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Published: 2005/08/08
by Brian Ferdman

This Is What We Do – The New Mastersounds

3 on the B Records 003

The brainchild of British guitarist Eddie Roberts, The New Mastersounds began as a sprawling funk ensemble with Parliament-Funkadelic leanings. Now they've trimmed the fat and pared down into a tight four-piece with a nasty instrumental groove. The comparisons to The Meters (and by default, early Galactic) are both obvious and valid, as Roberts and company readily admit to idolizing the pioneering soul-funk quartet from New Orleans. After a gig opening for Karl Denson (a guest on this album) in Chicago and a recently torrented High Sierra performance, Americans are starting to get hip to four of the funkiest lads from across the pond.

The sound of This Is What We Do is decidedly retro, thanks to drummer Simon Allen’s ability to create a sticky pocket of groove. His snare and hi-hat work overtime on the hard-bopping "Pure," with plenty of drum breaks thrown in to kept your ass moving. Organist Bob Birch oozes with soul, especially on the slinking and naughty "Afternoon at Gigi’s," but he also mans the piano to unleash a cornucopia of soul in the Latin-flavored "The Tin Drum," a track that is definitely aided by the flourishes of guest percussionist Sam Bell.

While Pete Shand's bass may not be revolutionary, his fingers are nimble, his lines are rock-solid, and in the case of a wicked boogaloo-style cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Ain't No Telling," Shand is the engine that moves the train. As for Roberts, he is clearly an attentive student of late 1960s funk and soul. Without ever sounding kitchy, his production truly recreates the sound of Sea Saint Studios, circa 1969. And the dude can flat-out play guitar. With one foot on the wah-wah pedal and two fingers that love staccato, his rhythms somehow seem both familiar and original, constantly tossing in those little novel hooks that this music craves. You can't get much more hook-laden than the incredibly addictive badass strut known as "The Vandenburg Suite," a sick and heavily grooving anthem that could rival any song to ever come out of the Crescent City.

Roberts' ever-changing career has seen him excel at re-creating vintage sounds, but as some of the darker tracks on This Is What We Do suggest, his music has a unique and boldly soulful voice. Cuts like "The Land of Nod" seem to hint at the future for his group, a marriage of old-school funk with space-age sounds. Once Roberts feels comfortable enough to release from the comforts of the retro vibe, the comparisons to The Meters will stop, and he and his cohorts will have forged their own path. While they may not yet be masters, this band clearly has the confidence and skill to hang with the big boys, and This Is What We Do appears to only scratch the surface of their immense potential.

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