Overall Rating: +++-
Frank Lenz is best known as the drummer for Fold Zandura, The Lassie Foundation and countless numbers of studio projects where a true professional musician is required. In concert settings, he always stands out as an actively aggressive player, and one who embellishes the beat instead of just keeping it. He's not known, however, as a vocalist or a solo artist, which is why the arrival of this little release came as a bit of a surprise. And instead of laying down his usual barrage of block rocking beats, this disc is a subdued and soulful rhythmic offering.
The primary reference point for this project appears to be Seventies soul and jazz. Yet this is no mere cheesy homage to bellbottoms and platform shoe-era music. Instead, Lenz has borrowed the elements he finds most appealing from that misunderstood time period, and incorporated these into a style all his own. It results in a sound that is quiet, but at the same time, it's also a little edgy.
Lenz does little to make himself conspicuous as a vocalist here, preferring, instead, to melt into the rest of the mix. He's either blending in by singing in a lower register, or doing his best Bee Gee "high, high, high." Such a falsetto stands out on both "Crime On My Mind" and "The Hot Stuff." "Electric Light Battleship" and the overtly spiritual "Take The Wheel" also feature vocals from the mysteriously named Bridget Bride. Might this be a pseudonym for Crystal Lewis? It sure sounds like her.
This musical melting pot includes healthy servings of Hammond organ, Honner Clavinet, slick electric guitar and rolling bass. In a few places, such as "Crime On My Mind," a subtle horn arrangement is nicely fitted in. In other words, it has everything you might expect to see represented in the studio for a pre-disco soul date. Retro grooves are the order of the day on this outing, and are especially exemplified by "Electric Light Battleship" because of its Curtis Mayfield bass line and Blaxploitation soundtrack electric guitar. Not all of this CD is a music history lesson, however, as "Line Dancer" sports a soft groove worthy of Sade, and "Take The Wheel" shares common ground with modernly retro groups like Massive Attack and Portishead.
While these tracks are closer to mood pieces, rather than actual songs, one called "Tricycle" -- with its plunking children's music like organ rhythm --appears to be celebrating a young tyke's birthday, and "Take The Wheel" is clearly a call for divine help.
Whatever you make of Frank Lenz's heated side trip into the soul side of the Seventies, you'll never again think of this musician as just another drummer.
Frank Lenz (Homepage
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