Hiram Bullock

Way Kool

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On the follow-up to his Atlantic debut, guitarist and producer Hiram Bullock pulled out all the stops and dove wholeheartedly onto the "funk" side of jazz-funk and left out the jazz. No, that's not a bad thing. If anything, Way Kool feels a lot more like a funky rock record than anything else. With a handpicked cast of studio greats, Bullock set out to make a party record and he did it. From the screaming guitar work on "Da Alley," to the deeply funky George Duke-styled keys and guitar wonk on "Show Me" (with its Prince-styled handclaps and big backing chorus), to the groovy bass pop and chunky chords on the title track, it's all in there. On Way Kool Bullock showed that he couldn't care less about what people thought he was or should have been doing, and he did exactly what he wanted -- and this time it was making a primarily instrumental set (there are only three vocal cuts out of the ten here) that stayed close to rock and funk with up-to-the-minute production (that in retrospect sounds a bit dated). There is a jazzy instrumental ballad called "Never Give Up," with some nice hand percussion from Don Alias and keyboard work from Dave Delhomme. But the strength of the set comes from Bullock's guitar playing, and his screaming tone is the most enduring thing about it. Check the track that reveals its Prince influence not only in its instrumental attack but even in its title: "I No U." The big funker "Wolfman" even contains scratching! The biggest surprise on Way Kool, however, is the cover of Lennon and McCartney's "Dear Prudence" that closes the album. It's modern, reverent, restrained, and quite beautiful. (Admittedly, it's such a great song it would be tough to mess up.) Bullock's guitar solo that takes over after the three-minute mark is killer.

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