"We like to play 2% jazz, 98% funky stuff," says Maceo Parker, while the band warms up the first song. I'd quibble with those numbers; there's considerably more jazz here than he is willing to admit, although the record is definitely dominated by "funky stuff". The great drawback of the album is that Parker and gang allows that 2% to dominate the slower songs in its middle, bringing the party to a halt.
When the party is cooking, however, you can smell the down home spices wafting from your stereo speakers. 'Shake Everything You've Got' is neither a suggestion nor a demand. It is a command, one that I defy anyone to disobey. The horns are tight, the bass moves beautifully, and Maceo is a king MC, working the crowd in a great example of call-and-response interplay. The song's most glorious section comes when Maceo asks the crowd to "give the drummer some (give it to the funky drummer)". One of the many references to Maceo's first funk godfather -- James Brown -- it sets drummer Kenwood Dennard on a ridiculous funky solo. Maceo and his sax eventually join in, and the results are transcendent. Listen to Maceo's horn rise in pitch and energy, whipping the audience into a frenzy until they can't stand it anymore. When the main groove bursts back in, the place erupts. A truly cathartic moment.
'Pass the Peas' takes 'Shake's momentum, and cranks it up a notch. A song of quicker tempo, it features the ultimate in energetic grooves. Here, Maceo pays homage to his other funk godfather, George Clinton. At one point, he quotes lyrics from half a dozen Parliament songs, most notably the famous refrain: "Make my funk the P-Funk/I want my funk uncut/Make my funk the P-Funk/I want to get funked up..."
Then comes a cover of Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)". Maceo played on the original version, and should have left it at that. Kym Mazelle, who does vocal duty, is way too over the top. She reminds me of a technically proficient Tina Turner, a singer whose voice I never liked. The next three songs are nondescript ballads. The band manages a noble effort on these, but it really derails the party. 'Georgia On My Mind' follows them, and is a stunning version of that Hoagy Carmichael classic. Maceo (at least I think it's him on this one) does a credible Ray Charles impression in his vocal, and later introduces the band (for I think the third time!) so each can take a manic, energetic solo; my favourite being Rodney Jones' busy, jangly, and jazzy guitar break.
The final song on the album, 'Soul Power '92', returns to the party form established by the first two songs. It's another up-tempo groover, featuring Maceo's simpatico call-and-response style with the audience, and some tight (or rather TIGHT!) horn playing. Should be noted that the horn section contains such notable James Brown alumnus as Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis and the great Fred Wesley on trombone. Wesley gets several solos here, each of full tone and funky rhythm.
Maceo is a great saxophonist. In fact, he's one of those players who's tone and style you recognize immediately. It's funky and huge. And on the party jams here, he leads his band through some serious pure and uncut funk. The recording is masterful, the band sounds great, and the audience seems willing to follow them wherever they go. I just wish he'd left the ballads in the dressing room. Otherwise, this would have been a perfect album.