Review : The Bamboos - Medicine Man
PopmattersSince their beginnings, the Bamboos have developed their soul and funk skills, retaining the authentic feel of New Orleans funk—think the Meters—while developing a contemporary soul sound that sits alongside the likes of The Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley or the recent Quantic and Alice Russell album Look Around The Corner. They quickly reached a level of praise from the more esoteric tastemakers and DJs on the soul and funk scene—the likes of Gilles Peterson and Adrian Gibson in the UK spring to mind—and could be guaranteed to fill the floor in both live and club settings. What the Bamboos never really had was a settled or regular vocalist that would fit their style of music. Russell provided two great cuts on their debut album, but it was their second album, Rawville, that would consolidate their approach and broaden their sound and appeal.
On Rawville, the Bamboos used vocalists for six of the 10 songs on the album with the likes of Russell, Ohmega Watts and crucially, fellow Aussie Kylie Auldist. The result was a more rounded sound which provided a cutting edge to the music and resulted in Auldist going onto become a mainstay on vocals for the next couple albums. On Medicine Man, Auldist contributes vocals to four songs and is joined by the likes of Aloe Blacc and Daniel Merriweather and another new great Australian female vocalist, Ella Thompson.
The Aloe Blacc track, “Where Does The Time Go” kicks off the album. Aloe has one of those voices that you either love or hate. It is slightly tremulous while slightly flat with not a great deal of variation in which to pitch him against the current crop of great soul singers.
I happen to love his voice. It’s a warm, friendly, almost comfortable voice that belongs to the 1970s. “What I Know” is classic Bamboos—stabbed organ, funk driven drum and bass and Auldlist’s soul drenched vocals, and then the horn section giving it some. “The Wilhem Scream” features Megan Washington’s stunning vocal delivery that recalls Motown and is accompanied by a gorgeous, serene and stately backing track. This is end of the night, last opportunity, grab that boy or girl of your dreams and whisk them off for a long slow dance. It’s now or never! I can’t stop playing this track and a highlight of what is a fantastic album....full text
BbcDuring the last decade, Melbourne-based musical conglomerate The Bamboos have been making an impact with a hybrid sound tastefully referencing the great soul and funk of the 1960s and 70s, without ever falling into the retro trap.
That their material has been handled by Tru Thoughts, the Brighton-based independent that has brought forth musical delights by Quantic and Bonobo, already gives it a certain legitimacy – but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Medicine Man, the group’s fifth album, goes down like a mango and lemon syllabub. It’s tastefully done, and possesses many hidden textures and contours; the more you get of it, the more you like it.
Perhaps the best thing The Bamboos have going for them is their superb musicianship. Bandleader Lance Ferguson is obviously a brilliant guitarist but he is never overly flashy with his lead licks; his solos help convey emotion in suitably brief bright blasts of treble, instead of overburdening a tune with unnecessary pyrotechnics.
Bass duties are shared between Ferguson and his creative foil, producer John Castle, who also plays piano and a spot of drums, and the bass lines on this album are suitably cavernous, helping to ground the material between melodic hooks and danceable grooves....full text
IndependentSwapping their signature sound of energetic if rather workaday retro-funk for sophisticated pop-soul songs fronted by guest vocalists including Aloe Blacc, Daniel Merriweather, Tim Rogers and the semi-regular Kylie Auldist, Melbourne's Bamboos take a definite leap forward.
But why on earth did they spoil the party by going back to their old style for a distinctly pedestrian second track, "What I Know"? It's two-thirds pretty good, all the same....full text
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