The premise of Supercharged, the seventh album by Down to the Bone, is a simple one. It only asks the listener one question: "Do you wanna get down?
For those that answer with an affirmative "Good God, yes" this is your reward.
This is bobbing your head, wiggle your butt in your seat music. No ballads, no lame stabs at hip-hop or rap, just good ol' soul music with real musicians playing real instruments. All the overly arranged, chilly and deadly dull commercialized jive that passes itself off today as funk music would hang it's head in shame stacked up with the true-to-the-game production and arrangements of Stuart Wade. All you need to enjoy it in full is a pair of loud speakers, no neighbors and a great big glass of Kool-Aid.
Workouts like "Funkin' Around" and "Cosmic Fuzz" make no pretense to be profound, but they do sound like they came straight out of a time warp in the late sixties via a stopover at a particularly hip Memphis nightclub. Pete Grogan's saxophone solos sizzle and the rhythm section of bassist Julian Crampton and drummer Adam Riley are right in the pocket. The horns wail and blare away in search of the good groove.
That's not to slight Neil Angilley's piano solo on "Parkside Shuffle" or Roy Ayers going nuts on the vibes on the accurately titled, "Electric Vibes." The sadly underrated, but always entertaining vocals of Hilary Mwelwa of Hil St. Soul turns "Smile to Shine" into an energetic rave, while Crampton's bass lines percolate behind her. Vocalist Corrina Greyson brings it all home with the irresistibly danceable "Shake It Up."
Supercharged is a throwback to the days of house parties when people spent more time bumpin' and gridin' on the floor than hanging on the wall jabbering into cell phones striking a pose and faking the funk. The main problem for Down to the Bone is that they may be too funky to find a place on America's tightly restricted and overly safe radio stations. Way too hot and sweaty for smooth jazz, too funky for what passes for urban radio and too much in love with old Stax and Atlantic records soul, it would take an awfully brave and very hip program director to throw something like "Space Dust" on the uninitiated.
It might be good for them though. When it comes to staying true to the old school of funky grooves, Down to the Bone is holding it down faithfully and in fine style with Supercharged. You can hear a little of Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, War and a lot of surprisingly authentic soul music from one above average white band.
Hands down, Supercharged is a pleasant surprise, a stone cold lock for one of the best albums of the year and a funky good time.
Track Listing: Supercharged; Funkin' Around; Parkside Shuffle; Cosmic Fuzz; Smile to Shine; Electric Vibes; Greedy Fingers; Shake It Up; Space Dust; Hip City; Make It Funky.
Personnel: Jon Radford: trumpet (2, 5, 8); Bob Dowell: trombone (2, 5); The D.C. Horns (1-10, 11); Paul "Shilts" Wiemar horn section (11), sax solos (1-3, 9, 11), flute (11); Pete Grogan: alto sax intro (2), sax solos (4, 7, 11); Tom Remy: guitars; Ian Crabtree: guitar (1, 3, 6-8, 10, 11); Roy Ayers: vibes, vocals (6); Neil Angilley: piano (3), Rhodes, clavinet, synthesiser (3, 9), Hammond (7, 11); Neil Cowley: piano (6, 11), Rhodes (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11), clavinet (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11), Hammond (7, 11); Julian Crampton: bass (1-10); Richard Sadler: double bass (11); Adam Riley: drums (1-10), congas; Hil St. Soul: vocals (5); Corrina Gregory: vocals (8).