So excited to have the chance to review a test press of Shake It, NMS’ new 20th-anniversary album that’s out today, September 13.
Shake It it features Lamar Williams Jr. on vocals, as well as Jason Mingledorff on sax, Mike Olmos on trumpet and Jeff Franca of Thievery Corporation on “Permission to Land” and “Taking Me Down.” Its got that new, old-school feel that takes us back to the days of Keb Darge Presents and featured the likes of Cleve Freckleton (vox) & The Haggis Horns. The recording quality is superb and has a really warm sound, which might be due to the fact Color Red Studios records straight to tape on an 8-channel Tascam 388. Shake It was engineered and produced by Eddie Roberts himself at Color Red studios in Denver, CO.
The songs with vocals were all written as a group by NMS, Lamar, Mike and Jason. The guys write and record fast, and their 20-year chemistry has it down to a science. The horn parts are written on top of the music and structure, and then woven within. Overall, it’s a terrific addition to the NMS collection, a sizzler from start to finish. I wrote this review in damn near one take. That’s how quick I loved it! (Click links for audio/video)
- Shake It! – Right off the bat, you know this album is different. It sounds fresh as your old leather jacket with Simon hitting the snare, and the horns of Jason and Mike hitting like they’re right out of Stax Records. Then Lamar comes on with the smooth and silky Otis Redding-like soul, and just like that, you’re transported to Memphis 1967. Joe hits with some cool organ riffs and you get prepped for some Booker T vibes on the rest of the album. Let the good times roll!
- Let’s Go Back – Damn, this song will do just what it urges you to do, it’ll take you back to some great legends of the past. The lyrics are reminiscent of my boys in Tower of Power who always have a catchy refrain. The horns at the bridge feed right into a Joe solo and the muffled sound comes from somewhere deep. Simon’s constant snare just lays it down great for the vox and horns, as well.
- Love They Deserve – I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this one performed live several times, including at the Suwannee Rising Festival, and it’s just got a vibe that’s danceable and singable at the same time. Another terrific horn bridge as Jason and Mike are intertwined. The message of us being “all the same” and getting the “love they deserve” is just so positive and upbeat, I like to have this on repeat. There’s a beautiful guitar riff at the end, which blends with Lamar’s silky-smooth vocals, and you know it’s just that Eddie Roberts slick picking style we’ve come to love to close out.
- Taking Me Down – This has a great opening chorus with Lamar blending nicely with the horns in an echo-like segment, which yields to some great horn fanfare, then back to some Afrobeat sounding jams featuring Jeff Franca (Thievery Corporation) plus horns. Eddie has some great riffs in the middle trading back and forth with the horns and Joe, with Pete and Simon laying down the groove. His guitar just rips this one and it closes out like a very strong traditional NMS tune.
- Too Late To Worry – This tune has a deep 70s vibe, with a throwback perhaps to Curtis Mayfield. The bridge has some near-Shaft like sound with Pete’s deep bassline and Lamar’s “Too Late” refrain. I especially enjoy the flute work from Jason as a fresh differentiator here. So very cool!
- Layin’ Low – This one’s a traditional NMS instrumental that I think of as “Joe’s tune,” in that it rolls on like a freight train with some heavy organ throughout with the fellas laying down the tracks for him to twist and turn on. Definitely a chill track but on point for this classic point in time album.
- Live Life Free – Ripping bass and horns intro for Lamar’s great vox here before Eddie comes in with the melody to parallel both Lamar and the horns! The bridge of the horns plus Joe is fantastic and sounds like it could be from a 70s soundtrack. We love the “feet don’t fail me now” lyric and the big horn closeout.
- Kings & Queens – Again a nice quick horn-lead intro into Lamar’s smooth vocals – this one is one of my favorites on the album. The lyrics are killer and just encourage some singalong. Eddie takes a nice deep solo mid-song with some good horn punctuating his licks.
- Permission to Land – Another strong instrumental with a great horn-guitar intro with support again on percussion from Jeff Franca. This is instantly another NMS instant classic. Trying to remove all historical bias from my view, this is one of the all-time greats. Jason takes a white-hot sax solo halfway through and it’s definitely his “moment” on the album.
- On The Up (S.K.A.) – The opening is a straight-up horn fanfare with Eddie coming in with a fantastic lick, sounding of course like ska music but almost like an African kora with his distinctive plucking. It’s probably his best solo work on the album. The horn chorus sounds like driving or trekking music, and Eddie just goes to town over the top of it. Again, this is some damn fine work.
- Lovely Daze – This tune’s a fantastic ballad to close out. It really highlights the whole band, Eddie has some great riffs, Simon and Pete just tight as can be with the rhythm and the horns floating throughout, plus some beautiful background vocals and lyrics. And finally, another Joe solo that is reminiscent of The Lovin’ Spoonful (think Groovin’). And Mike Olmos with a beautiful trumpet solo for the song and album closeout. These guys really know how to SHAKE IT!
Shake It is out now on Color Red.