Let's assume you're familiar with the music of Sly & the Family Stone. Pop legends and all that.
What happens, though, when a fusion prog ensemble sets out to do a cover album of their greatest hits?
THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: Take You Higher (CD on Magnatude Records)
This release from 2004 offers 54 minutes of instrumental fusion versions of songs made famous by Sly & the Family Stone.
The Clinton Administration is: Kai Eckhardt, Fareed Haque, Eric Levy (all from Garaj Mahal), Charlie Hitchcock (from Particle), Stanton Moore (from Galactic, and Garage A Trois), Cochemea Gastelum, Chuck Prada, Robert Walter (these three from Robert Walter’s 20th Congress), and Michael Lee Firkins (primarily a solo artist).
The major difference here is that this music is sans vocals, relying on the catchiness of these classic tunes as far as recognizability goes. Ah, but the differences don't stop there...
Savage basslines rumble like exploding dinosaurs, bowling those with tenuous equilibrium from their feet with thunderous ease.
Slippery keyboards skate out riffs with abandon. The notes slide with greased grace, as mouthwatering as spiced honey and delectably smooth. Jubilation runs high in this region of the mix.
The drums are sturdy and demonstrative, belting out tempos with earth-shattering resonance. The atmosphere trembles with an abundance of hooks and clever breaks.
There are a lot of guitars (slide guitars, rhythm guitars, lead guitars), and every riff gets its own solo. Funky chords dance in the air with expert delivery. Although lovingly crafted with a reverence for their nostalgic perfection, these chords are executed with a thrilling modern touch that literally increases their allure.
Horns. Where would a prog release be without a bevy of horns and woodwinds? Saxophone, clarinet, flute. All injecting a jazzy edge to the rollicking good time. This fun is highly infectious, as if each delightful note is a sonic germ determined to dig under your skin and deliver an itch to get up and dance.
Let's give those keyboards another listen, eh? There's a lot of them too, and they're zooming all over the place, creating a labyrinth of tasteful licks that's quite dizzying. Jazz piano blends with classic organ. Slick synthis bubble underneath Fender Rhodes. Acoustic pianos pound out stately riffs with a wild frenzy.
Not surprisingly, Sly's tuneage is superbly suited to instrumental renditions. These songs are vibrant and excellently intended for funkier arrangements. The Clinton Administration pull no punches with their renditions, tweaking here and enhancing there, producing music that tingles the serious portions of the brain with material that's guaranteed to fire off the body's inclination to move with the melodies. The union of classic oldies with a modern approach results in a thoroughly engaging listen, satisfying and salivating.
A job well done; this release is well worth any hassles you might encounter finding a copy.
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