Acid jazz is one of those subgenres of music that the early nineties produced that disappeared from the limelight as soon as it came. However, it did leave one lasting reminder in The Brand New Heavies. After the Heavies' last album, I was left wondering who -- if anyone -- could pick up their torch and keep it going. Then I heard The Fantastics!. They've taken that familiar jazzy, funky Heavies sound and added a few flourishes all their own, making their album All the People an enjoyable ride.
Upon pressing play, it's easy to see that The Fantastics! were greatly
influenced by '70s funk and soul. Songs like "Sweetback," both parts of
"All the People," and "The Bone Breaker" all sound like they were culled
from blaxploitation soundtracks or the instrumental jams often found on
'70s LPs. Among the instrumental tracks, "Know No Gods" is the real
stunner, though. Sounding almost like a Bobbi Humphrey track, the flute here is otherworldly as it weaves in and out of the groove with ease.
Only three songs actually feature vocalist Sulene Fleming, and they are by far the best songs on the album. The vocal for "Somewhere...Finally" evokes an Amy Winehouse
feel while "I Breathe" is a harmonica and guitar driven stomper. The
star of the set, though, is "Cold Case." Here, Sulene channels Betty Davis with sly come-ons and come hither vocals.
The Fantastics! do have a problem, however. Sulene exudes so much passion
and soul when she sings that every song without her runs the risk of
sounding like elevator music in comparison -- "Know No Gods" being the
main exception. My suggestion for the next album: be sure to utilize her
a lot more.
Overall, All the People is a solid effort on The Fantastics!.
It's not quite on the same level as the Heavies, but what they've
produced has definitely put them on my radar.