Rhett Frazier, Inc. might be based in East Los Angeles, but its music was first baked in the working class breadbasket of the American Midwest: Songwriter and vocalist Rhett Frazier grew up in Oklahoma, less than half an hour's distance from the home or birthplace of legendary soulmen Roy Milton
("the father of modern R&B") and Lowell Fulson
Drummer, synthesizer player and producer Donny Gruendler (a/k/a "Inc.") was born and raised in Detroit. "For me, the styles I absorbed in Detroit became second nature after awhile. They are part of my DNA. Since this music comes naturally to both Rhett and I, when we set out to make this album, we really wanted to let those raw and grooving impulses loose. To get out of our own way, so to speak," Gruendler says. "I like to create tension with modern sounds and traditional ones. I like mixing analog and digital textures. What does the song cry out for? That's my question. I do what it says. Sometimes it says 'distorted synth' and sometimes it says 'old organ from a yard sale.'"
This tension makes the band's sophomore release Every Day is Saturday
both electric and eclecticin its liner notes, Frazier and Gruendler's collective thanks include Burt Bacharach
, Frank Sinatra
, Wardell Gray
, Bridge on the River Kwai
, Plato, Sir Thomas More, and Johnny Walkerand sound like a glorious soul-rock hybrid made up from equal portions of The Dramatics
and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.
When he slides into his slippery falsetto, Frazier often sounds like Prince, another artist who earned his keep by blurring the line between soul, funk, and rock. "Workin'" retells "Crumbs Off the Table" more famously addressed by The Supremes and by Dusty Springfield. It's sassy and sensuous and dead in the pocket, and while it's not the same song, Frazier's floating falsetto sure seems to echo brother Ronnie's star turn in The Isley Brothers' classic "Work to Do."
But there's a surprising amount of blues on Saturday
, too, most of which come screaming from electric guitarists Jesse Stern
, The Kirk Fletcher Band
and Rick Holmstrom
. "Burying Ground" beats its loping beat down into dirt as the jagged edge on its guitar sound and distortion on Frazier's vocal build into a raw and harsh, modern yet dusty blues feel and sound. (Before this cuts off, someone in the studio enthuses, "That was fun!")
"Hard Man" is more weirdly compelling. Frazier's vocal recalls different episodes in his life when he had his ass kicked (in different ways) for the purpose of toughening him up; but it's sung in a vocal so deeply hurt, almost tortured, as if strangled from his throat through clenched jaws, so it sounds more like the pain stripped him of his spirit and his soul and left no feeling behind. Sadly beautiful (synthetic) horns and strings that Bacharach would have been pleased to arranged provide "Hard Man"'s crowning glory.
Track Listing: Every Day is Saturday; Secret Pieces; The Pig; Private Hell; La Petite Mort; Elephant Walk; Burying Ground; Workin'; Hard Man; WTH?
Personnel: Rhett Frazier: vocals, synthesizers, moog, piano, keyboards, samples; Donny Gruendler: drums, synthesizers, moog, piano, keyboards, samples, synth bass; Jesse Stern: guitar, bass; Bobby Tsukamoto: bass; Kirk Fletcher: guitar; Rick Holmstrom: guitar.
Year Released: 2012
| Record Label: Double Inc. Recordings