Lake Street Dive - Fun Machine
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So many bands tend to fall back on easy covers projects when their originals well has run dry, but this is not the case for Lake Street Dive on their new EP, Fun Machine (Signature Sounds), is a project with five covers and one original song. Lake Street Dive, a quartet of musicians who connected while students at Boston's New England Conservatory, bring a fresh flavor to the covers canon while maintaining each song’s original vibe. Lake Street Dive’s instrumental mixes and lead vocalist, Rachael Price (who has a vocal flexibility that at times will have you thinking she's a little Amy Winehouse and at others a bit Bonnie Raiitt), are truly in a league of their own.
The EP makes a strong start with "Faith" from George Michael's first solo album released in 1987. With a fun, thumping double bass, played by Bridget Kearney, drumming duties held down by Mike Calabrese, and Mike "McDuck" Olsen's bright trumpet as a counterpoint to Price's vocals, Lake Street Dive give "Faith" a twist from pop song into a celebratory song you might hear in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Next up is the only original song on the project, "Clear a Space," which has such a familiar feel to it, you may think you've heard this song before, making it a perfect fit for this covers project. A catchy hook and lilting vocals make this song a foot-tapper, but the meaningful lyrics give it a contemporary feel of today, not yesterday.
The shining star of this EP is the next track, "I Want You Back," and this is not the beloved 1969 Jackson 5 version of yore. Lake Street Dive has an adult take on loss with a slowed down, double bass driven bottom and a sultry yet pleading vocal by Ms. Price; Olsen's trumpet again plays a warm counterpoint to Price’s glide. The band recently did a performance for NPR and upon hearing them perform this song, this reviewer immediately purchased their first CD from 2007, In This Episode…, and their follow up self-titled CD from 2010, both worthy projects.
Next up is a spare but faithful arrangement of Hall & Oates 1976 hit, "Rich Girl," featuring vocals and trumpet as the stars of the song. It felt odd to hear this song feature a solo vocal, but it works because the throughout this project, the trumpet is the un-named background singer in this band. Followed up with "This Magic Moment" the legendary song originally performed by The Drifters in 1960 with that magical vocal by Ben E. King, the band manages to succeed in bringing a fresh take by giving the arrangement a calypso flavor with that sweet trumpet again accompanying Price’s fine vocal. Finishing up the project is a great take on Wings classic rocker from 1974, "Let Me Roll It." With the killer double-bass line, horn and harmony on top of a vocal that sounds like Bonnie Raitt circa 1977, this version comes off as hot and steamy.
Listening to this project was a joyful experience and truly gives you the feeling of being at a party where the band members have known each other a long time and intuitively know how to work with each other to get to their best while also making the crowd happy. If you want to see more of their live performances, check them out on YouTube, where there are plenty to watch. You may want to see them live the next time they are in your town! Highly Recommended.
By Colleen Rubino