Chops'N Soul - Gimme the Grease (2017)

Chops'N Soul
gimme_the_grease_chops_n_soul.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Chops N Soul - Gimme The Grease

If you grew up listening to the funk of Parliament, the rap of Sugarhill Records or Public Enemy, the folk of  Bob Dylan, the rock of The Rolling Stones and The Police, the smooth, Philly sound of Patti LaBelle or the R&B of Alicia Keys, you’ve heard the Chops Horns – either individually or as a collective. The Chops Horns are the ultimate, ‘you may not know them, but you know their music’ ensemble. Don’t believe me? Go to their Web page and look at the discography. For nearly 40 years they’ve lent their horns to work ranging from Parliament’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome in 1977 to Keys’ 28,000 Days in 2015, so it’s safe to assume that you, or your parents or grandparents had them on repeat at some point.

Chops N Soul - Gimme The Grease

If you grew up listening to the funk of Parliament, the rap of Sugarhill Records or Public Enemy, the folk of  Bob Dylan, the rock of The Rolling Stones and The Police, the smooth, Philly sound of Patti LaBelle or the R&B of Alicia Keys, you’ve heard the Chops Horns – either individually or as a collective. The Chops Horns are the ultimate, ‘you may not know them, but you know their music’ ensemble. Don’t believe me? Go to their Web page and look at the discography. For nearly 40 years they’ve lent their horns to work ranging from Parliament’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome in 1977 to Keys’ 28,000 Days in 2015, so it’s safe to assume that you, or your parents or grandparents had them on repeat at some point.

The Chops Horns’ story actually began at Sugarhill Records at the infancy of rap music’s entry into the commercial market. The group provided the horns for many of that label’s classic rap songs, including “8th Wonder,” “Apache” and “It’s Nasty.” That led to more than three decades backing everyone from Luther Vandross to Aretha Franklin.

A meeting between chops founder Darryl Dixon and leader David Watson with vocalist, keyboard player and producer Joel Parisien resulted in the Chops Horns getting their name on an album cover rather than their accustomed and honored spot in the album credits. That album Gimme the Grease, has been released under the name Chops ‘N Soul, uniting the Chops Horns with Parisien, trombonist Fred Wesley, drummer Dennis Chambers and keyboardist Bernie Worrell. The inclusion of Worrell – who is one of the many music legends who died in 2016 making this perhaps the last project he worked on, adds poignancy to this fun and funky project.

All of these performers have been around for a while. Dixon, Worrell, Wesley and Chambers were all a part of the P-Funk family 1970s, and Wesley played with James Brown before that. Yet the group wears their old head status like a badge of honor. That comes through on the rollicking “Old School,” a track that features Worrell on keys. He may have been terminally ill at the time, but it is clear that his mind and fingers remained at the height of creativity. Parisien uses the lyrics to give a funky dress down to a youngster: “I may be old school/But I know how to dance/Know how to pull up my pants/Now let me show you a thing or to/I may be old enough to be your dad/But I’d rather be old school/Than a brand new fad.”

Consecutive tracks “Ghosts or New Orleans” and “Little Birdie” find the Chops and Parisien taking listeners on a vocal trip to the bayou. The former sports a percussive, New Orleans shuffle arrangement augmented by blaring trumpets and hand claps, while Parisien’s raspy baritone digs deep into that place where sacred and profane intersect to construct a story of how his flirtations with the devil’s music have estranged him from the cathedral. The latter opens with a whistle before diving deep into some deep funk that includes great individual performances by trombonist Wesley and Chambers on the drums. The song uses birds chirping as a metaphor for rumor mongers giving a guy needed but not always welcome intel on his lady. “A little birdie told me last night/Something that you said/You know words get around on the wings of a bird/A little birdie told me last night/That I ain’t got no bread/And you’re the kind of girl who wants to see the world.”

The title track is the ultimate throwback to the time when bands ruled the world, and that meant that the vocalists had to get out of the way and let the instrumentalists get some shine. “Gimme the Grease” includes flutes, some hard core trumpet work and a gospel tinged playing on the electric organ.

The words that we use to describe projects like Gimme the Grease don’t do them justice. We rely on terms such as throwback and retro that both honor and prepare them for the museum. However, the work on Gimme the Grease is alive and vibrant because hearing a group of supremely talented artists collaborate energizes you and serves as a reminder that being an analog guy in a digital world ain’t bad. It ain’t bad at all. Highly Recommended

By Howard Dukes 

 
Listening Room - Eric Roberson - "Wind"
CD of the Month - James Day - Song, Soul & Spirit
Listening Room - Stokley - Introducing Stokley

Leave a comment!