It's the nuances, the hooks, the subtleties, that make 'Where's The Party?' one of the...
Daryl Easlea 2004
Four years after Ian Dury's passing, The Blockheads finally step up with their first solo studio album. Like Tower Of Power meeting Steely Dan at Bow Working Men's Club, The Blockheads musical pedigree has long been unassailable. It is therefore sad that many will forever judge them only as an adjunct to their magisterial leader. It was mooted that they may even change their name, but although in some instances that may Alarmingly work, it would be blockheaded to give up on such an amazing brand. It's taken The Stranglers 15 years finally to be respected in their post-Hugh Cornwall line-up and that happened only when they returned to their original label, EMI.
However, the Blocks are on their own label and the album, unless some benevolent sponsor steps in, is most likely destined for obscurity. Which is a great shame as there is so much to enjoy here. They could easily make money rolling up with their coterie of special guests - usually Phill Jupitus -to do party versions of Dury's hits, but with Where's The Party?, they try not to rest on their laurels but to move forward. In a way, it is the most successful combination of the compendium of talents that comprise the Blocks; the music-hall jazz funk is there, of course, but also nods back to the time when various members played in long-lamented groups such as Skip Bifferty, Frampton's Camel and Loving Awareness.
Striking that balance between old and new will always be difficult, but after a few numbers here, memories of their old bandmaster begin to fade. Minder and occasional frontperson Derek 'The Draw' Hussey affectionately emulates Dury on ''Spread It'', while Norman Watt Roy, still the English Bernard Edwards, looking more and more like a Pirates Of The Caribbean John Junkin, underpins the groove. Mickey Gallagher and John Turnbull layer the sound throughout as densely as you like. Turnbull's voice has a frail charm and Chas Jankel still demonstrates enough of that blue-eyed soul that made him so popular in America in the early 80s on his three lead vocals.
With watertight horns, led by Israeli jazz prodigy Gilad Atzmon and the famous Blockhead gang vocals, it's the nuances, the hooks, the subtleties, that make Where's The Party? one of the best you'll hear all year. Just make sure you do.