THURSDAY, JULY 07, 2011 |
Posted by: Michael Washington
In today's musical realm, reinventing the sounds of classic soul from the past is not an easy task. For one, it takes an immense amount of musical prowess to bring forth that same passion and struggle 60s and 70s music had, and secondly—an even more daunting task—is to do it in a new and inventive way. Most acts sporting a throwback feel get caught creating what are essentially carbon copies of old rooted tunes instead of re-imagining them into their own creative works. Many critics and old school enthusiasts find this to be the decisive turn off in the revival of soul, but luckily, there are a few acts around that are keeping it more than alive.
Case in point: Fitz And The Tantrums. The Los Angeles six-piece band just released their debut LP Pickin' Up The Pieces, and in accordance to the resurgence of soul music, its a irrefutable push in the right direction. Featuring a drummer, a keyboardist, a sax/flute player, a bassist, and two vocalists (gospel/R&B singer Noelle Scaggs and the bands leader Michael Fitzpatrick), the group has excelled in the past putting their own twist on 60s style soul-pop, coming with song after song of genuinely tender compositions. On their new album Pickin Up The Pieces, Fitz And The Tantrums pick up right where they left off, proving that even new school jams can embody all the great elements of retro music.
Throughout the record's ten tracks, Fitz and his crew inject life and fun into vintage rhythms and melodies. The vocal performances from Fitzpatrick and Scaggs are heartfelt and explosive, and work best when the two sing side by side, which happens most notably on the tracks "Dear Mr. President" and "News 4 You". On the tracks that bandleader Fitzpatrick appears solely on, his voice evokes enough attitude and spunk to make each song sound uniquely fresh. And when it comes to song structure, Fitz shows his craftiness, bringing back the lost art of the three-minute song and making each hook infectiously catchy. On the production side, Pickin' Up The Pieces relies heavy on the sound of vintage organ and crisp drums. Through the band's makeup doesn't boast a guitar, the vast use of James Kings' ardent saxophone makes up for it exceptionally well. Tracks like "Moneygrabber" soar on the album, which begins with a spirited piano before breaking into an upbeat, Motown-like melody. Each song on Pickin' Up The Pieces features a nice full sound, and when matched with beautifully written songs and memorable hooks, it's a recipe for greatness.
Some feel that modern acts who try their hand at 70s and 80s soul music are taking away from the timelessness of a genre that once described a generation. Because of groups like Fitz & The Tantrums, these people couldn't be more wrong. In a time of auto-tune and digital madness, Pickin Up The Pieces is a breath of fresh air. The album pays tribute to the age-old techniques of melodic content and great songwriting, but incorporates its own creative flare within it. It's a ride down Motown memory lane, with a few new quirks. If you're looking for the revival of soul, then you've found it in Pickin Up The Pieces.