Album Review: Bumpin’ On from The Eminent Stars

Here’s a review of the great retro funk & soul album Bumpin’ On from The Eminent Stars coming November 22nd on Tramp Records. Bumpin’ On is one feel good retro funk and soul album. It brings a lot of old school NOLA funk and Memphis soul together with excellent vocals, thumping horns and all around excellent musicianship. This is a very American sounding album from a Dutch funk band – how great is that? And how did it happen?

The Eminent Stars were founded by saxophonist Ben Mendes and drummer Toon Oomen. They both share the love for the great music emerging from cities like New Orleans in the 1960s and 70s: Dr. John, Freddie King, The Meters, to name a few. Just mix up some soul, rhythm and blues, funk and blues and there you have a record that consists of authentic elements: live recorded, danceable, intriguing, vibrant and fresh!

1. Just One Taste (2:59) – This tune opens with one ragtime bar before getting into its soul body. Bruce James’ raspy and smooth vocal licks draw you in immediately from the the first stanza. The separation of the horns and piano are excellent and accentuate the vocals perfectly. Just One Taste is all you need to want more of this album.

2. On The 5 (4:00) – This one opens with a nice guitar intro from Mischa den Haring. It has an infectious melody carried by the guitar and punctuated by the baritone sax of Ben Mendes. This tune would fit well within the Daptone family of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. It closes out with some nice organ beneath the vocal chorus.

3. Mrs. Phillips (5:06) – This instrumental sounds like a cross between Memphis soul (organ) and a spaghetti western (guitar). It’s got a haunting melody and great bluesy feel from Mischa. The horns come in about 1/3 of the way for accent but this is really carried by the organ (and guitar) and shows the group’s versatility.

4. Big Easy Dreams (3:32) – From the opening organ riff, this one takes you straight to New Orleans. Man, I love a tune with a great bari sax line. This one feels like it could fit right in the HBO Treme series with John Boutté and is reminiscent of the Strokeland Superband Kick It Up A Step album from Stephen “Doc” Kupka of Tower of Power. The band is in full gear on this one.

5. Bar Shift (2:54) – Bar Shift is a funky ride from end to end with outstanding horn licks and great driving drum work. The horns get extra greasy during the closeout.

6. Closest I’ll Ever Be (3:37) – This soulful ballad highlights the great vocals of Bruce James that harkens back to Otis Redding for sure. It’s a complete throwback to the great 60s/70s sound. This style is coming back in vogue in a strong way with bands like Marcus King Band (Greenville, SC), St. Paul & The Broken Bones (Birmingham), The Dip (Seattle) and Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears (Austin) but this is the first time I’ve heard it coming from The Netherlands!

7. Let’s Get Together (3:23) – This one starts with a powerful organ/horn intro before Bruce comes in with the soulful lyrics projecting strength and power. It has a nice horn break in the middle before hitting the second verse.

8. Sweet And Salty (4:52) – The opening horn lick in this instrumental is absolutely familiar from another famous tune and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to identify it. I’ll add it to the review once I (or a reader) figures it out. Anyway, this one is a horn driven bouncy funk odyssey with a nice organ solo in the middle. Two-thirds through we get a nice bass riff from Andert Tijsma. And did I say that I love the bari sax? Can’t help but have excessive head bobbing to this one end to end.

9. Live Medley: The Club/Tune In (9:07) – As a nice finishing touch, the band included this live medley featuring Steffen Morrison on vocals. It’s so damn energetic with the whole band (with background vocals) hitting full stride. The second half of the medley is straight organ funk roller coaster ride. It makes me want to see these guys live – hopefully I can make that happen someday.

The Eminent Stars are:

  • Toon Oomen – drums, percussion and guitars ( Gumbo Night, Beans & Fatback)
  • Ben Mendes – saxophones, producer and recording engineer (Mendoza Dance Parti)
  • Mischa den Haring – guitars (T99)
  • Andert Tijsma – bass (Coco Jones)
  • Dirk Beets – trumpet ( B-movie Orchestra, Monsieur Dubois)
  • Emiel van Rijthoven – piano, clavinet and Hammond B3-organ (Luzazul, Waylon)
  • Bruce James – lead vocals on all tracks
  • Steffen Morrison – vocals on the live track

Artist:                       The Eminent Stars
Title:                         Bumpin’ On
Label:                       Tramp Records
Cat. No./Format:     9085 (LP / digital)
Distribution:           Kudos Records Ltd. (World)
Release date:           22nd November 2019
LC-Code:                  24072
EAN Vinyl:               5050580723818