Fat Freddy's Drop

Live at Roundhouse London

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In the studio, this New Zealand band plays extended reggae-disco-soul jams that feature soully falsetto vocals and jazzy horn arrangements. In a live situation, they play even longer extended jams (averaging about 13 minutes each on this album) and fold big wet dollops of dub into their trademark blend of soul, reggae, and R&B grooves. The results are mixed, but generally rewarding. "The Camel" opens the album with a nice horn chart but a rather boring sung melody and a plodding beat. "The Raft" enlivens things considerably, bringing a lighter one-drop beat and very soulful vocals and lots of dubwise sound effects to the mix before lapsing into a martial steppers rhythm. "Flashback" and "Pull the Catch" are the album's most solid tracks, the latter alternately spare and jazzy, the latter featuring a gorgeous horn interlude halfway through before suddenly blossoming into a jungle-inflected dub section. Singer Joe Dukie quotes the Congos near the end of that one -- a nice touch. "The Nodz" is built on a slow rockers groove with contrastingly fleet-fingered, funky horns, and the album ends with a real curiosity: "Shiverman," which spends its first 12 minutes in a ho-hum house-dub mode and then suddenly shifts into a jaunty ska groove for the final three minutes. Overall, this is a fine live album that was probably an amazing experience in person -- but newcomers to the Fat Freddy's Drop experience will likely want to start out with some of the band's more disciplined (but still adventurous) studio work.

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