Review by Rick Ossian
Just when you thought they were no more, here comes Mother’s Finest screaming out of Atlanta with their first (mostly) studio album since Meta-Funk N Physical (2003). There have been some sporadic live releases in the meantime, which is clearly their forte, something one realizes when confronted with the sprawling, 9-minute-plus closer. Illusion/Satisfaction/Born To Be Wild is a live medley recorded in front of a very appreciative Boston crowd, even when put face-to-face with a BIG drum solo, courtesy of Dion Derek. Derek is, incidentally, the only major personnel change in the last 10 years, having replaced Kerry “Lovingood” Denton. The other members include Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy and Glenn “Doc” Murdock on vocals, Jerry “Wyzard” Seay on bass, Gary “Moses Mo” Moore and John “Red Devil” Hayes on guitars and the aforementioned Dion on the drums. Quite a line-up, and a formidable force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the studio.
The studio tracks, as one might imagine, are a pure funk-fest. Angels starts things off with a bang, featuring Joyce on the lead vocal. She has the classic female funky voice, powerful but soulful all at once.
Shut Up is funky metal, VERY funky, in fact, and almost more in the hard rock vein than the heavy metal one. The lyrics are particularly punchy as well: ‘Where do you get off?/Trying to tell me what to do/What makes you think/I need to hear your point of view?’ At 2:45 there is a lead guitar solo, which normally is pretty common fare in the stuff I write about, but amidst the funkified frazzle brought to fruition here it is just the icing on the cake!
She Ready features a drum and guitar intro, and is hard rock with a Riff City main refrain. There is some serious guitar and bass – mostly 70’s hard rock style – going on here, and this tune in particular sports a wickedly cool groove. Again, the lyrics are in your face; ‘It’s a woman’s world/Can you deal with it?’ Some really cool bass licks here as well.
Cling to the Cross is probably my fave on this collection, and is another blast of bluesy funk. The main riff is a sweet one, and I challenge anyone out there with a sense of rhythm to listen to this one without a bit of head-bobbing! Everything here is pretty cool, from the excellent rhythm work to the refrain – everything kicks ass. There is a nice bass lick (again) – seems funk usually features some pretty spicy bass guitar work. This is mainly a vehicle for Doc (on vocals), and also features a lead guitar solo (2:45 to the fade-out).
Another Day includes a sweet guitar/vocal intro and another wicked bass groove. In point of fact, the foundation here is completely solid, as both drums and bass lock together in near perfect rhythm and harmony. The female vocals (Joyce) make a return, and I am reminded of what I refer to as Super Funk (Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown’s 70’s line-up, War, etc.). DIG the bass licks here also! At 2:20 there is a brief rap, mixed with heavy guitar and funky bass. What more could you want?
Tears of Stone is a bit of a different tune here, but only departs in style – for sheer force and funkiness, it is still hard to beat. It includes an acoustic guitar intro and a sultry, siren-style firehouse vocal delivery from Joyce. This is a torchlight rock power ballad, if you will, and is mainly piano-fueled, which sets it apart from the rest of the tunes just a bit. At 2:20 they veer off into rap/rock territory for just a bit, but don’t despair- they don’t hang their hat on it!
All Of My Life features a cool, atmospheric intro and a heavy funk main riff. There is some sweet bass licks here again, and a breakdown/shift (1:30), as well as a lead guitar solo (2:50). This number is actually FM-radio friendly, especially if you listen to a funky 70’s channel!
I Don’t Mind includes yet another bad ass, cool bass lick, and the opening is full of funky bass and drums AND vocals. The vocal delivery reminds me of a young, soulful Bill Withers (Lean On Me, Just the Two of Us, Lovely Day, etc.), and we hear some very cool guitar chops on this tune as well. There is another lead solo (1:30), and a brief phone convo (1:50). Another solo at the three-minute mark takes us to the fade, with some tasty bass guitar work in the interim.
Take Control is another funktastic tune, full of keys, bass, and heavier rock moves, if you will. The main riff is an ass-kicking one, and the coolest lyrical line I’ve heard today is on board; ‘Movin and groovin on a dog day afternoon’! How’s that for meaty lyrics?
My Badd, the last of the studio tracks, has one of those cool, creepy guitar intros that I just adore, plus a nice neat main riff and some cool vocal work by Joyce. This is a hard-charging rocker, almost heavy metal in scope. It is funky and lyrically adept, as well; ‘Baptized in the waters of my own tears’ is a particularly eloquent phrase that I noticed.
So, since it’s been awhile for me hearing anything along these lines, I will give another well-deserved top mark to these funky folks from Atlanta. With any luck, they will follow it up with yet another live recording!