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Published: 2005/07/07
by Dan Greenhaus

Expandin’ The Funkin’ Universe – PBS

The idea of PBS entering the studio to record an album is an interesting one. For one thing, the three musicians comprising the band — bassist George Porter, drummer Russell Batiste, and guitarist Brian Stoltz — have consistently made a name for themselves on the live circuit as three-quarters of The Funky Meters, the modern day version of The Meters, and one of the best live acts on the planet. Additionally, the band isn’t full time, per se, and — as a result — their song repertoire hasn’t filled out as much as it otherwise would.
But, since forming PBS, the three have taken much of what makes The Funky Meters successful and built on it to form their own style. Their live shows are known for their ferocious and lengthy takes on the both the band’s original material and the various covers they choose. (If you’ve never seen them do "Voodoo Child," you are really missing something.) In fact, it wouldn’t be unusual to see several 20 minute or half-hour jams on one evening covering several different styles of music.

On the other hand, Porter, Batiste, and Stoltz are hardly unfamiliar with the studio and its inherent differences from the live setting. But the real question is whether they could rein in their penchant for jamming in an effort to craft interesting and concise songs without losing the power that drives the songs in the first place.
And on their release, Expanding The Funkin’ Universe, they succeed in far more places than they fail. The album kicks off with three of the band’s strongest songs; ‘Bring The Flood,’ ‘All We Wanna Do’ and ‘Take A Chance.’ The three songs, and really the whole album, serve as an introduction to the band, with heavy doses of the deep, deep funk and soaring rock that make PBS one of the most interesting and exciting bands around today.
That’s not to say those three songs are the "best" on the album. The band slows it down at points, notably on "I Believe" and "Sugar for Me" which, while sounding considerably different from the three introductory tracks, still sound distinctly PBS, even if Brian’s guitar playing on the former owes more to Jimi Hendrix (as it often does) than to Leo Nocentelli.
But it’s that dichotomy that defines PBS and makes them the force that they are slowly becoming. "Waiting for Wings" is yet another song that features "all" of PBS. The band’s excellent vocals are present as are Porter’s stunningly heavy bass playing, Batiste’s exceptional drumming and Stoltz’s always jaw-dropping guitar work. As the band sings "Are we waiting for wings to fly?" one marvels at how high this band might actually go.

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