That spark, that vivacious energy, that rambunctious exuberance that teems through a person when they are young and just going for it fuels Chicago’s The Heard on it its fantastic self-titled debut album.
The Heard are hard-charging funk coming from the Midwest that is totally seeped in the 1960s and 1970s deep-pocket sound of The Meters, Issac Hayes and Funkadelic. But Parris Fleming (trumpet), Bryant Smith (trombone) and Lucas Ellman (saxophone), Taras Horalewskyj (guitar), Cole DeGenova (keyboard, vocals), PJ Howard (drums) and Mike Starr (bass) have no interest in treading on the trodden trails of those legends. They pay their thanks, but they are going off in their own direction that only looks ahead and powers on to the horizon.
They start off so saucy and cool on “The Weight (Part 1),” with DeGenova’s lush keyboards spewing out all over Howard and Starr’s thick groove, which is punctuated by the horns’ greasy pipes. It is an entrancing opening to the album and definitely has you completely excited about what Part 2 might sound like. “The Weight (Part 2)” charges in with the band high-stepping into a smooth keyboard-bass groove that harkens back to vintage Stevie Wonder before blossoming into a warm, billowing rhythm. When the the band drops the beat and sings, “Just give me the weight/ I’m sure that you’ll feel better” in harmony it gives you the fuzzies, and then the weight is finally lifted off you when Horalewskyj delivers an impassioned solo that is full of so much gospel and soul.
That heavenly attitude falls oh, so splendidly into temptation on “Gimme Gimme” as the band plays around with the song’s flirtatious bounce. DeGenova sings with such heat you know he is getting what he wants and he pairs that heat with a chilly solo on piano that just nails home his satisfaction. Hearing him play that piano, you are reminded how much synthesizers and more electronic-sounding keyboards are abundant in funk music today and it’s nice to get the spiked punch that piano can provide.
Solid piano play can be heard again on “Safari Time,” though everyone in the band knocks that one out the park. Horalewskyj and DeGenova’s tag-team lick burrows deep into your soul and it hits the spot like the first buzz of a bee. DeGenova than hits you with a furious piano section that kicks the whole band into a frenzy and the song unfolds into a frenetic rhythm, that first buzz turning into glorious night on the town.
This band can just swing and there are no two ways about it. “Surfin” is an intensely, slick groove that wouldn’t make you think twice if you heard it on the B-side of a Issac Hayes single. “Poppin Off” does exactly what its title implies and is led by the peppering brass of Flemming, Smith and Ellman, with Ellman, particularly, delivering a spine-tingling solo that kicked the song to another level.
The Heard laid down an incredible debut album and this needs to be heard and it will be heard, because nothing this alive can ever die.
- The Heard
Notable Tracks: “Safari Time,” “Gimme Gimme,” “The Weight (Part 2)”