Brother Jack McDuff recorded an enormous number of albums during the '60s, so it can be difficult to figure out where to start digging a little deeper into his output (which Hammond B-3 fans will definitely want to do). 1967's Tobacco Road stands out from the pack for a couple of reasons. First, unlike many of his groove-centric albums, it's heavy on standards and pop/rock tunes (seven of nine cuts), which make for excellent matches with McDuff's highly melodic, piano-influenced style. What's more, about half of the album finds McDuff leading a large ten-piece ensemble arranged and conducted by J.J. Jackson, including a soulful horn section that sounds straight out of Memphis or Muscle Shoals (though this was recorded at Chess studios in Chicago). McDuff himself handles the arrangements on the rest of the material, which is done in a guitar/sax/drums quartet. The LP's style is fairly unified, though -- no matter what format, the tunes are given fantastically funked-up treatments that sound surprisingly natural. And these aren't grooves where everyone just settles back and stays in the pocket; McDuff attacks the arrangements with wildly funky rhythms and solos, and there's a polyrhythmic sense of interplay that recalls the best Southern soul. Arguably the most distinctive track is a cool, grooving quartet version of "The Shadow of Your Smile," complete with snaky bassline and airy flute solos from Danny Turner. Unfortunately, none of the tracks are all that long, in keeping with the jukebox/radio orientation of McDuff's Atlantic period, but that won't prevent soul-jazz fans from thoroughly enjoying Tobacco Road.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey