Reviews

Vinyl Hampdin

 

 

I hear it DOES get better than this....but first you have to die in a state of grace....

I have just listened to RED for the fifth time, since it dropped this morning. DAMN!

All I can liken it to is, if Blood Sweat & Tears or Chicago or Tower of Power or Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath had spent every second of the last 40 or 50 years in constant improvement and musical and spiritual growth, they might sound this good by now. And maybe not. This is what the doctor ordered, and why the preacher danced. I'm 68 years old, and I honestly didn't expect to get this lucky again. Give me one or two albums this good a year, and I'll agree to live to 102 or more; otherwise, forget it.

They talk about music to die for:

this is music to LIVE for!

From all of us here at Vinylhampdin.com:

Thanks Spider!

So…your significant other has been after you to “repaint the walls and, while you’re at it, replace those old, drafty, windows that were installed during the New Deal.” Fear not Property Brother wannabe, your answer lies in simply picking up this incredible album and playing it at a volume typically associated with airport jet ways and NASCAR pits. Then, as you sit there contentedly with a smile from ear to ear, wait for the paint to peel from the walls and those old windows to shatter into oblivion! Heck, who knows, with the right insurance adjuster, you might even get a new roof out of the deal! 

Vinyl Hampdin represents a collection of cats who can flat out bring it. Every time, every note, with a take-no-prisoners musical attitude that is unrelenting and enrapturing. One need only look at the musical lineage of this collection of artists to know that this album promises to be something special and it does not disappoint.

Reminiscent of the great horn bands of all time, but with a new, sharp, modern sound that takes the listener to places one only wishes they could go, this is the total package. The beauty of the album lies not only in the overall musical greatness exhibited throughout, but, in the surprises Steve Wiest and company have in store for you. Don’t get too comfortable grooving to a song, because you will soon be grabbing at any available hand hold as Frank David Greene grabs you and blows straight through the stratosphere with an upper register display that will leave you quavering at the knees! Think you can relax for a moment as Lisa Watts’ incredible vocals have you snapping fingers and tapping your foot? Look out! Here comes a smoking bone solo from Steve Wiest, or some incredible guitar licks from Ryan Davidson, all laid down over the unparalleled drum work of Stockton Helbing and supported by saxophone, bass and keyboard work that is superb!

Red is tight, powerful and spine-tingling, with the virtuosity of every member of Vinyl Hampdin on display from beginning to end. Get this album and you will not be disappointed…with newly painted walls and new windows to boot!

What strikes me first about Vinyl Hampdin’s Red is how fun it is, and it’s clear that Steve Wiest and his crew had fun making it. The record is funky from back to front. It features freshly arranged classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and hard funky rock originals like “Pay for It” and “Gottaluvit”.

As a music student, this whole record is a clinic in “pocket”. Every snare hit and background fits just right. The drum-led grooves and simple but hard-hitting horn backgrounds, reminiscent of Tower of Power, give this project unreal energy. RED shows off grooving solos, full of classic blues language, and incredible arrangements of music, new and old.

My personal favorite cut would be the absolutely epic “One Song”. If I was a pro wrestler, the intro to this track would be how I walked into the ring. Lisa Dodd murders the vocals on this one.

The horn lines on “Flowers On the Wall” are just too awesome, and matched with an ominous and epic guitar solo from Ryan Davidson at the end, this track is also a standout.

This project is what happens when the highest level of musicianship and unique arrangement and composition meet the energetic sounds of deep funk, rock, and jazz. Awesome, fresh, grooving record!

I am so happy with this album that “I Just Want to Celebrate”.  I can’t choose just “One Song” as my favorite.  Even if the album had “Billions” of tunes each one would have “My Love”, as they are all “Diamonds”.  A wall-flower is a person who remains on the sideline due to shyness.  Well, the are no “Flowers on the Wall” on this album.  I can imagine as Steve was divvying up the solos, each band member said, “Use Me!”.  With so much talent, you “Gottaluvit”.  And with so much bang for the buck I was glad to “Pay for It”.  Some people would say I might jinx the possibility of them touring by speaking of such, but I don’t believe in this “Superstition”.  I know there will come a time soon when they all say, “The Road’s My Middle Name”.  

Before I give my review of each tune, I’ll just say that this album is full of funk; hot horns, slick guitar work, masterful vocals, kickin’ percussion, and skillful keyboards.  There is so much feeling throughout the album.  Steve’s arrangements and instrumentation are perfect. 

And throughout the album Lisa’s vocals, Stockton’s percussion, Ryan’s guitar work, and Gerald’s bass lines are dead-on. 

SUPERSTITION:

Stevie Wonder’s tune slightly up-tempo; reminiscent but played in a different key and with funky vocals by Lisa, impressive horn licks and an oh-so-cool piano solo by Eric.

GOTTALUVIT:

Well…. yeah, I do and you will too.  A fun “I’ll tell you so” tune which showcases the great talent of Ray, Steve, Frank, and Art. 

ONE SONG:

Masterful.  The complexity reminds me somewhat of Steve Wiest’s Concerto for Folded Space.  So much emotion as the tune evolves and builds!!  I would like to see the lyrics for a few passages, but the passion of Lisa’s vocals says so much!

THE ROAD’S MY MIDDLE NAME:

A funky blues telling of the life of a musician, and the addiction of touring.  A hint of Vinyl Hampdin’s intention to tour?  I think so!!! 

