|"Moonshots," this fourth collection from the Blue-Hots, takes them further along the twentieth century timeline of American popular musical styles and lands them in the era of groovy funk, soul, and even gospel. Their jazz roots still rear their heads on every track however, tinting the uptempo series of songs with musical depth. "Moonshots" is an intentional contrast to the laid back mood of the previous album ("Spells"). The resulting sound is an upbeat and exhilerating bash.
The nine tracks on "Moonshots" are presented in the order that they were written, rehearsed, and recorded. The Blue-Hots continue to feature the jazz vocal trio (Ian Kane, Reni Monteverdi, and Carey "Butterball" Evans) on this album, but their voices tend to unwind more here. Each voice is often separated and layered, creating a polyphony different from the usual harmonic unit. The percussion is set free with Fox Smith's R&B influence charging the way, and Dan McMillan's hand drum chops spinning out energetic conga solos. Chris Skelly creatively weaves out bass lines using the full range of his instrument, while Tom Boyce on guitar exuberantly throws out ideas like spatters of colorful paint. Boyce also receives authorship credit for the only instrumental on the album. Ian Kane is the founder, pianist, songwriter, and musical director of the group.
Two Cents: A rollicking instrumental riff gives way to a chunk of big-band type vocal harmonies in this song about all the physical ailments that can accompany a tenuous love interest. Carey Evans sings the prescription: "settle down, take a breath today." Dan McMillan delivers a brief and exhilerating conga solo behind assurances that "you're gonna make it through all right."
Selling Utopia: Blind consumerism is under attack in this number, their most political yet. Monteverde, Kane, and Evans deliver a round robin of complaints about our society's need for greed. The chorus soon jettisons off a ramp with a ranting, "Don't sell us Utopia," and a Zen-like, "everything will just be what it will be." The ruckus washes away like a wave to nothingness, allowing Monteverde's pure spoken word section to hit the listener like a smack of post-modernity.
Knock Me Down: If every Blue-Hots album has a tribute to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, then this tune fills that role. It's hard to know where the chorus is in this collage of hooks with key changes a-plenty. The resulting effect is a swinging roller coaster of a love song that celebrates the admiration you can hold for a true love.
|Dancin': This song is a tribute to the innocence and freedom of childhood. It's based on a circle-time song for pre-schoolers. A series of melodic hooks float by over a hypnotic organ and bass background. The message is that everyone is good at something if they can just be given the keys and free themselves to do it.
Alternate Route: An instrumental is a rare item on a Blue-Hots album, especially one as funky as this one. Written by Tom Boyce, it displays the band as a tight funk unit. Fox Smith is given the keys, and Tom Boyce lights it on fire with a rippling guitar solo. Ian Kane keeps it real with an authentic, vintage Hammond B3 organ throughout.
The Boy Loves You: The vocal lines weave around each other, alternately leading and backing up, as they broadcast the news that there is love in the air. "When he's walkin' he walks one foot above / When he's thinkin' it's you he's thinkin' of / Watch whenever he comes your way / Yes his heart's aflame." Reni Monteverde ornaments the song with sassy spoken word interjections.
Talk To Her: Unpredictable melodies and rhythms are superimposed over a slowly repeating chord cycle in this oddball tune. It falls between the cracks of categories: part lounge, part funk, part vocalese, and part rockabilly. Dan McMillan even employs a talking Malian drum in there. It's set apart further with vocals that tell a story from two opposite points of view, a feat made easier in a band with multiple singers.
Island Bird: This song is an ode to peace, relaxation, and joy. It juxtaposes genres in surprising but coherent ways. An odd-metered verse opens up into a full Latin clave, during which the three voices proclaim various states of euphoria. Ian Kane presents rare, dreamy piano solos.
What Will It Take: The closing track captures the moment that one feels the abandon to finally let him or herself cry. Sometimes it can be the most trivial nudge that leads to tears: "A certain song plays / Some broken sun rays / A faraway train / The sound of hard rain / The scent of jasmine / An honest question / Two in the morning / You hear a bird sing." Despite its somber topic, this song addresses sadness with a gospel-tinged upbeat joy, and closes the album with the same exhileration that started it.