New-York based Daptone records are best known for their relationship and collaboration with Sharon Jones, and rightly so because that is a band on top form. However, among other bands to emerge, one merits our attention, the Budos Band, and have sought to fuse funk flavours of the 1970s with hard rock and even heavy metal guitar. If the combination seems bizarre, one only needs to think back to the psychedelic soul and funk era of the Temptations under Norman Whitfield, or Earth, Wind and Fire and Sly and the Family Stone at their very best, or even the regular guitars solos of the 1970s Isley Brothers canon, and of course Rick James did likewise and scored major hits in the process. Even jazz musicians of the calibre of George Duke have, on occasion, incorporated guitar solos to great effect on their major works.
With this in mind, then, the previous three albums by the Budos Band have been instrumental outings with the emphasis firmly on the dancefloor whereas the new recording seeks more of a cross-fertilisation with rockier grooves and this meets with mixed results, both good and bad. In general, the distorted rock guitar solos do grate on the ear and ideally could have been toned down a tad. In terms of their previous sound, the number ‘Tomahawk’ is closest to the Afro-funk flavours of the past. A fascinating piece that takes that Afro-Beat connection one step further is the deeply evocative piece ‘Into the Fog’ which has definite hints of Fela Kuti in the use of eerie organ and features the collective brass as a mock foghorn to convey the arrival of a train on a foggy and misty night. The number develops into a shuffling beat and this is where the fusion works best for the Budos Band. By far the most melodic numbers unencumbered by other influences are the pair of mid-tempo instrumentals, ‘Trail of Tears’ and ‘Shattered Winds’. Both pieces excel in the use of percussion and have something of an Ethio-jazz feel to them. It would be a good idea for the Budos Band to replicate that sound throughout an entire album. Afro-Beat and rock combine on ‘The Sticks’ which, although rock-driven, still retains a funky back beat in the rhythm section. Overall, then, a band with a distinctive sound, but one that just needs some tinkering in order to attract a wider audience.