With a title like Abbey Road Masters: The Funk Sessions ya better well bring all the kick ass funkiness your band can muster! Speedometer delivered it all and then some. These tunes are all slick, slick, slick! The band has been pumping out great for 25 years. I last covered their mid-pandemic album Our Kind of Movement and it was one of my most played in 2020 so this one was highly anticipated. Speedometer is geared for funk with a full three piece horn section and this album is richer for the baritone sax work of George Phillips. My only complaint is that the album is too short — but no worries, the group is coming out with another Abbey Road Masters set and I can’t wait! Here’s my track-by-track coverage.
Funky Dynamo starts with a horn fanfare, then pops off with a classic funk guitar lick. The horns take the main voice with the counterpoint of the bari sax looming large. The brief bass bridge brings that line to the fore. This tune is full on multilayered syncopation, full heat throughout establishing the great bona fides of each member. ____ takes a couple of slick tenor licks before the horns take the outro. Definitely a quick start to lead off the album.
Express Train kicks off with classic guitar picking, joined in succession by bass, drums and B3 to establish the main theme. The full horn section come in to form the chorus again with bari sax bouncing off the bottom. This one’s a B3 driven tune with the horns popping in some soulful licks that Aretha Franklin could surely sing along with if the song had lyrics. It’s some real catchy stuff.
Kick That Hustle begins with a horn fanfare yielding to a funky guitar-bass-drum sequence before the horns kick right back and the band sets a James Brown style funk groove. This tune belongs in a catalogue for Soul Train dance lines.
Cookie Dough lays down the main head with some funked up bass, organ and bari sax lines and the rest of the melody features another great horn lead with bari counterpoint throughout for punctuation. The mix is perfect with each instrument alternating punches in with clear lines for guitar and organ in particular.
Heavy Rotator is the only tune absent horns on the album it naturally highlights the guitar of Leigh Gracie, who is the composer of all of the albums tunes. Of course that means that Rich Hindes on bass, Matt Hodges on organ and Karl Penney on drums all deserve call outs for their excellent work here and throughout the album. There’s a short and sweet drum bridge midway and then Hodges helps to close out with some twirling organ.
Minor Mirage is the only tune where George Philips plays flute and the first of three on the album with Matt Wilding on bongos. It starts with a high hat laden beat a la the ‘Theme from Shaft’ before the flightly horns pipe in. This one has nicely balanced instrumentation. Midway, there’s a little trading section between Matt Hodges on organ and Karl Penney on drums. A little further on Hodges trades with the rest of the band before the main theme rides along to a rhythmic finish.
Backstreet Boogie has a jang-a-lang guitar theme with a horn chorus. Particularly effective are the short breaks with the groove laden riffs from Penney on drums and Rich Hindes on bass. This tune has a classic feel througout.
Sunset Strut has a deep, bass laden opening sounding a bit like The Budos Band or The Dap Kings. There’s also a bit of background party chatter with a continuous ring-a-ling guitar to complete the dance-hall atmosphere.
The Big Man starts with some guitar, hand-clapping and big bari scoops that will keep you movin’ and groovin’. The main head is complemented by some organ glides from Matt Hodges. Leigh Gracie’s guitar work is the standout end-to-end here.
Give Me Some is a George Philips bari sax tour de force. On an album where every tune is stellar, Give Me Some is my personal favorite. The power of this deep and propulsive tune is undeniable. There’s a damn funky guitar section and some deep punches thrown by he horn section. The rythm section is kicking ass all the while the horns are just grinding it out with the bari lead. I can’t get enough of this and look forward to the next Speedometer release.
- Leigh Gracie – guitar, composer
- Rich Hindes – bass
- Karl Penney – drums
- Matt Hodges – organ & piano
- Dave Land – trumpet, all tracks except ‘Heavy Rotator’
- Simon Jarrett – tenor sax all tracks except ‘Heavy Rotator’
- George Philips, baritone sax all tracks except ‘Heavy Rotator’ and flute on ‘Minor Mirage
- Matt Wilding – bongos on ‘Minor Mirage’, ‘The Big Man’ and ‘Give Me Some’