Graded on a Curve: Analog Son,
Funky Mother

There’s no shortage of funkiness on the contemporary scene, but as lovers of the style do find it difficult to get enough, they might want to check out the fresh releases on Color Red Records, a new label based in Denver, CO founded by guitarist Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds. If you dig Roberts’ thing, it’s basically a cinch you’ll feel the same about Color Red’s wares; two of his other projects, Matador! Soul Sounds and WRD are also on the label, and he’s produced much of the discography. That includes Funky Mother, the fourth record from Denver combo Analog Son. Self-described as horn funk, they also feature organ, guitar, intermittent vocals, and naturally, beaucoup rhythm. The LP is out now.

Matador! Soul Sounds’ Get Ready arrived on vinyl back in March and since then there’s been a flurry of activity from Color Red headquarters, with additional items on wax, including three 45s. Fans of Get Ready will want to check out the group’s non-LP single “The Juice Ain’t Worth the Squeeze” b/w “Go On, Love,” and fans of Roberts’ in general should soak up the organ trio urgency of “Happy Hour” b/w “Corner Pocket by WRD, his outfit with organist Robert Walter and drummer Adam Deitch. “Out West” b/w “Love Tree” by The Echo System (featuring guitarist Mike Tallman) completes the single trifecta.

Alongside Get Ready, Color Red has given Analog Son’s Funky Mother a vinyl press, so together with a weekly arrival of digital content, long-playing wax is a significant component in the label’s scheme. As said, Analog Son have three prior releases, but this is the first to make my acquaintance, and like a lot of contempo stuff in the classic R&B, soul and funky zone, not all of group’s influences fit snugly into my bag.

Take Funky Mother’s opening track “CTI,” for instance. While I’m no big fan of the CTI label (clearly the track’s inspiration), Analog Son manage to pay homage to the soul-jazz-funk mershness of Creed Taylor’s enterprise (with Gabe Mervine’s trumpet bringing Freddie Hubbard to mind) without slipping into a cravenly smooth situation. But still; if they’d lingered for too long in this mode there wouldn’t be much cause for personal excitement, as I do prefer a tougher funk template.

The following cut “Ugly Mug” delivers, hitting a nice mid-tempo groove, enhancing it with femme vocals (Devon Parker and Ashley Niven are the credited singers on the album) and spiking it at the end with a cool burst of guitar from Jordan Linit, who co-leads the band with bassist Josh Fairman (his playing is solid throughout). The next track “Puppified” is an instrumental that gives the horn section a chance to shine (with a showcase for Linit’s soloing skills in the middle), and it’s the sorta thing that should please folks into Budos Band and the Meters.

“Top Hat” tightens the spotlight onto the sax of Nick Gerlach, and if the groove is a little busier than I generally like it, the temperature does rise, with the tenor soloing conjuring thoughts of Eddie Harris. Most importantly, at no point does the cut succumb to flagrant chops-flogging. And although the tracks here sport tidy durations, it’s easy to discern that Analog Son is dedicated to stretching out and slaying ‘em in a festival context. The J.B.’s flavored, vocal-fueled “Got to Get Down” will assuredly do just that.

But “No Way” underscores the range on display across Funky Mother, having as much to do with pop R&B, and well into the ’90s singles charts (courtesy of those vocals), as it does with ’70s funk, though Linit’s explosive string work lends a touch of distinction. From there, “Boom” dives even deeper into Meters-esque territory and puts organist Eric Luba at the forefront.

While the drumming of George Horn is appropriately energetic throughout the record, as the tracks add up Linit and Fairman’s co-leadership is soundly established without crowding the other contributors toward the margins. With its choppy guitar and sturdy flowing bass, “Give More” is a fine example, as vocals are again a point of focus, and with a deft structural redirect topping matters off.

Through sheer energy, “Funk Back” once again makes those commercial funk gestures palatable, though Linit’s runs of clean jazzy guitar are a likeable twist. “Greens” does the same by subtly imbuing the amiable flow with elements of heavy and increasingly prominent funkiness as things unfold. “Another Brother” takes that Meters vibe and infuses it with late ’70s urban funk atmosphere and sweeping horn charts reminiscent of the action sequences in TV cop shows of the same era, but with no hint of retro-corniness. “Sliders” hits a groove pocket with aplomb for the close.

If it reads like I’m being temperate in my praise for Funky Mother, I’ll add that the whole thing comes together quite nicely, in part through the brevity of the track-lengths. But Linit and Fairman’s obvious leadership roles aside, it’s also in how Analog Son connects as a unit. And so, when I slap this record on, it’s highly likely I’ll be flipping it over to hear the other side. That’s what an LP is supposed to do, y’know? It’s representative of Color Red’s level of quality as a whole, so those with a funky itch should check the label out, and if you already have, stay tuned for further developments.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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