The New Mastersounds

Ten Years On

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As its title indicates, this veteran U.K. acid-funk quartet notched their first decade together with this 2009 release. The outfit already has a career overview in 2007's An Introduction to the New Mastersounds. Although the name of this album implies that it's another retrospective, it is actually a fresh collection of a dozen newly penned tunes. The foursome has worked the kinks out by now, and although they aren't venturing into previously unexplored territory, this is one more tight, tuneful, and hip-shaking collection of predominantly instrumentals. All but one is composed collectively by the members. The exception is also the lone vocal with American rock and soul singer Grace Potter fronting the Mastersounds as they contribute backing to her song "Nothing But the Water (ll)." Guest singers have appeared on previous albums from the combo, but Potter connects by adding the right amount of rugged R&B to the mix. Strains of gospel, country, and twang enliven the Mastersounds' already spirited jazz-funk with the more compact tracks appearing earlier in the set. The band is renowned on the jam circuit for its frisky improvisation, but on "OOOM," the longest selection clocking in at nearly nine minutes, they and guest saxist Skerik seem to lose the road map as the cut meanders to an end after a strong, somewhat spacy opening. The closing "Make Me Proud!" references organ combo music with Eddie Roberts' distinctive chicken-pickin' guitar lines peppered over Joe Tatton's bubbling, Booker T.-styled keyboards. Woodwind player Chip Wickham swings by to blow some hyperactive flute on the zippy "Chocolate Chip." Throughout, Simon Allen's crackling snare drives the rhythm section and provides the foot-tapping, Meters' inspired funk that has typically been at the heart of the U.K. act's approach. Without checking the liner notes, a song such as "MRG" seems like a Meters outtake or rare B-side. It's really a New Mastersounds composition, but between its snaky guitar line, organ/drum interplay, and taut yet flexible pocket, the U.K. group has nailed a vibe from the past and successfully bounced it into the future. Here's to the next ten years.

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