Given the sound of What the World Needs Now, it's difficult to believe that the Sugarman 3 haven't released an album since 2002. After the widely acclaimed Pure Cane Sugar -- the trio did the tour thing, and then went on to work on various individual projects -- Neal Sugarman (also a member of the Dap-Kings and co-founder of Daptone with Gabriel Roth aka Bosco Mann here) -- called organist Adam Scone and drummer Rudy Albin, asking if they were interested in recording. They booked five days in the studio without tunes or expectations. With Daptone family members (especially bassist Mann, trumpeter Dave Guy, conguero Fernando Velez, and guitarist Jospeh Crispiano) joining these loose, kinetic sessions -- produced by Mann and recorded on eight tracks by Mann-- these cats simply picked up where they left off. These 11 cuts -- originals and a few classic covers -- are raw, funky as hell, and infectiously danceable. Clocking in at 36 minutes, there isn't an extra moment -- or space -- anywhere. While things kick off in the midtempo organ groove of "Rudy's Intervention," it's Albin's crisp, in-the-pocket, clack-and-rumble that propels this baby. Things pick up considerably on "Your Friendly Neighborhood Sugarman," which feels like a long-lost Jr. Walker instrumental. J.J. Jackson's immortal "But It's Alright" revels in deep rave-up soul, while "Witch's Boogaloo," a showcase for Scone initially, finds Sugarman's honking sax and the studio crowd's general hell-raising responsible for making the tune one of the stand-out tracks here. The title cut, a cover of the Burt Bacharach standard, is given stellar treatment here and has a groove its author may not have originally intuited. (S3 and pals, with backing vocals from the Dap-Ettes, bring out the tune's unconscious funk). Conversely, the added fingerpop nastiness in Ed C. Cobb's "Dirty Water" nods to the Standells' version but is far greasier and more soul-drenched. "Mellow Meeting" is anything but; it's more of a summertime beach bumper. The sinister soul groove that kicks off "Jealous Moon" brings bits and pieces of everything from Bacharach to Ray Baretto to Booker T., but it's all S3 -- the interplay between Albin's breaks, Scone's vamps, and Velez's bubbling congas make this a standout. What the World Needs Now welcomes back a sorely missed S3 with all the rowdy joy intact. Nobody plays it like this.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek