to Merrit’s outstanding basswork. Contrasting the earlier heaviness of the song, Merrit takes his cue with very soft warm chords that characterize the song full of ascending and descending bass lines that will have you drooling by the end of the song. Just when you were wondering where that heavy metal vibe went, the band reminds you and Tal Bergman leads the way into those heavy toms which are driven away by a playful keyboard solo held down by Neto who uses dissonance and well placed timing to have fun with all of us listening at home.
What do we want? The groove! When do we want it? Now! ‘We Want Groove’ doesn’t fail to disappoint. Right from the beginning you can tell that this is not a song meant to thwart your funkiest desires but instead give life to them. There is even a slight wink towards what could have been a horn section, were these lesser musicians. The duality of the guitar and keyboard work in harmony to bring these lines to life before melting your face off with a dazzlingly impressive guitar solo. When the groove comes back we set the stage for some talking back and forth between the musicians instruments before being completely blown away by the wild ivory work of Renato Neto. This all fades into a change up of dynamic where you finally get a taste of some very serious percussion work. Building back into the song we are given another guitar solo before the instruments begin another talking session where they show off their best licks, ultimately coming back together in unison to hit the lead line set down by Bonamassa before shutting the groove down.
Don’t let your heart skip a beat, let the guitar do it for you. ‘Heartbeat’ flashes us back to the eighty’s very briefly playing with offbeat signature licks that made the era famous for its disco vibes. This jam will have you hopping out of your seat with dance fever. The keys take the liberty first in this wah driven game of chromatic ups and downs before fizzling down into a wild envoy of shredding guitar greatness that will leave any guitarist standing in a pool of their own drool, if not dancing in it. This splashy mess of funky greatness is pulled back into the heart of the song before it flat lines to bring us our next feature.
‘The New York Song’ in contrast to ‘Heartbeat’ is a very soft soulful almost jazzy tune that could warm the heart of any RnB composer. Here instead of a human vocal we are given the vocal of a beautifully orchestrated keyboard solo that shows off all the emotion behind Renato’s playful fingers. A few guitar leads are thrown into the mix to expand the dynamic of the song following the mood set by Renato with very soft sliding leads accompanied by chimes and shakers. This is a song to wind down too.
‘Spaztastic’ is a very heavy driven funk tune reminiscent of the style set by Supertramp. In many ways this song embodies the wild side of rock n roll with a spice of glam in the world of funk. It is everything the name suggests, wild, crazy, and tones of fun. Some of the speedier guitar and bass work can be heard in this song as it drives in and out of the breakdowns that break up the solos of each of the musicians. This song is precision madness that is constantly flipped on its head as is usually done by Bonamassa.
We’ll be discussing CD 2 next week, stay tuned!
Written by: Clovis El-Khazen
Edited by: NJ Bakr