Shades of Stax/Volt and Muscle Shoals! Shades of the glory of horns and the rise of funk! Shades of…of… Willie Murphy, who somehow has captured the sound and feel of the past and brought it into the present, almost without my knowing it. No, this isn't vintage, though some of the songs are out of the past. This is full-on R&B cranked out by musicians who love it and love playing it. This is a hybrid of rock, R&B, soul and funk taken to the next level. This is, like disc one of this two-disc set says, a shot of love (In the time of need was Willie's idea).
Did I mention horns? They're here in various combinations and colors and ready to blow you away. A bit of Stax, a smidgen of Motown, a shot of Muscle Shoals—this is what horns were made for! The band proves it right off the bat on the excellent Allen Toussaint tune Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On), a rendition which would have New Orleans dancing in the streets. They reach back into the past for the classic Land of 1000 Dances and Life Is But a Dream and prove that the past is not always the past. They even skirt alongside Funkadelic territory with the spacey and eerie Mud Puddle, a nine-minute-plus mind trip with groove-as-base, the theme every bit as impressive as the many just short of mind-blowing variations. They don't teach you this kind of stuff in school, my friends. It just happens. What happened on disc one should happen more often.
Same goes for disc two, titled Autobiographical Notes. Pardon me while I plagiarize the liner notes which tell you much better than I can what it is all about: "A bunch of miscellaneous songs (mostly folky) that never seemed to fit on any of the albums," Murphy writes. "I do perform some of these songs whenever the gig is right for them. Others were written for films or just for fun and are seldom performed, but I like 'em anyway." Well, I like 'em too, Willie. I like 'em a lot. From the slow and bluesy cover of Fred Neil's Dolphins to the experimental and rambling-within-a-structure Ramblin' Revo and the strangely straight folk offering, Voice In the Night, Willie gives us tracks from another time and another world—a world all his own. These are tracks he saved, waiting for the right moment and a project in which he could place them side by side without raising eyebrows. These are the kinds of tracks collector's wait for and search after.
Willie Murphy has an aura about him. His voice while not perfect is perfect for his songs. He is a hybrid of Dr. John and Leon Russell with a dash of early Motown tossed in for good measure. He is a cauldron of R&B and blues and gospel and funk and soul and a bunch of other musical styles all tossed into one musician. He is a multi-instrumentalist and multi-talented. He is good. Damn good. At moments, he is even better than that. So why in the hell have I not heard of him before now? Doesn't matter, really. I have now and that's what counts. I'll get my fill of this eventually (it will take a long while, though, as these two discs are packed with solid music). Then it will be time to do some backtracking. I mean, this is a great start, but there has to be more Willie Murphy out there somewhere awaiting discovery and after hearing this, you can bet I'll be doing just that. I'll be the guy elbowing you out of the way when you grab for that old Willie Murphy album. Don't worry. I'll apologize. But I won't let you take it. Some music belongs in my collection where it can be properly appreciated, don't you know, and Willie deserves that much. At the very least.
Track List: A Shot Of Love In a Time of Need
Track List: Autobiographical Notes
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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