Thursday, November 12, 2009

bright penny - 8/10 americana UK

A soft pillow of pop-soul from Chicago uber-band

Pop-soul is quite justifiably a swear word when there are so many protagonists who ply their shady wares under that broad moniker. However, what proudly elevates ‘Bright Penny!’ several leagues above is that the soul it draws from is of the mid 70s vintage Chicago variety. Positively dripping with seductive horns, keys, genuine soul rhythms and arrangements (which can be exceedingly Bacharach inspired on occasions) and a ton of good tunes performed with not a little feeling.

What’s more, it sports something of a jaw-dropping line up featuring as it does a ‘whose who’ of Chicago’s musical legend. Featuring as it does, not only Stirrat and Sansome of Wilco/Autum Defence, but Curtis Mayfield’s drummer from his ‘Superfly’ prime period (Morris Jennings), Jackie Wilson’s Bassist (Bernard Reed) and Tom Tom MMLXXIV, the long-standing horn arranger for Earth Wind and Fire and The Jacksons amongst others.

After the critical success of Plush’s debut album ‘Fed’, Liam Hayes takes centre stage as the band’s songwriter and vocalist. He doesn’t have a natural ‘soul’ voice. It’s a gentle croon that occasionally strays in falsetto and seems in part Scissor Sisters and a little hint of Bowie’s ‘plastic soul’ vocal cadences.

Whilst it seems best to let the lushly textured swaying grooves of the
entire album’s song cycle wash over and around you like a jasmine scented summer breeze in one blissful sitting, some moments do stand out. ‘If I Could’s laconic sway, twisting and turning melodies and mournful reflection are a joy. Elsewhere ‘Look Up, Look Down’ sounds like a McCartney song that Al Green could have turned into a seductive funk classic.

These are pop songs to close your eyes to, and feel

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