Monday, June 17, 2013

Big James and the Chicago Playboys The Big Payback

By Phillip Smith

The Big Payback,  recorded live at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club at the Le Meridien Hotel in Paris France, is spirited and electric.  The jazz club experience is definitely captured well on this album.  With Big James pounding out the vocals, and guitarist Mike "Money" Wheeler knocking out a steady stream of awesome guitar licks, the horn section, made up of Big James Montgomery (trombone)  and Charles "Richard" Pryor (trumpet/flugelhorn) provides the icing on the cake.  It just doesn't get much better than this.

Influences of James Brown and George Clinton, two of my favorites, are infused into the title track, 'The Big Payback'', originally by James Brown.  Big James breaks out the funk and for the duration of the song, hosts the spirit of the hardest working man in show biz.    This is one of my favorite tracks.  It's funky, got a nice groove to it, and has these really cool  P-funk style spoken background vocals.   While on the topic of the godfather of funk, we are also treated to a Funkadelic cover, 'I'll Stay'.  This is a really nice cover, the vocals are toned down and smoothed out to set the somber mood of the song, Pryor gives a powerfully cool trumpet solo on this one. 

A couple of interesting covers make the cut.  'Trying to Live My Life Without You' , written by Eugene Williams , but recorded by both Otis Clay and Bob Seger, is a big pleaser.   To my surprise,  at the end, we get a cover of Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' to highlight Wheelers axe welding skills, and to introduce the band.  It's kind of weird to hear 'Smoke on the Water' played with a band such as the Chicago Playboys.  It's a nice change of pace, to hear a different take on this song, which differs immensely from the over-played Deep Purple version as well as the football stadium version.

The next time I am in Chicago, I am definitely going to see if Big James and the Chicago Playboys are playing anywhere.

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