I first became aware of The Haggis Horns from their playing with The New Mastersounds on their debut album Keb Darge Presents (1999). Then I got hooked with their own debut album Enter The Haggis (2007). Both of these then turned me on to Corinne Bailey Rae, the wife of Jason Rae, the original Haggis sax player. So, I was excited to review their fifth album. “Stand Up For Love” which came out on their own label Haggis Records on the May 22nd. You can preview and purchase the album here Stand Up For Love Preview and Purchase.
This album falls right into my sweet spot of funk. It features singer John McCallum on seven out of the nine tracks making this their most vocal led album to date. John is also the guitarist on Corinne Bailey Rae’s band and has been a floating member of The Haggis Horns since the beginning, recording their funk anthem “Hot Damn” back in 2007. Check out my track-by-track review and listen to hear why The Haggis Horns are still kings of the hill when it comes to UK funk and soul.
- Don’t Give A Damn – This one starts off with some old school funk guitar sound from Ben Barker on his Gibson ES-335 followed by a 1-2 horn punch and we’re off and running. John McCallum’s vocals are classic. He sounds a bit like Karl Denson and the horns are bright and punchy. The chorus provides a smooth interlude before the horns kick back in with McCallum’s vox. Towards the end there’s a nice tenor solo from Atholl Ransome to the fadeout.
- Shoulder To Shoulder – Shoulder to Shoulder starts off with a funky guitar riff trading with a slick horn line. For some reason, it reminds me of the old hit from the Hues Corporation, Rock the Boat (1974). The vocal chorus is accented but the terrific horns and real old school feel. I always love a low end baritone sax part and there’s a nice one in the bridge here. Towards the end there’s another fine sax closeout from Atholl.
- Suzi Traffic – Suzi Traffic starts with a 60s/70s soul sound and excellent vocal by John McCallum. As horns provide a strong backline with some excellent bottom from Rob Mitchell. The keys have that high synth spacey feel and the piece is very catchy and well put together.
- Haggis Express – Express is the first of two songs on the album that don’t feature vocals. It sounds like an Afrobeat party dance tune and shows a slightly different style. The keys and bass break is a nice segue for the horns to come back powering in. Then, George Cooper has his first solo turn on organ with a sweet bouncy section followed by some funky guitar from Barker. The horns come in the with a circular sound before going back to the head and the hard stop end.
- Nothing But Love In The End – I love the acapella opening of the song title with McCallum and the band. This one is a classic soul song and immediately catching. Very smooth and funky with an Afrobeat feel with some nice work on percussion by Sam Bell. It features a couple of trombone solos in the breakdown and towards the end by Malcolm on valve trombone (no slide).
- Stand Up For Love – Stand Up For Love, the title shows the reggae facet of the band and brings a flashback to Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” It’s the first time the band feature a reggae number on a release since their debut back in 2007. The lyrics are an anthem for today’s troubled times. “Stand up for love, what’s right for the world, once you open your mind.” The song is very catchy and memorable and an apt title track for the album. The bridge features some excellent keys and guitar back and forth
- Burning – Burning is the second track that’s all instrumental and doesn’t feature John McCallum. The horns of course take the lead voice. I hear some shouts in the background making it a nice dance party tune. The sax solo in the middle is spicy and this one reminds me of funk in the style of the American band Lettuce. Malcolm Strachan takes a nice solo turn right up to the funky drum ending.
- Ain’t Loving One Another – Plucky guitar opens up this tune before McCallum comes in with his soulful vocals. The bounce in this tune is reminiscent of Average White Band but with even more horn leads. The percussion and horn bridge is fun listening. I’ve got to say that McCallum brings the vox to an extra greasy level throughout.
- Give It Up (Don’t Take Part In The Madness) – The start here is so cool between guitar and keys and again McCallum sounds extra soulful. When the band sings and brings the horns behind him, it actually sounds a little like Earth, Wind and Fire. Give It Up is a very soulful way to close out the album.
Overall, this is a solid and very enjoyable album. You can definitely hear where The Haggis Horns get their roots and play homage and yet they put their own very distinct imprint on the album. There’s a nice diversity of styles and genres here that will make you want to put it in rotation.
- John McCallum – vocals
- Kenny Higgins, bass
- Malcolm Strachan, Trumpet
- Rob Mitchell, alto & baritone sax
- Atholl Ransome, saxes & flute
- Erroll Rollins, drums
- George Cooper, keys
- Ben Barker, guitar
- Sam Bell, percussion