Pure Cane Sugar – Sugarman3 & co.
Certain albums read like snapshots of bygone eras. Classics like
Getz/Gilberto, Pet Sounds, and What’s Goin’ On? sound
like recently unearthed time capsules. However, it is rare that a current
release genuinely sounds like it was made 30 years ago, but that’s exactly
what the folks at Daptone Records have accomplished on the latest Sugarman3
& Co. album, Pure Cane Sugar.
Opening "Funky So-and-So" with Al Street’s thick, reverb-laden guitar,
Sugarman3 transports the listener back to a 1973 boogaloo club. The crisp
horn charts and heavy backbeat create a bumping groove that is hard for the
pelvis to ignore. Later, on "Pure Cane," Adam Scone adds some early ’70s
bouncing organ/bassline counterpoint on a track of dirty funk that seems as
if it was ripped straight from the most badass blaxploitation film on the
On "Bosco’s Blues", the rhythm section takes center stage, dropping a heavy
cowbell and conga-laden beat over top of a swirling organ and raunchy sax
lines. As the track progresses, it sounds more and more like a classic
meeting of Booker T & The MGs and the Bar-Kays, complete with the ripping
guitar solo flowing into the premature fadeout. Directly following with
"Country Girl," frontman Neil Sugarman gets to take his most inspired tenor
sax solo of the album, and the band responds by literally shouting in
encouragement. Rudy Albin’s drums percolate with a rock-solid pulse,
gelling perfectly with Ernesto Abreu’s bopping conga work.
Three tracks feature the addition of legendary vocalists with mixed results.
The weakest track on the album is "Take It As It Come" with Charles Bradley
on the microphone. The band locks into an interesting groove and Bradley
gives some moving vocals, but the song never grows and becomes a bit
repetitious. By contrast, Lee Fields’ James Brown-like growling and
screaming on "Shot Down" leads the band over the hump and into an inspired
coda. In addition, the band cooks in a wah-wah-heavy JBs-style groove
beneath Naomi Davis’ vocals on "Promised Land," but she never reaches a true
vocal crescendo, and the song doesn’t reach the same climactic impact that
Fields accomplished earlier.
Infamous drummer Bernard Purdie guests on his composition, "Modern Jive", a
gently moving ballad that sounds anything but modern. Every note of this
expressive composition is reminiscent of a much more soulful time and place,
and Purdie adds some tasty fills to keep the song chugging onward.
Much of this album has a sultry feel that reeks of nasty foreplay. By the
time the listener reaches to the two final tracks, one feels hornier than
Benny Hill on the set of Baywatch. "La Culebra" grinds out a
slinking Latin cadence as the Daptone rhythm section perfectly syncs with
Sugarman’s scorching flute solos. "Down To It" is probably the most
aptly-titled track on the album. It pulls no punches and cuts right to the
chase with a sensual lead from Sugarman’s inviting tenor sax. One feels
somewhat defiled as the band falls into a deep and raunchy sex-pocket so
captivating and enticing that even the most devout priest would be reaching
for the nearest altar boy.
Many other albums have successfully recreated a vintage sound, but Daptone
goes one step further in recreating an authentic mood that flows throughout
the entire disc. More or less, this album is about one thing: sex. It’s
not about making love; it’s about gettin’ your hands in someone’s pants and
doin’ the nasty. In today’s politically correct world, few artists are
willing and able to make such a ballsy musical statement without tactlessly
falling into the realm of misogyny, but Sugarman3 & Co. dive head-first,
going straight for the G-spot.
As if these vintage sounds and statements were not enough, Daptone’s art
department has outdone themselves with a letter-perfect recreation of an
early 1970s album design. The pictures, the font, and the grooving music
all combine to make producer Bosco Mann’s Pure Cane Sugar one
funky-dynamic trip in the way-back machine.