Share SAVAGE KINGS - Barrence Whitfield and The Savages (Munster Records/Fuse)
Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Supreme Guitar Being Chris "Klondike" Masuak opined that Barrence Whitfield and The Savages couldn't make up their mind what to be. Recently-departed (as in "working somewhere else now") Fuse Music honcho Dave Lang reckoned this was the best R & B (rocking variant) album of 2010. They're both right.

"Savage Kings" runs the gamut, you might say. From scorching Chicago blues to horn-blowin' Apollo Theater stompers to Muscle Shoals barn-burners, it covers more ground than Jack Kerouac with a king-sized dose of Bali belly (or Montezuma's revenge if you're Stateside.) It bounces around, stylistically speaking - but not in a bad way when you're dragged into its groove.

Barrence Whitfield is a Boston institution, a booming vocalist and part of the wave of artistes who would take back the label "R & B" and restore it to its rightful status i.e. not a descriptor for pitch-enhanced, soft cock boy band sludge and confected adult radio excrement. He's backed by a band of white boys who are exquisitely rockin'. Ex-DMZ guitarist Peter Greenberg is prominent. They seem like rockers in a soul band setting but pull it off convincingly..

The material includes five covers but they're done damn well and most are obscure enough to make you think The Savages wrote 'em. Case-in-point: the opening track "Ramblin' Rose". If you have to ask who made it famous you probably shouldn't be here, motherfucker, but Barrence and his boys slow it down and keep it truer to the original. It gives off enough steam to power a blockful of Chinatown yum cha restaurants. It's illustrative of Whitefield's amazing range and the same goes for "Bad Girl", this one an original.

The Savages are standard rock band configuration supplemented by sax and keys. Most members bring a song to the party. Saxophonist Tom Quartulli's playing is something to hear but there's no doubting the roots of most of these guys when they rip through The Sonics' "Shot Down".

"Savage Kings" probably needs repeat exposure to fully get the drift. The consistency in playing pulls together the disparate styles. The engine room is tight yet fluid and if the rest of the band fill the spaces to near overflow at times, that's the intention. Greenberg's muscular tone suits Whitfield's larger-than-life delivery to a tee.

Labelling this a party record is demeaning to some but it shouldn't be. Here's why. Parties = Good Times. Good Times = Barrence Whitfield and The Savages. It's not rocket science. Try it out at your next soiree (assuming the people you invite have pulses) and get back to me, OK? - The Barman




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