Monday, March 27, 2017

Bandzilla: “Bandzilla Rises!!!” (2016) CD Review

If you’re in need of some funky fun with plenty of horn action and positive vibes, then you should check out the latest CD from Bandzilla, Bandzilla Rises!!! Things are completely fucked out there, and even though every day I expect to learn that Donald Trump has been arrested, impeached or buried, so far he’s managed to maintain his position despite all sorts of brazen criminal behavior. But thanks to this menace, we’ve been able to easily and clearly identify the other monsters in our midst. (There were more than I had guessed!) Well, as Paola Vera sings in “Welcome To My World,” “Those guys on the Titanic had it easy/They only had to deal with the sea.” Yes, things are tough out there these days. But Bandzilla will help, no question about it. Bandzilla is a funky jazz orchestra led by guitarist and composer Richard Niles, and this album offers plenty of different avenues leading away from the ugliness of our country. The group features several singers (including Leo Sayer), as well as some great horn players, and several of these tracks have something of a theatrical element. All tracks were written and arranged by Richard Niles.

Bandzilla Rises!!! opens with the title track, a pointless and goofy spoken word introduction, delivered with a bizarre faux seriousness, like some magician of music. “Bandzilla is both music’s monster and its funky companion. He is both the original hipster and the familiar cuddly toy.” Just skip this. Plus, I personally hate when people use more than one exclamation point (or, even worse, multiple question marks, or that dreaded combination of question mark and exclamation point – ugh). Anyway, it’s less than a minute long, and then things get funky with “Live As One,” which features Kim Chandler sharing vocal duties with Richard Niles. Nigel Hitchcock delivers some wonderful stuff on alto saxophone, and this track also features a good bass line. This one is full of bright, positive vibes. “I am waiting for the day/When we all can live as one.” Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, but music certainly helps.

That’s followed by “You Can’t Get There From Here,” one of my favorite tracks. “You’re an important man/With all your nasty crimes/And while you’re running the country/You’re in the New York Times/But who are you now?” Oh yes, I love this. Obviously, it seems to be about Donald Trump, but from what I can gather, it’s not about him specifically, but about those of his ilk (it was written in 2015). Still, this song is really working for me right about now. Plus, it boasts some great work on horns. I’m totally digging this song. Randy Brecker both sings and provides that excellent lead on trumpet on this one. Kim Chandler also sings on this track. And then on “L.A. Existential,” one thing that really stands out is Richard Niles’ work on guitar. This tune goes in some unexpected and delightful directions. It is a mix of big band jazz sounds and funk, and with the heart of a friendly maniac from on high who passes out magic lollipops and sprinkles pixie dust on the hills in order to grow a menagerie of fanciful creatures. And there is a cool drum solo by Ian Palmer. And who had thought you would want to dance to someone singing “I can’t take this angst, mixed with dark despair”? Yes, this track is another of the disc’s highlights.

“This World Is Mine” has a bluesy edge, particularly in the guitar work. Leo Sayer (yes, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”) and Kim Chandler share lead vocal duties on this one. “I don’t swallow one damn thing on the 9 o’clock news” is a line that I would have appreciated even more last year. But now, with Trump’s constant claims of “fake news,” I find myself siding with the news organizations. It’s a case of appreciating anything that Donald Trump despises or disparages. But before this, I had lost faith in most news (particularly television news), because investigative journalism seemed to have become a thing of the past, and broadcasters were simply repeating whatever nonsense they were told. But I’m hoping, what with the current horror, that investigative journalism is on the rise once again. We certainly need it. As Leo Sayer sings in this song, “I can’t think of one politician that I’d endorse.” But what I really love about this song is that trombone lead by Mark Nightingale partway through. I also seriously dig that section with piano (that’s Steve Hamilton on piano).

There are a couple of instrumental tracks on this disc. “Compassion’s In Fashion” has something of a smooth jazz vibe, and then partway through, it gets a bit funkier. This track features some nice work by Nigel Hitchcock on alto saxophone. “The 5th Elephant” (composed just a few years after the release of the movie The Fifth Element) is the other instrumental track. The overall vibe is sort of in the smooth jazz realm too, but it has some delightful touches to keep things interesting.

“The Alligator From West 15th” begins like a big sexy number, and I expect some voluptuous chick with a feather boa to step into my room. And yeah, I’m a bit disappointed that one doesn’t. But no worries, because then the female vocals come in, and that’s just as good. That’s Julia Zuzanna Sokolowska on the female lead vocals (Richard Niles provides the male lead vocals). There is certainly something theatrical about this number, and it does get a bit silly at moments. The lyrics about Twitter and Myspace throw me a bit, as this song seems to come from another time, an earlier time. But this is a totally enjoyable tune, and I absolutely love the horns. Mark Nightingale is on trombone, and John Thirkell is on trumpet. That’s followed by another delightful number, “Love Don’t Mean A Thing,” which also has something of a theatrical vibe and a sense of humor, and features Lamont Dozier Jr. on vocals.

“Tip For A Toreador” is an interesting track, particularly in the vocals. I love the opening, as well as that strange vocal section halfway through. Wonderful. Bandzilla then concludes the album with “Why Is This World So Strange?” Of course, there’s just no answer to that question. “It isn’t just that everything seems really so deliberately wrong/It isn’t just that every time I try to write a letter it comes out like a song/But no one seems to care/Ants devour anteaters who’ve fallen asleep.”

CD Track List
  1. Bandzilla Rises!!!
  2. Live As One
  3. You Can’t Get There From Here
  4. L.A. Existential
  5. This World Is Mine
  6. Compassion’s In Fashion
  7. Stone Jungle
  8. The 5th Elephant
  9. The Alligator From West 15th
  10. Love Don’t Mean A Thing
  11. Welcome To My World
  12. Talkin’ In Whispers
  13. Tip For A Toreador
  14. Why Is This World So Strange?
Bandzilla Rises!!! was released on November 18, 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Glad you dug it, Michael! Keep bloggin', big boy!
    Richard Niles