Great party tunes which, weirdly, can’t quite relax.
Lloyd Bradley 2011
There’s a certain deadpan humour about multi-instrumentalist/producer/DJ Adam Gibbons’ stage name: as a fairly nerdy looking white guy, there was never going to be an afro involved in his vintage funk stylings.
It’s a great shame, though, that so little of this self-depreciating wit got through to the tunes, as his weapons of choice are soul and funk from the 1960s and 70s, with a dash of old-school hip hop here and there. So much of that music was about messing about and showing off, meaning a musical sense of humour was usually as fundamental as a bassline; but here, the music is seldom relaxed enough to drop its guard and too many tracks come across as remarkable reproductions of a sound.
Gibbons’ musical abilities have never been in doubt, but his work here comes across as a little flat, as if concentrating so much on what he was doing made him miss the point of why he was doing it. This leaves what are smart compositions, like Holding My Breath, The Importance of Elsewhere and A Time For…, having to be defined by their vocals. And, in said cases, these aren’t very good.
Not that this is a bad album, at all – when it fires on all cylinders at the same time it’s very near to great. Fool, One for Belski and Contusions occupy that interesting juncture, from the late-60s, where it was a very short step from soul to lounge, and a degree of cheesy playfulness was always going to figure. Respectively, the smoky and seductive Angelique Morrison croons above chirping strings; next, a hard driving rhythm takes the pressure off the Hammond and flute allowing them to have some fun; and Contusions’ big drums and honking brass has that almost pointless self-celebration that underpinned some of the best funk. P.A.R.T.Y. is bonkers hip hop, defined by rappers Wax & Herbal T’s exuberant vocals, but in such a good way the whole thing swings gloriously.
It’s never easy approaching a style from the outside, as what contributed to making it special won’t necessarily be obvious – ie the vibe of the time – but Gibbons gets closer than most. Maybe next time out he won’t worry about getting it so technically correct.