Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pimps of Joytime - High Steppin'

Every time that I hear music like that found on The Pimps of Joytime’s High Steppin’, the words of Chuck D ring in my head like the man was rockin’ the mic two inches from my ears. “Who stole the soul?” he would yell time and time again, and finally, in this scenario, I would jump up and say, “Brother! No one stole the soul. It was just misplaced for awhile, but I know who found it. They call themselves The Pimps of Joytime!” Humorous as that scenario may be, it’s pretty spot on with what I found with this album. Soul, soul, soul! Every song brings it, and brings it in a different fashion. High Steppin’ isn’t fourteen songs of the same groove rehashed into the next. Its fourteen tracks, each one seemingly borrowing the soul from a different genre, and adding so much of the bands own character and life, with so much groove and so much zesty flavor that you can’t keep from bobbing your head with the rhythms. It’s got so much damn soul that the late, great James Brown is shaking his bones in the netherworld when the needle hits the record on this jam. And, with no disrespect intended, he’s probably contemplating crawling his way back from the grave to hand his crown to these guys. It’s that good, my friends!

“My Gold” has that Stevie Wonder vibe of soul, lazily groovin’ its way to the heart. Funked out bass lines over a steady beat mixed with the higher register of vocals, throw in some studio trickery and fantastic production, and The Pimps bring an ear tickling trip of quasi-psychedelic R&B. Complete with a retro fuzzed out guitar grinding out lines of chaotic noise, “My Gold” is the kind of song that not only grabs the attention, but sticks with you due to the memorable melodies at the chorus. All the while, heads are softly nodding up and down, and hips are swaying in time with the groove. This is an addictive listen and one of my new favorite vices!

“Working All the Time” is . . . is . . . fuck. I’m speechless. The song incorporates many of the same elements that I mentioned in “My Gold,” but the tunes sound nothing alike. The composition and musical arrangement on this tune is outstanding, as the various instruments come in and out of the mix adding texture and accents throughout. There’s so much going on in this song with turntables scratching away, various assortments of keyboards and tones, male and female vocals, horns, percussion, the sporadic bursts of guitar, and the ever present bass and drum ensemble, and the whole thing works brilliantly! The musical and vocal melodies are out-fucking-standing, and coupled with groove that doesn’t stop . . . I’m just questioning why these guys aren’t on top of the world right now. I apologize for the rampant use of profanity, but damn! Listen to it for yourselves and you’ll be saying the same thing!

As I initially listened to High Steppin’, I was thinking that the whole thing was going to be an urban R&B groove oriented album, and though it primarily is (coz’ that description couldn’t be more vague) there’s another element that rears its head as the album progresses. “Street Sound” is a stunner. The first half of this eight minute jam is a polyrhythmic funk burner, the second half jumps out of the shadows of the cityscape with a balls out jazz guitar jam. I love it! This tune is a perfect example of the various elements of soul that The Pimps can infuse into a song at one time. Mixing funk and jazz isn’t something new, but when a group of musicians can be in such tight sync with one another as The Pimps of Joytime are on “Street Sound” the sound suddenly sounds brand new and fresh. And “Street Sound” may be the perfect, though overly broad, description of what The Pimps bring stylistically. While listening to this track, it’s not hard to envision the street musicians that the band is singing about, and even less difficult to image that these guys are those very same street musicians.

Just at this point, I think I’ve got High Steppin’ pegged, and that I know what the band is doing, and guess what . . . they hang a left down a side alley in Spanish Harlem and drop into a funky Latin-based jazz ditty called “Bonita.” Hot . . . or possibly, Esta muy caliente! A little salsa swagger here, a touch of mambo groove, and a classic Spanish guitar bursting with colorful textures, “Bonita” was the moment that I stopped trying to figure out where these guys were going. I just decided that I tag along for their journey across the various cultural centers of the city and just shake my ass with the rest of them. Like everything else on the album, this track is packed with (inter)stellar musicianship and soul that just doesn’t stop. Again, tons of musical instruments are mixed into the arrangement, which could make the song the sonic equivalent of a train wreck, but nay! The Pimps are genius and know how to handle a high speed locomotive of this nature!

If there were any doubts up to this point that The Pimps of Joytime are the new gurus of groove, then “San Francisco Bound” should do the trick. With its huge bass driven groove, this song will have every fiber of your being in one form of motion or another. For nearly five minutes, the band provides the soundtrack to big hats and rolled joints, platform shoes and bell bottomed ass shaking. Capturing a lot of the retro psychedelic elements of the 60’s and 70’s era funk rock, specifically those found on the West Coast, The Pimps delve once again into their bag of many tricks to find a completely different genre of soul to explore. Lava lamp sales will most certainly increase with the spinning of this track!

High Steppin’ is a must buy for all! I don’t care what kind of music y’all listen to. You must have this one! If you listen to R&B, funk, urban style music, then The Pimps of Joytime will be your new Messiah. If you listen to nothing but black metal, grindcore, or any form of extreme metal, then you need High Steppin’ to let your soul power soar. Much more than good, High Steppin’ is a collection of a variety of urban and street sounds featuring elements of jazz, funk, R&B, reggae, fusion, hip-hop, and much, much more. Every song grooves and seemingly, each song is better than the one before it. Then, of course, you can’t help but push play one more time coz’ it’s just that good! There’s not a weak track on here . . . all killer, no filler, so even if were to spend over twenty bucks for this, you’d be getting a bargain. You can’t put a price on soul. - Pope JTE

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