Certain dangers exist in belonging to different music groups on Facebook with the ability to learn about new bands all the time being one of them as this is another case of spending money on an album after someone said good things about it. Ironically, Shake! came recommended through an Action Rock group which isn’t reflective of this soul infused rhythm and blues rock album that appears to be the second by Shake! so I have some additional catching up to do.
Setting the stage and establishing high expectations from the start is exactly what they do with opener ‘Ready to Love.’ The body moving starts from the moment you hit play, and I love the use of the horns here. You may initially think that you have turned on a past album by Otis Redding or James Brown and then Martillo Fontana’s voice comes through the speaker with a combination of a smooth and rough voice that fits the sound perfectly. Pau Rossello’s bass is also front and center in the mix with the drums by Magnel Priego. ‘She’s Dynamite’ continues the brilliance with the horn work by Pol Padros and Jordi Sanjuas front and center at the start, and the guitar work by Cleve Carter is excellent. If the songs don’t have you moving, I would suspect you are tied down somewhere. What the band are doing is not new, but they do it amazingly well. The rhythm becomes a little slower and more deliberate on ‘Getting Stronger’ where you can imagine the venue turning into a dark and smoky dance floor from many decades ago with Fontana turning in an excellent vocal that is enticing and filled with soul. Carter squeezes the notes out of the guitar and lets them linger in the air like a candle on the verge of extinguishing itself.
Turning up the tempo, ‘Shooting Stars’ sounds like a train racing down the track and highlights how great the production and mix are on the album. Every instrument stands out in the mix, and nothing feels lost. Padros and Sanjuas positively rock across this album with this being just one of the highlights as the horns get the song started. ‘I Can’t Wait’ is a larger than life ballad where Fontana gets an opportunity to showcase her amazing vocal. The guitar work is impeccable and really shines in the richness of the mix. Wrapping up the first half of the album is the rocking and grooving instrumental ‘Nightbreed.’ I have a live image in my head of a club in the ’60s with the sweat dripping off the walls, the clouds of smoke hanging just below the ceiling and the band shining through the spotlights. It provides a cool close to the first half of the album.
Kicking off the back half of the album with a cool blues riff, Fontana’s voice is given front and center attention over a rocking beat. While this may not be my favorite on the album, it is highly enjoyable and shows the band working in perfect union with one another. ‘There Was a Time’ has been a favorite since I first heard the album, and that shows no sign of changing. It is a show stopper ballad where Fontana shows a raw emotional vulnerability in her vocal, and her voice in the chorus tears holes in the heart. ‘Stax Rules’ makes it clear that the band has no problem showing where many of their influences originate. Fontana here has me thinking about Sass Jordan where the bluesy sandpaper side of her voice gets more of the focus. The rhythm section leaves you no option but to keep the body shaking and moving.
‘Almighty Fire’ boogies along with more excellent guitar work by Carter, and the horns picking the perfect places to work in-between the rhythm. The chorus is subtle with this song proving to be a sleeping giant that really comes to life the more times you play the album. The melancholy guitar notes of ‘Lie to Me’ give way to the horns and an easy-going beat carry the song along with this being another example of the band taking the timeless soul songs from the ’60s and showcasing how timeless the sound is. Closing with the rowdy ‘Rip It Up’ is the perfect choice as it ends the album with a frenetic closer leaving you hungry to hear the whole record again. If you don’t see the walls of that club I mentioned earlier shaking in your mind, you need to turn it up louder. This serves as another reminder that these six people have an amazing chemistry together.
If you dig the likes of Otis Redding, James Brown, or any of the artists from Stax Records, I cannot recommend an album more deserving of your time. While not as rocking as the likes of the missed Saint Jude, they check off some of the same musical boxes for me while also providing an excellent album to play in the middle of the night. This album will get your hips shaking and could soundtrack some magic nights in your life for years to come.
‘Grasping the Roots’ is available now.
Buy ‘Grasping The Roots’ Here
Author: Gerald Stansbury