Toploader

Onka's Big Moka

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With its keyboard-driven, funk-tinged anthems, Toploader's first album references in equal measures of the honky-tonk of the Rolling Stones and the Faces, the soul of early Elton John, and the infectious funk of Stevie Wonder in the '70s. In fact, the entire album sounds as though it could have been recorded in that decade, and that's not a bad thing. Joseph Washbourne's keyboards take center stage throughout the album, while his gravelly vocals, by turns joyful and melancholy, are well-suited to the band's brand of dance-oriented rock. The rhythm section establishes a solid groove, the guitars wail and soar, and the keyboards act as the guide and foundation. "Let the People Know," an exceptionally catchy dance track in the style of Jamiroquai, features a string section on loan from the Bee Gees; "Achilles Heel" rolls along tunefully, the intensity building until the song ends in a chaotic wall of noise. "Dancing in the Moonlight" is another album standout, a laid-back party anthem that could have been recorded by Rod Stewart when he still had a rooster-cut. All in all, Onka's Big Monka is a supremely enjoyable record, an album that evokes some of the best musical trends of the 1970s and blends them all together admirably.

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