I dig songwriter-musician Saoul Bumbu’s latest album, The Juice, for a reason similar to why I have a problem with much of modern Pop music recordings: the songs — even the ones performed by highly competent musicians — sound like the artists are simply playing by the numbers. And you then wonder if the culprit is a planned act of pococurantism, or the number of executable ideas being sifted by some misguided yearning to be radio-friendly.
The Juice does more than jam — it sounds like Saoul is committed to putting in the kind of work that compels you to join in the fun he’s clearly having. He wants you to dance.
Saoul’s deliberate creative messaging throughout the album seems clear: sure, the world can really suck at times while bordering on dangerous at others. Never forget that. But also don’t forget that you need Dance, Music, Sex and Romance in this short life.
Speaking of the The One and Only, Saoul’s Purple reverence is clear and impressive. Overall, the album’s funky sensuality is heavy but never saccharinated. The thoughtful, ear-grabbing breaks on each track make you wonder what kind of party went down in Saoul’s studio the other night.
The opening track “Souffle,” sets the mood with dripping hot dance vibes over a classic 4/4 Minneapolis Funk groove — produced for 2017, mind you.
The fate-driven “August Orange” is a message ripe for these times; its passionate immediacy is charged with sunny New Wave Pop, and the inspirational reverence displayed in “She Said” conjures up imagery from Karen Senafu’s The Black Woman is God exhibit. I love the funky vamp that closed out the latter track.
“Come On” — my documented introduction to Saoul’s music — is on this release and remains a sexy Electro-Boogie ride that you want on the dancefloor.
“Shades” tells the story of intimate curiosity that’s more than a “Ham sandwich / And a piece of ass.” ‘Nuff said. Listen to the track to see what I mean.
I mentioned in my first post on Saoul’s music that he has an impressive stylistic range, and he continues to make that point with the modern Fusion sound of “Plain to See,” the R&B-smooth stomper “Take a Little Time” and the bouncy Beatles-imbued “Mixed Signals.”
Both parts of “I Found You” work lovely here, but the annoyingly-brief, Psychedelic Funk of the reprise version is the relative scorcher of the two.
The Juice delivers the kind of “dance as if everyone should watch” probity in a Pop world stricken with music anemia. You need this album in your ear. And that (shaking) booty. Available now on Bandcamp.