Vocalist Tony Adamoâ€™s new CD, What Is Hip?, is a funkified and deeply rhythmic locked affair with some of the best musicians of the day. Put together by master guitarist and producer Jerry Stucker, this horn-laden album reminds one of the early days of Tower Of Power (TOP) brought up to date by modern sensibilities. Some of the big names assisting Adamo include master drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist and Headhunter Bill Summers, trumpeters Mic Gillette, Henry Hung, and Eddie Henderson, as well as TOP bari saxophone soul man Stephen â€śDocâ€ť Kupka and keyboardist Rodney Franklin.
For those unfamiliar with funk and soul the easiest comparison of this album would be with some of the early work of Boz Scaggs when he was wrapping his vocals within bluesy soul-infected wraps. Add some tastefully arranged horn backgrounds courtesy of Mic Gillette, and the result is sublime excellence.
While funk and rarified soul like this will have a tough time reaching the airwaves, that doesnâ€™t mean it isnâ€™t a fantastic recording. The â€śWhat Is Hip?â€ť TOP remake is given a bluesy and smoothly swinging turn that features some excellent electric trumpet work by the great jazz trumpeter Eddie Henderson. On â€śEcstasyâ€ť Neil Larsenâ€™s organ playing is top-notch and Rodney Franklinâ€™s keyboard work on â€śRhythm Of Your Loveâ€ť is incredible.
Throughout the recording Stuckerâ€™s guitar is ever present as a featured color. His work is angled at finding the right mode of expression as opposed to showing off his chops. Finding just the right notes at the right time, Stucker keeps things tightly bolted down and firmly rooted in the groove. This is shown nowhere better than on â€śEcstasyâ€ť where his lines float and punctuate Adamoâ€™s vocals in pure precision.
Adamoâ€™s voice is perfectly suited each of the tracks, both those he wrote with Stucker and the covers. With a rich baritone timbre, Adamo sincerely gets inside the lyrics as opposed to just singing them. Working within the arrangements, as opposed to singing on top of them, Adamo does more than feel the phrase, he becomes them.
While there are a few missteps, like the cover of â€śEleanor Rigbyâ€ť which is too sly, Adamo hits it out of the park on â€śCold Duck Time (Groove On Line)â€ť and â€śMake Me A Memory.â€ť For lovers of music not aimed being aimed for 14 year-olds, this is about as excellent a recording as you will find and well worth searching out.