This is the Funk-Soul debut by uber-funk guru Larry Graham’s second (and arguably better) band, Graham Central Station. Being a bass player, I was extremely excited to see what GCS had to offer. I mean, Larry Graham invented slapping. How cool is that?
Very. Unfortunately, I can’t quite say the same thing for the album. It starts with an extremely well arranged a-capella with cheesy lyrics about the band waiting to play their songs. Not a bad start. As expected, the album is carried by Larry Graham’s dramatic and powerful bass-lines and singing. Speaking of which, I think he has one of the great voices of the 70’s and 80’s, which has sadly (but understandably, perhaps) been overshadowed by his status as a bass titan. It’s a powerful baritone that really fills a lot of space. Fantastic.
Speaking of the bass, Larry Graham’s tone is very different from today’s slap bass sound. You’d think it’d be like Flea, but less modern. But it’s VERY different. Much woodier, and not as steely. I like its ability of simultaneously hold a flatfootedly massive bottom end, while still venturing up the fretboard.
‘Hair’ is something of a landmark song. A classic bass riff that really gets the endorphins pumping carries the song, with Larry Graham’s baritone. Oh, and Chaka Khan is also AWESOME on this song- even though she is somewhat unsettlingly credited as ‘Chocolate’. Creepy. ‘We Be Getting Down’ is a terrible song by comparison, which amply showcases the downsides of lush arrangements and ornate singing by err….Chocolate. It’s used to cover up a lack of strong melody and lack of a strong groove. This is a recurring problem with this album. Chill out with the messy wall of sound, dude. I was actually relieved at the guitar solo in ‘People’, ‘cause the overly lush arrangements dropped out for a while.
The album should have been more sparsely arranged; I find too many voices, guitars, keyboards and horns jostling for space. Being Graham’s band, the bass towers over anything and everything, but that kinda leaves the rest of the arrangements a bit muddy. There’s too much counterpoint going on. It detracts from some strong melodies.
The best songs are dominated by the bass, thus subverting layer upon shitty layer of horns, keys and guitars i.e. ‘Hair’ and ‘Ain’t No fun to me’. I was expecting great things and fresh inspiration, but I got none, apart from these two songs, both of which I already knew. I say, download these two songs only, and spare yourself the trouble of sifting through some of the other gilded crap that does not sound right.
– El Bajista
For more of LARRY GRAHAM doing Christian Propoganda, click HERE. (Nothing else done yet.)
For more guys slapping a bass with an open E-String, click HERE.