Our Gate Records [Release date 22.11.19]
It’s tempting to view 24 Pesos ‘Flesh & Bones’ as a Julian Burdock solo album, he did after all pen all the material apart from one co-write and delivers it all with ripping guitar work and passionate vocals.
But that would be to underplay the input of a scintillating jam band that makes the most of his funky blues material, routed in deep grooves and shaped by dynamic arrangements.
There’s also some excellent guest appearances by the legendary Geno Washington, the exuberant Marcus Malone and no less than 3 harp players – Jean-Jacques Milteau, Danny Del Toro and Giles Robson – and a backing vocalist Katie Hector, who is the perfect foil for Burdock’s husky vocals.
The band’s name is the same as on their previous 4 albums, but the line-up has significantly changed. Keyboard player Moz Gamble adds some familiar organ as he guests on the funky ‘All The Same’, but the album benefits from the magisterial rhythm section of the impeccable bassist Luigi Casanova, versatile drummer Filippo Giangrande and adventurous keyboard work of Chicco Allotta.
Julian is still the pivot of the band with his soulful vocals and imperious guitar work. The songs are fleshed out by clever word plays, some heartfelt lyrics and even a bluesy rap on the title track of an album that never makes the mistake of finding its musical niche and sticking to it.
Indeed ‘Flesh & Bones’ takes us on a musical journey that calls on all shades of funky soulful blues and rocks out when required.
The album opens with the thematically enveloping ‘I Am The Blues’, a song with a lovely turn of phrase.
It’s all glued together by ethereal tones over shuffle beat drums, muted trumpet and a perfect Geno Washington sample, before the band stretches out on Allotta’s jazzy piano line and Burdock’s dobro as he emotes soulfully.
There’s also the defining refrain, which acts as a barometer for the album’s subject matter: “I’m the sound of sweet persuasion, a voice that will never lie, I was there when you were born and I’ll be there when you die. I am the life, I am the truth, and I am the blues.”
‘Flesh & Bones’ is a soulful album, that revels in funky grooves as Burdock launches into his vocal attacks with the kind of gusto that amplifies his lyrical meaning. He’s aware of the limits of his range, but his phrasing and Katie Hector’s bv’s allow him to mix both gravitas and emotion in a roller coaster ride.
And in those moments when his vocal are more adequate than inspirational – as on the slow blues ‘Broken Hearted Man’ – he surrounds the song with a sumptuous arrangement featuring Chicco Allotta’s staccato piano line, potent bv’s and his own stinging guitar line.
He funks things up on ‘All The Same’ with a thumping bass line and impassioned lyrics that works hard to ignite the kind of spark that makes the following track ‘You Don’t Want Me’ such a highlight.
Featuring the exuberant vocalists Marcus Malone, ‘You Don’t Want Me’ moves from a Hendrix meets Isley Brothers opening into the perfect meeting of voice and guitar on an imperious bass driven groove. Malone delivers a superlative vocal on a track that grooves, drips with soul and rocks hard enough to ignite the whole album.
The later ‘Think About You’ comes close to emulating the same sort of muscular performance on a tour de force band performance.
They say a great album is built around good sequencing and flow, and Burdock is cute enough to juxtapose the Marcus Malone track with a contrasting harp-led acoustic ballad ‘Man Like Me’. It’s predicated on some portentous tom-toms and the understated harp and tonal subtly of J.J. Milteau. The rhythm section kicks in at well over the half way point with more trademark piano work from Allotta on a smouldering song full of tonal subtleties.
And it’s the sonic quality of the album that holds the key. The songs aren’t always memorable, but the combination of passionate vocals, deep grooves and succinct solos, make for a jumping album.
Burdock himself is like a restless fire cracker, as the band explores the inner dynamics of each track to the full. There’s a real band feel to the album as the band jams on a groove, slips into searing solos and coalesces seamlessly on the hooks.
There’s also enough musical diversity to maintain our interest throughout, from the impassioned vocal of the title track to the train time brush strokes and instant hook of ‘Goodbye Sweet Angel’, complete with a Beatles style drop-down and fade
The gigantic, big band shuffle of ‘Luck On Your Side’ – complete with a an exclamatory Geno intro – features some big toned wailing harp from Danny del Torro, booming horn stabs, big toned guitar, a swinging rhythm section and ripping solos. Burdock’s vocal weaves its way through a blistering track with real style to generate the kind of spark in the studio that is the sign of a kick ass band.
‘Flesh & Bones is so well paced it has the feel of a live set. It goes up, down, sideways and just when you think they’ve said it all, Giagrande’s drum beak ushers in the pile driving ‘Breakdown Paranoia Blues’.
It’s a steam roller of a track full of contrasting doomy lyrics on a blistering track full cymbal crashes and a great hook. It’s topped by incendiary guitar and a Giles Robson harp solo, which good as it is, sounds a bit like a drop-in.
And as we shift from a Temptations style ‘Papa Was A Blues Man’ to the closing slow blues of ‘You’ll Never Know’, Julian leaves us in no doubt as to his versatility and song writing ability as he puts everything into a final vocal that tops all that has gone before.
‘Flesh & Bones’ is like new wine in old bottles. The label may be familiar but this new 24 Pesos line-up represents a new vintage that will surely tickle many more taste buds. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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