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Published: 2004/04/27
by Glenn Alexander

Exercising the Demons – Big Fuzz

Harmonized Records 16

This is not the Fuzz we might have been expecting. With On the Corner with Fuzz, the guitarist created a fully realized funk-soul record that surpassed anything Deep Banana Blackout ever released, seemingly confirming our suspicion that Fuzz had come into his true form as a forceful purveyor of funk and soul music. It was fresh with a vintage atmosphere. I wish I never heard that record.

Hearing Exercising the Demons is like listening to an amalgam of tried and true musical ideas coming together under quite able hands, but getting weighed down by a lack of cohesiveness. Fuzz has kept most of his funk roots ("Still Around," "Enough," "God Knows"), but has mixed in musical themes more associated with 1970s rock ‘n’ roll, modern blues, soul, and gospel. He’s singing a lot more on this record, taking a stab at creating a more thorough experience for the listener through his impassioned, voice and lyrical stylings. Here, Fuzz has replaced much of the booty-shaking, jazz-tinged funk excursions for a more familiar, radio-friendly atmosphere.

While the band is red hot and Fuzz's guitar playing has certainly held steady, the limitations in the album's thematic diversity tends to muffle the bare-bones talent of all the players. For instance, "Next2U" and "Walk" are, in many ways, the same song, rehashing musical ideas in a context that are just too similar for either to be unique. It's too bad; "Walk" easily has the best chorus on the album, a group choir moving like a wave with the gyration of the soul/blues beat behind it.

Some songs work quite well, like "Together," which balances funk, blues, and Fuzz's poignant singing quite well, offering a good kick off to the album. "Still Around," which follows, has a positively sizzling solo from Fuzz, which rides on the punchy horn lines underneath. It seems when he's focusing on the groove, things tend to work out, but for the most part, the lyrics drag the album to a lower level than it really deserves.

While the singular aspect of On the Corner has been replaced with a more hybrid sound that can’t quite get past its influences, Exercising the Demons succeeds in places that the last album does not. It manages to move a bit easier from beginning to end and also shows Fuzz’s incredible talent as a guitarist more completely. There are some themes that get played out, but overall Fuzz manages to just walk the line between the world he has created and his influences. He seems to have found a new kind of formula to exercise his talents, fearlessly moving ahead while also incorporating some older tricks. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s a pretty tasty one.

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