All the Way Live – Vinyl
Fog Shack Music 1450992
Fewer bands have a more fitting name than Vinyl. Their sound blends body moving percussion, ripping guitar licks, smooth horns, and hip-shaking Hammond work to create everything from tight funk grooves, to Afro-Cuban rhythms, to dub, to straight-up reggae, to good old rock n’ roll. With their latest release, All The Way Live, recorded over two nights at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Vinyl preserves the spirit of their namesake not just in their music, but in the innovative album packaging as well. The cover art of a flooded temple and the sea creatures that inhabit it, along with a winged and clawed Victrola-beast, evokes the feel of the big old school gatefold record albums, complete with psychedelia and fantasy landscapes.
The most noticeable thing about this tight-as-a-drum seven-piece is the fact that their sound never gets boring, mostly because their songs never get boring. They just start on a basic groove, and then some or all of their players take leads one at a time, letting each song take twists and turns around its main theme. They keep it all exciting and fresh, by not letting themselves fall into the realm of repetitive simple songs that limits so many groove-based bands.
On All The Way Live, Vinyl is joined by a slew of guest musicians, including Huey Lewis, Bernie Worrell, Rob Wasserman, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Cochemea Gastelum. Since Vinyl is an instrumental group, they bring in several guest vocalists to give more variety to their songs. Sugar Pie’s unmistakable vocals on ‘In The Basement’ immediately transport the listener to a smoke-filled basement R&B club. Pop legend Huey Lewis lends his talents not vocally, but with his harmonica, on the awesomely titled ‘Skumbo,’ a New Orleans style tune who’s intro seems to draw influence from the theme songs of old sitcoms like Blossom and Mr. Belvedere.
The reggae side of Vinyl shows up on tunes like "Things I Could Do," the rootsy "Truth and Rights," featuring guest vocalist Jethro Jeremiah, and "Mokpok," a dubbed out powerhouse of a tune. Vinyl even seems to have a bit of a ska influence, visible on tracks like "Mole Rat" and, to a lesser extent, in the relaxed funk of "Whedawedat."
The backbone of Vinyl is no doubt, the funk, and they bring it in every way possible. Funk drips off of tunes like the ripping "Animal 57," and the oddly edited album closer "Vinyl Party." On "Turtle," the absolute best song on the album, they blend oozing organ funk with vintage ’70s guitar sounds and raging hand drums as the song builds to a reggae-tinged ending that gives the listener no choice but to bop along. Even if Vinyl isn’t for you, there is no denying the absolutely mind-blowing tightness of this relatively young ensemble. The booty-shaking grooves of All The Way Live is a perfect snapshot of the total dance party that Vinyl brings with them wherever they play. This band is something special, with a future so bright, they better wear shades.