St Paul & The Broken Bones
Half the City
Single Lock/Thirty Tigers
Yowza! Yowza! Yowza! Raw Soul to Kick Start the Deadest of Hearts
I suppose I’m late to the arty with this album; but in my defence they had ‘sold out’ when I saw them in Manchester and subsequent requests from shop assistants were greeted with blank expressions.
Anyway; I have it now and (Spoiler Alert!) it’s is bloody brilliant!
I have always loved Soul Music in all it’s incarnations from the Motown Chartbuster LP’s that were the soundtrack to every teenage party I attended (ask me about the Tubular Bells ‘incident’); then through the Heavy Soul of Marvin, Otis and Isaac Hayes. Recently I eventually went full circle re-discovering Northern Soul. Along the way I’ve done a lot of research and unearthed some real diamonds in the annals but I never ‘live in the past’ which brings me to St. Paul & the Broken Bones from Birmingham, Alabama.
After championing Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed for a couple of years and then shouting Vintage Trouble’s praises from the rooftops a friend suggested I listen to ‘this white band that channel James Brown through Van Morrison.’
There were only a couple of videos on YouTube but I was blown away; hence a 350mile round trip to see them in a glorified café.
Half The City – you ask?
The opening 30 seconds tell you all you need to know about what will follow. A funky bass-line is followed by a sweet horn section, then there is a tiny gap before Paul Janeway enters the fray using his voice to plead…..I say PLEAD with his lover; in a way that sent shivers down my spine.
Not everything here is music to dance too; this is Soul Music to listen too; although hardy souls will still shuffle to the likes of Call Me and the gorgeous That Glow; while I suppose both Grass is Greener and It’s Midnight are end of the evening smoochers.
At times it sounds like all six musicians are fighting Janeway for prominence; but in reality Ben Tanner’s production and mixing are straight out of Memphis or Detroit as each instrument is allowed to breathe but never overshadow ‘the song.’
Title track Half The City truly could be Otis at his peak; as Janeway goes for notes he has no right to; but hits them slap, bang in the centre in a song that will make listeners ‘think’ which is a rare commodity these days.
My favourite track; which was really difficult will probably be Broken Bones and Pocket Change; as it has a smooth Sam Cooke flavour about it and it’s also the only track my wife liked!
This isn’t easy-listening Soul Music; this is rocket-fuelled music; dangerous in parts but those of us who like music with an edge to it; will treasure Half The City like a family heirloom.
Released Feb 2014