Saturday, May 30, 2009

The City Champs - The Safecracker (Electraphonic, 2009)

Memphis organ trio The City Champs are steeped in the bluesy soul of their city's music, coming from the great Hammond B3 tradition of Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff and throwing in dollops of soul from the likes of Booker T. and the MG's. The group is made up of Al Gamble on organ, Joe Restivo on guitar and George Sluppick on drums. They get a really tight and groove based sound. "Poppin'" was my favorite track on the album, with a stomping guitar solo from Restivo sounding like Grant Green on steroids and dirty, filthy organ and drums that recall the R&B/jazz mashup that Jimmy Smith performed so memorably on his classic Root Down LP. The rest of the album is quite tasty as well, and the DJ's who are hip enough to check it out must be salivating at the chance to get it on vinyl and work it into their dancefloor sets. The title song "The Safecracker" builds a very cool organ groove, with Gamble's bubbling bass pedal work locking in with Sluppick's drums to build a formidable foundation for the rich organ line and Restivo's slinky guitar work. The are a couple of slow jams like "Love is a Losing Game" which keep the music varied, but the groove is constant throughout, and fans of organ grooves or instrumental R&B should find quite a bit to enjoy here. The album is at LP length, so it hits home and never overstays its welcome.
The Safecracker -

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