(4 / 5)
Capturing the true spirit of New Orleans and its famed marching bands, this infectious and fun soundtrack to the summer we will hopefully have, offers up eleven sparkling tracks on their fifth album release and extends the celebrations of their 20th anniversary. Fantastic brass, killer rhythms and party-fuelling beats, from raw funk to Big Easy jazz vibes, and hip hop vocals. This is crammed with feel good cuts, they nail the groove throughout.
It is testimony to the art of survival. Tragedy has struck this band many times. A barely imaginable series of trials – the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the separate deaths of five band members, and trumpeter Terrell “Burger” Batiste losing his legs in a car crash – have tested these men time and again.
Their tragic yet life-affirming story has been featured in the Spike Lee documentaries “When The Levees Broke” and “The Creek Don’t Rise”, and David Simon’s HBO series “Treme”. The guys in Hot 8 could write the manual on how to pick yourself up and carry on.
They focus on pulling yourself up from the bottom of the pile, even when there is no one to help you on the standout cut “Bottom of the Bucket.” Percussionist Alfred “Uganda” Roberts – a collaborator of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and The Meters – lends his formidable talents to this track. Vibrant tracks including “Get It How You Live” will have their audience up on their feet. The superb cover of Stevie Wonder’s “That Girl” draws upon their youthful years of hearing classics like this blasting out of the ‘boom- boxes’ in their neighbourhood.
“Working together” opens with joyous ‘back to church’ hand-clapping and the crisp and punchy horns build and build, with an invite to get those hands in the air. Deep rich horn solos and an infectious rhythm will surely make you want to move – to turn it up and daaaaaannnccceeee – as will most of this collection. “Working Together” and the fabulous “Keepin’ It Funky” was a double A-side single, with two accompanying videos, one of which featured Craig Charles leading The Hot 8 and thousands of revellers in a jubilant New Orleans-style parade at Madness’ “House Of Common” festival in London last summer.
Taking inspiration from tunes they learned in church, “St James Infirmary” opens with a controlled trumpet part, the track conjuring up those regular street processions so often included in films featuring New Orleans. Dr Michael White treats us to his magical clarinet skills, as the moving image in your mind on this measured and melancholic track winds its way along the streets of the Crescent City where such glorious music is part of the fabric of the buildings.
Further expanding their canon of inspired covers (which, of course, includes their legendary take on “Sexual Healing”), “Sweetest Taboo” brings a rugged take on the queen of smoothness, Sade; long-standing street tune “Annie Mae” was recorded in tribute to the inspirational Natalie Cole, and it appears here – as it does in Hot 8’s parade sets – back-to-back with the propulsive Frankie Beverly & Maze cover “Working Together”.
The title of the new album refers to the rare moment in a New Orleans parade when the band stops to take a break, but keeps ‘noodling’ with their instruments. Vibing, keeping the energy up, when they’re completely in the moment they sync up and the magic happens – a new tune is created: ‘On The Spot’. The Grammy-nominated band are back in the UK for 10 dates in April and 11 shows in May. See you there!
By Ian Shipley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’