Camera Soul - Dress Code (2015)

Camera Soul
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How does a group overcome being categorized simply as a “retro” act? Well, one way is to avoid falling into the trap of being a cover band, or more so a tribute band. So, that means write original music, but even then a group is going to be marked as having a sound set in a certain era. Is that so bad seeing how music fans in general and soul music fans in particular pine for an organic – some might say – analog sound that is largely missing from the mainstream?

The best way to overcome talk of being derivative is for a band to be simply good at what it does, and nobody will can argue that the brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo – the guiding forces behind the Italian band Camera Soul - haven’t assembled a very good band that has mastered the lush, brassy, jazz infused arrangements that dominated American airwaves throughout the 1970s.

How does a group overcome being categorized simply as a “retro” act? Well, one way is to avoid falling into the trap of being a cover band, or more so a tribute band. So, that means write original music, but even then a group is going to be marked as having a sound set in a certain era. Is that so bad seeing how music fans in general and soul music fans in particular pine for an organic – some might say – analog sound that is largely missing from the mainstream?

The best way to overcome talk of being derivative is for a band to be simply good at what it does, and nobody will can argue that the brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo – the guiding forces behind the Italian band Camera Soul - haven’t assembled a very good band that has mastered the lush, brassy, jazz infused arrangements that dominated American airwaves throughout the 1970s.

Oh, that’s the other thing. Nowadays, live funk, soul and R&B bands are best if based in or principally serving the Europe or Asia markets, as soul fans in those countries – or at least the music industry in those overseas markets – are far more open to advancing the kind of music that the Lombardo brothers produced for Dress Code, Camera Soul’s latest recording.

Of course, the above observation has been made by plenty of others and is a recurring topic that consumes a lot of hard drive or cloud space. Suffice it to say that Camera Soul takes full advantage of their knowledge that their music has a receptive market. The music on Dress Code has a sound that is both complex and relaxed. It begins with the lead vocals Maria Enrica Lotesoriere, sounding like Basia might sound if she did a guest spot with Incognito to the tempo changes and instrumental solos on tracks such as “This Rain” that have a live, impromptu feel.

That album’s best song and one that would be a fine addition to American radio is the magnificent and dreamy “More and More.” The track sports a breezy and wide open arrangement that gives Lotesoriere ample space to embrace the lyrics that tell a narrative about a woman who embraces those moments when she is alone. Jazz-influenced piano flourishes share space with a soulful organ, while the rhythm section of drummer Fabio Delle Foglie and bassist Beppe Sequestro provide a relaxed foundation.

Camera Soul showcases their ability to perform in a variety of styles on Dress Code, from the bassa nova heard on “Eu Quero Sambar,” disco featured in “Bring Me Back,” to the mid-tempo funk heard on the track “Colors of the Music.” The Lombardo brothers and Camera Soul transform Dress Code into an entertaining and unapologetic retrospective of an era that is both loved and somewhat under appreciated. And Dress Code is simply fun listening. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes 

 
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