The best thing you may not have heard yet just dropped on Memphis’ Electraphonic Recordings. The underground sound of The City Champs breathes new life into Memphis music and showcases the talent of some serious heavyweight funksters.
The Safecracker features seven premiere tracks of unadulterated funk and soul. Taking it back to the days of Stax and Fame, The City Champs breathe new life into a musical heritage that is rich in flavor, yet has become dormant to the mainstream. Sure there have been flashes of brilliance from soul/funk artists like the highly funky and successful Daptone label artists, yet Memphis and Muscle Shoals have not sent anything to the forefront in quite some time. The City Champs drummer, George Sluppick, and producer Scott Bomar kill it with The Bo-Keys, keeping the spirit of Memphis music alive. And now they have come together to offer the world a little something else.
The warm feel of analog recording is present from the beginning. This album was done right, and the sound is proof in the pudding. Group leader Joe Restivo penned the two opening tracks, “The Safecracker” and “Takin’ State,” and they are straight up funky. The cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Love is a Losing Game” is also very moving. Native Muscle Shoals organist and Memphis resident Al Gamble lays down some tasty nuggets and Sluppick never misses the beat with his swampy, soulful drumming. Restivo also finds perfect tone for his delivery, making it a toss-up as to whether The City Champs instrumental version takes higher regards than Winehouse and the Dap-Kings version.
“Poppin” is just that; if you listen to this and don’t move your feet the hearse may just be on the way to take you to your final resting place. Blistering, quick, funky riffs from Restivo’s guitar merge with Sluppick's break neck beats, and then Gamble slips in the mix with funk filled keys. Much like a good R&B review they slow down the tempo for “Pretty Girl” and make some sweet serenade with more flawless guitar, keys and original drumbeats. “Comin Home Baby” finishes off the tasty little album and leaves the listener wanting more from this funky trio. Haunting guitar echoes as though you are listening in a dark alley, and the percussion swings like the sounds of night.
No doubt, this one is destined to be a house party favorite, and one can only hope that some heavy touring is soon to follow.
The Safecracker is out now on Electraphonic Recordings.