Down Under probably isn’t the obvious direction to head in if you’re looking for heavy soul and chugging funk, but for the best part of 10 years Australia’s The Bamboos have been doing exactly that. More so, they’ve been doing it with the kind of verve and swerve that has made them the backing band of choice for Antipodean touring by soul men of the calibre of Syl Johnson and Eddie Floyd. Indeed, theirs is such a scintillating soul showing, it’s a good job their singer’s called Kylie (Auldist) or we might not believe their origins.
There’s a distinct Blues Brothers-ish vibe about the foot-stomping performances, which is to say they’re not simply cresting a wave of enthusiasm and effervescence, but they care deeply about what they’re doing and therefore understand completely how it works. The Bamboos have realised you’ll only get out what you’re prepared to put in. That there is eight of them, occasionally bulked up by extra horns and strings, means their grooves are always powerful enough to support anything they might want to put on top.
Which might not be very much, as tunes like The Ghost and Turn It Up are just total, down home grooves, with some delicious horn riffs to keep things moving forwards, while Like Tears in Rain achieves the same ends with a clever string section. Or it can lead to the effortless swing of Never Be the Girl, or Typhoon, or Keep Me in Mind, which shows off their basic funk skills as spectacularly it drops instruments out of the arrangement. They also give themselves more than enough chance to show off: You Ain’t No Good has a Hammond skidding along on top; Got to Get It Over is a Blaxploitation theme looking for a movie; On the Sly has a reggae flavour; and Up on the Hill brings in a sitar.
The best thing about this album is that The Bamboos are obviously having a great deal of fun with a musical form they are very, very good at. And it’s the type of fun that spreads to pretty much anybody in attendance. --Lloyd Bradley
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