Bunny Sigler - Bundino (2015)

Bunny Sigler
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Bunny Sigler’s musical career extends from the first generation of rock and roll all the way up to Jay-Z, so the Philadelphia native has performed everything from doo-wop to hip-hop. Sigler uses all of those influences on his latest album, the traditional, risky, and sometimes slightly risqué Bundino.

Sigler definitely carries multiple identities and he is comfortable with them. He’s a producer and songwriter who helped to craft the classic Philly sound at Philadelphia International Records, where he worked with artists ranging from The O’Jays to Patti LaBelle, for whom he wrote “Love, Need and Want You.” He’s a lead vocalist who cut his first songs in 1959 and performed duets with legends such as Barbara Mason.

Bunny Sigler’s musical career extends from the first generation of rock and roll all the way up to Jay-Z, so the Philadelphia native has performed everything from doo-wop to hip-hop. Sigler uses all of those influences on his latest album, the traditional, risky, and sometimes slightly risqué Bundino.

Sigler definitely carries multiple identities and he is comfortable with them. He’s a producer and songwriter who helped to craft the classic Philly sound at Philadelphia International Records, where he worked with artists ranging from The O’Jays to Patti LaBelle, for whom he wrote “Love, Need and Want You.” He’s a lead vocalist who cut his first songs in 1959 and performed duets with legends such as Barbara Mason.

His music has been introduced to a new generation through samples by hip-hop groups such as Outkast, and he co-wrote “The Ruler’s Back” with Jay-Z. So Sigler has no problem with shaking things up, and he demonstrates his comfort with envelope pushing throughout Bundino. Sigler employs modern hip-hop/R&B production techniques on tracks such as “Keep On Stepping,” one of the cuts that features a collaboration with a rapper. Those songs co-exist easily with the hard core funk and fun of “Buttermilk and Cornbread,” a track that has the feel of the JB’s, and dreamy love ballads such as “When I Think of You,” which has the feel of a tune Sigler might have written or contributed background vocals to during the halcyon days at PIR. The cut brings to mind soulmates looking back on good and bad times and embracing the truth that they’d do nothing differently.

The 74-year old Sigler’s tenor proves to be pleasingly strong and rangy on tracks such as soulful begging track “Forgive and Forget,” where he impressively moves into falsetto range during the chorus. “Now That I Gotcha Back” is another throwback ballad that could have a strong presence on Adult UC radio. Again, Sigler’s voice stands out as tenor ranges from sweet and soulful to a gospel inspired growl on a track that finds him expressing joy that his lady turns out to be the forgiving type.

The risks that Sigler takes are thematic on tracks such as the idealistic “Red, Yellow, Black or White,” and the geriatric fantasy “Call 911.” “Call 911” is a beautiful mess of a tune that is equally funny, disturbing and revealing of the zeitgeist of our time. Sigler sets a scene where he is in the midst of a tryst involving multiple women who are a third his age, along with drugs and animal sounds. This is a fantasy made possible by those Viagra pills that get hawked during commercial breaks of TV, so it’s easy to dismiss this as the low T version of those testosterone driven fantasies that have turned R&B into a parental advisory zone. However, that instinct will be tempered by the fact that somewhere some old dude is trying this at home. The thing that prevents “Call 911” from becoming the AARP version of “Blurred Lines” is Sigler’s self-awareness that acting on his fantasy is leading him into unchartered territory and he might not be able to get back. The song’s title hints at the possibility that things could go horribly wrong, so when Sigler sings “I don’t ever want to go home,” that could actually happen. I really don’t know how I feel about that track. My view changes literally with every listen.

"Red, Yellow, Black or White" is an up-tempo track that sports a percussive Afro-Latin arrangement and finds Sigler defiantly declaring that true love is color blind. “Just because your eyes are blue/Doesn’t mean I can’t kick it with you.”

With its diversity - and even some surprises - Bundino is an album that finds Bunny Sigler putting the experience of a lifetime to good use. It is a welcome return of an artist who still has a lot to say, a half century into his career. And what he has to say makes for enjoyable listening. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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