Even fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings might not be totally prepared to hear The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow by Dap-Kings saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum. This wide-ranging and expansive modern dance recording takes Gastelum far beyond retro rhythm & blues, or his main axe for that matter. Overdubbing a dizzying array of instruments including many different saxes (tenor, alto, baritone), bass clarinet, organ, Fender Rhodes, other electric keyboards, vibes, flute, percussion, and vocals, he also blows up what might be termed funk, approaching acid jazz territory while retaining original soul tendencies. He does use a rhythm section for under-the-surface rhythmic purposes, more overt on the Latin funk party song "Carlito!" His usage of electric sax definitely reminds you of Eddie Harris on an upbeat "Guardian Angel" or the soul ballad "You're So Good to Me," while the pure Stax sound is also not far removed from "No Goodbyes," combined with a Roy Ayers-influenced vibes track. There's Afro-beat melded with psychedelia, updated boogaloo, stabbing go-go sounds, and even faux strings married to hip-hop, while the title track sounds like something straight out of Austin Powers. As a concept depicting the fictitious life of Johnny Arrow, one wonders if he was a spy, movie superstar, cousin of James Brown and Isaac Hayes, slick entrepreneur, or all wrapped into one. No matter the image perception, Gastelum has made music that is danceable, timeless, ethnically tinged, and futuristic -- no mean feat in crossover commercially-driven pop culture.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos