The Olympians

The Olympians

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The surreal illustration that covers this Daptone offering vaguely recalls those of Philadelphia International releases by Billy Paul, Monk Montgomery, and MFSB. Among the Olympians' late-'60s/early-'70s inspirations must be the musicians behind those recordings, as well as the crews who contributed to the sessions guided by supreme chamber-soul architects Charles Stepney and Norman Whitfield. There are some Southern derivations, too -- aspects adeptly drawn from the Stax and Hi catalogs, the Crusaders' synchronic Blue Thumb period, and so forth. Toby Pazner, a writer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who has been involved with El Michels Affair, Menahan Street Band, and the Expressions, is the mastermind here. Joined by 13 associates within his vintage-modern R&B orbit -- on basic band instrumentation, percussion, strings, brass, horns, woodwinds, and co-writing -- Pazner picks up where the Olympians left off in 2009, after the second of two 45s for Truth & Soul. Succinct, tight, and fully ornamented yet restrained, these instrumentals evoke the era with as much precision and depth heard on any given release from the musicians' previous output. The track titles refer to Greek mythology, but the material could easily suit a light blaxploitation film with largely upbeat scenes of street walking, chases, romantic interludes, and undisturbed solitude. From front to back, the quality is so balanced that there are no obvious peaks or lulls, though the tracks that incorporate harp and harpsichord stick out a little more for their uniqueness relative to standard soul-funk revivalism.

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