Thursday, July 24, 2003
The Chrome Collection
Just a little heavier than the average Motown act (although not including their bill-mate Marvin Gaye), lighter than most '70s funk, and owing more to doo-wop than just about anyone, this Thom Bell-produced vocal group racked up the oddest mixed-bag of pop and R&B hits imaginable. From the fractured, Stevie Wonder-ish "It's a Shame" to their high octane remake of the Four Seasons' "Working My Way Back to You," the Spinners were comfortable with a wider range of styles than any other band of their era, with the possible exception of the Isley Brothers.
This triple-disc set covers all bases, from their Moonglows-derived beginnings through disco and beyond (it does spare us their live tour de force) and while they became supper-club slick with the addition of their most recognizable voice, Philippe Wynne, they also lost much of their funk (ironic, as Wynne was a guest vocalist with the toughest ensemble ever to escape Detroit, Parliament-Funkadelic).
Great stuff, with even the filler revelatory, the apogee being a cover of "Funny How Time Slips Away." Sweet '70s soul music that never was subsumed entirely by the disco craze that made them huge stars, the Spinners and this definitive collection are worth nearly every cut, a truly remarkable achievement. Seek and acquire!
You may know of Eric McFadden because he is the guitarist of choice these days in George Clinton's P-Funk Allstars. But funk, no matter how good he is at it, is hardly all Eric McFadden is interested in. On his latest acoustic release, Devil Moon, McFadden reveals himself adept at styles as diverse as flamenco ("El Cuarto Rojo"), delta blues ("Devil Moon"), and more rockin' folk stylings ("Sister Maggie, Brother Sam"). McFadden can also be scary, during "On the Inside" for example, it's not clear whether the character is captor or captive, creator or created. His unique take on the Beatles' "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" is equally dark, with his baritone vocals as much spoken word as sung.
McFadden's amazingly fast fingers fly when he wants them to, like on "Bitter Endings," though he can slow down to a dirge-like waltz when the emotion of a song demands it, on "Don't Make Me Explain."
Playing and singing solo here for the most part, McFadden sometimes adds a touch of skilled mandolin playing thanks to overdubbing, plus some minimalist accompaniment from bass, harmonica and snare drum on a couple of tracks. Overall, Devil Moon fits into the category of "honest music:" the down-home playing and singing often verges on virtuosity, yet the production values give the disc that back porch feel.