PAY FOR IT:

The opening reminds me somewhat of Maynard Ferguson’s Gospel John; singing to the choir.  A working man’s/woman’s tune; F*ck yeah, you got to pay for it!!  More great work by Ray and the entire ensemble. 

FLOWERS ON THE WALL:

My favorite since I first heard it.  Having been a life-long Maynard fan, the tunes I especially enjoyed were the ones that were reimagined with arrangements and instrumentation that told the story and feeling even without vocals.  Even if this album didn’t have Lisa’s phenomenal vocals (a horror to even think!!!) you would still feel the conflicted troubled, yet accepted life of the narrator’s story.  A special cheer to Ryan for his masterful guitar work. 

BILLIONS:

Quite alarming and distressing.  The feeling is communicated so well in its arrangement and lyrics.  So many, so lost.  Love is better; love them all.

I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE:

A true celebration.  There’s funk all over this tune.  Simple words we all should live by.  Luvin’ Steve’s “Flying Elephants” solo. 

DIAMONDS:

The true spirit of baseball fans.  All the timeless attributes of the game; the diamond, hotdogs, beer, Cracker Jacks, umps, extra innings, taunting the other team, the excitement, The Game.  Nothing better than being there.  Go Cubbies!!  Melodic solo by Ryan.  Oh, and cowbell! 

MY LOVE:

An incredibly beautiful rendition of the classic Paul McCartney song.  Of all the fun the Vinylians had making this album, I would guess this song was also a privilege to perform.  Great licks throughout; Frank going stratospheric on the last note!!

USE ME:

A great choice for Steve to do his magic.  You would think no one could do better than Bill Withers’ original version but this one stands on its own.  Being used but enjoying it so much!!  Dynamic “waca waca” guitar by Ryan!!  Fitting how this song and album ends; with everyone showing the joy of being used.

From Bryan W. Fields

Steve Wiest and I have been friends since our college freshman days in the Polyester Era. Our paths crossed again a few years later at a Maynard Ferguson concert. My reluctant date, a classical pianist, was in obvious pain from sitting directly in Maynard’s line of fire on a night when he was really on—I counted fifteen skull-crushing double C’s during the first ten minutes of the set. All I could do to impress her and perhaps salvage the evening was to point to the trombonist in his band and say, “I know that guy!” Well, she never went out with me again, but not because she wasn’t impressed with Steve Wiest.

In fact, I have never met anyone who has heard, met, or worked with Steve who has not been impressed. He has the uncanny ability to take everything he’s ever heard, read, or otherwise experienced and synthesize it into one flaming ball of creative energy that can melt a brick wall—and the brick wall will love every second of the process.
 
The most sparkling example of this musical charisma is his latest project, Vinyl Hampdin. Steve has assembled a collection of world-class talent and molded them into a rock band for grownups, with a level of sophistication and—incongruously, I might add—accessibility—that exceeds even the finest middle-aged studio bands around (such as Tim Akers and The Smoking Section’s tasty covers of classic and contemporary pop tunes).
 
Vinyl Hampdin should impress rockers, jazz fans, funkaholics, and, of course, anyone who digs virtuoso horn bands. Check out Ryan Davidson’s guitar solos that channel the late Terry Kath. Indeed, Chicago’s influence is all over this band (saxophonist Ray Hermann is a working member and Steve himself is a devotee of the great James Pankow), but it is by no means a clone of that revered ensemble. In fact, comparisons to Chicago, BS&T, or any of the other classic horn bands are insufficient. This band is, after all, a new creation—the result of feeding the great music of the past into the Wiestian warp core, where it’s reconstituted in a crystallized form of what the original artists might have accomplished if they’d had access to less recalcitrant record producers and perhaps higher dimensions of time and space.
 
How else can you explain a brilliant cover like “Flowers on the Wall?” A minor 1965 country hit is transformed from a lament over lost love into what the Statler Brothers may have implied but did not have the chops to pull off: a descent into padded-cell madness, illustrated by dissonant horn lines, wild vocals, and (to my trumpet-geek delight) Frank Greene’s sustained F-sharp over double high C at the end. “One Song” displays Steve’s personal depth. To casual acquaintances he’s an entertaining, avuncular sort of fellow—but he bares his soul in this one, through Lisa Dodd Watts’ intense, visceral performance, and of course, stellar composition. In addition to being a musical genius, he is a master with words—a poet, if you will—and you can practically see our lonely little planet crying for help in the vast universe. Observe the moment of silence early in the second verse of “Superstition,” where one briefly gets to digest the hipness of the preceding horn punch, which gives more power to the next entrance.
 
The joy of any Wiest arrangement is the plethora of musical surprises, too many to highlight in this review—covers and originals that must be heard to be believed. For anyone worried about the direction of contemporary music, Vinyl Hampdin gives us hope for the future. Buy, listen, and be edified!
Buy Bryan's Books

From Greg Ravnell:
Red was a surprise for sure. I usually don’t like rock music, but this project captures so many different styles it doesn’t feel like the “classic” rock album.
 
From top to bottom you can feel the intensity of the snarky horns producing nothing but attitude, the emotion and intent is very well captured.

 

From Paige Billow:
 
Wow, if you came looking for a funky good time, you came to the right place! Vinyl Hampdin's new album RED is filled with all the groove, funk, and soulfulness you could ever ask for.
 
The horns are impeccably tight, and bring the energy to every chart. With amazing vocals from Lisa Watts and drumming from the great Stockton Helbing, there is no way you can go wrong.
 
The era of grooving funk is alive and well, with this album as proof! RED will funk you up!