Thursday, August 18, 2016

James Brown Is Annie - Merchants Hall, Edinburgh, 14 August 2016

Regular readers will know that now and then I describe a band or a song as "funky". By which I usually mean there's a particular mix of swing, syncopation and danceability going on. Well that's not James Brown Is Annie. Don't get me wrong, JBIA do all those things - but they put them together to produce a sound that's hot buttered, "Where's The One?", FUNNKAAYY!
James Brown Is Annie get their name from an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine, apparently.  Whatever, they constitute 2 guitars, 2 saxes (tonight at least), keyboards, bass and drums,
Ahmed Remally and Jonny White look for the bridge
with lead vocals from Ahmed Remally of a rich and laid back quality that recalls Gil Scott Heron.  And they’re devoted to the kind of grooves purveyed by James Brown himself, the Average White Band and Steely Dan.
As with Charlotte Marshall & The 45s gig in the same venue last week, the acoustics  take some getting used to.  The more trebly guitar parts sound, but when Eddie Miller's keys lean towards the bottom end they seem to be buried in the mix.
But hey, let's hear it for the bass man!  Creative bass playing that’s right in the pocket is essential to good funk, and whatever sound issues there may be, Brett Allan’s bass cuts through them and show that he knows his funk onions.
The funk is wide-ranging as well, folding in Southern rock facets in a Little Feat kind of way on ‘Jane Badler’ (titled, bizarrely, after the actress who played the arch villain in the original version of the sci-fi telly series V).  Meanwhile ‘Thomas Wolfe Is Right’ sounds like someone went to sleep listening to The Band’s ‘Rag Mama Rag’, then woke up and wrote a funk track – again with a Little Feat feel, plus some nice slide guitar and sweet guitar harmonies for good measure.
A cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me’ features nice interplay between Remally’s guitar and the horns, while Eddie Miller’s piano – audible on this occasion – brings up the rear effectively.  Allan’s bass continues to be irrepressible, and they stick in a slick key change to good effect.
‘Got That Crazy Feelin’’ keeps up the momentum of their second session, showing that they know how to build a set, and featuring a scudding slide solo and a neat shift into double time to boot.  ‘Popcorn’ highlights a wailing sax solo, and some Santana-esque guitar from Remally – in spite of the fact that the whammy bar falls off his Strat.
James Brown Is Annie are a bit of a scruffy bunch, truth to be told.  A bit more sense of style wouldn’t go amiss – more Hawaiian shirts, sharp suits and skinny ties please, gents!  But when it comes to laying down the funk, they sound the business.  “Oh yeah, uh huh!”  As their enigmatically titled song ‘Yasmine Bleet Plays Drums For The Fat Boys’ would have it.

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