Vinyl Hampdin – Red | Album Review

Vinyl Hampdin – Red

Armored Records

11 songs time-51:54

Think Blood, Sweat And Tears re-imagined for current times fronted by a female vocalist. The similar horn driven sound is the main focus here aside from the lyrics and vocals. Vinyl Hampdin’s horn arrangements are reminiscent of Blood, Sweat And Tears. With five originals and six cover songs the approach and arrangements are all their own. This band is the vision of trombonist/composer-arranger Steve Wiest. His concept behind this aggregation is-“What would Chicago, Blood, Sweat And Tears and Tower Of Power sound like if they started out today?”. The four piece horn section is put to good use as they variously play in unison and/or with intertwining lines horn lines. Add a tight rhythm section, a forceful singer, creative guitarist, keyboards and inventive lyrics to the mix and you’e got a powerful musical force. Vocalist Lisa Dodd is a commanding presence set against the strong horn-driven attack.

Their version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” sticks pretty close to the original except that the riff is mainly supplied by the horn section. It serves as a good introduction to the throaty vocals of Lisa Dodd. “Gottaluvit” finds the horns trading off lines in fine fashion alongside the funky guitar of Ryan Davidson. A slow and deliberate horn intro kicks off “One Song” s it eventually picks up synth strings, acoustic guitar and Lisa’s plaintive vocal. It’s a moody piece. The atmospheric song gets pleasantly invaded by a noisy wah-wah guitar section.

Bonnie Raitt’s “The Road’s My Middle Name” is funked up as guitar rips through the powerful horns. The subject of “Pay For It” is summed up by the title-musicians getting paid for their music, not giving it away for free. The band gets to stretch out with some soloing on this one. The Statler Brothers’ sixties top forty hit “Flowers On the Wall” is reimagined as a harder, darker song with a new melody. The original had a lighter, frivolous vibe.

A positive message is urged against the current tumultuous state of the world in “Billions”. Synth strings vie for space alongside the horns, keys and guitars. Rare Earth’s “I Just Want To Celebrate” is tweaked a bit accenting the horns. A distorted guitar riff compliments the baseball references to love on “Diamonds”.

Two covers wrap things up. Paul McCartney’s “My Love” receives a heartfelt vocal from Lisa over the usual horn treatment. Bill Wither’s “Use Me” well suits Lisa’s commanding voice. That in concert with the creative horn arrangement make their version a sure fire winner.

An at once seemingly familiar yet fresh horn sound is the main thrust for this vibrant music. Steve Wiest has achieved his vision with the able assistance of a top notch assemblage of musicians. Do your record collection a favor.

Take Effect Blog

Vinyl Hampdin

Red Armored, 2018 9/10

Listen to Red

Don’t think for a second that since this is Vinyl Hampdin’s debut that there is any neophyte work involved here. On the contrary, Steve Wiest, who arranged and composed everything here, is in the company of musicians from Maynard Ferguson, Carmen McRae, DJ Logic and even the current version of Chicago on this extremely well engineered album.

Of the 11 tunes, 6 are covers and 5 are Wiest originals, but all sound like new songs under the skill of the horns, woodwinds and vocals from Canadian star Lisa Dodd on this soulful, funky, rock’n’roll listen.

The record wastes no time diving right into fun with the loud horns and funk and jazz influences of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, which also enlists synth, though later on their version of “Flowers On The Wall” finds the band in darker, mysterious areas. “I Just Want To Celebrate” also falls far from the original with robust rhythms and a feisty spirit, as the all star cast play well of each other’s respective talents.

Of the originals, “Gottaluvit” is a quintessential funk-rock song, though a sharp turn is then taken into jazz and prog-rock ideas on “One Song”. “Billions”, one of the best of the best, steers into triumphant big rock sounds with a giant chorus and spacey feelings.

The term super group is thrown around so much today that it’s nearly lost all meaning, but in the case of Vinyl Hampdin it’s completely accurate and the songs reflect that with first rate songcraft and the splendid reworkings of classics.

Travels well with: Tower Of Power- Souled Out; Blood, Sweat & Tears- New City

Vinyl Hampdin: Red
December 17, 2018

In the last half century popular American music has been dominated by groups comprised principally of electronic rhythm instruments, amplified lead guitars, augmented bass guitars, multi-unit percussion kits, and elaborate keyboard setups, which have borne the musical load alongside various vocal soloists and ensembles. Occasionally, we might hear an eight-bar solo from a tenor saxophonist, rarely one from a trumpeter, almost never from a trombonist, and at virtually no time from an arranged, harmonized horn section.

Following the onslaught of rock music and electronic rhythm instruments came a virtual abandonment of traditional band instruments whose sound enriched all American musics from the blues, Dixieland, and swing styles that characterized the hits of the initial recordings in the 20's to the vocal and instrumental pop standards, which built the record business into a major industry.

Daring departures from the dictates of powerful A & R recording executives occurred when Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago, and Tower of Power incorporated acoustic brass instruments and achieved considerable success. Now we have a new group—Vinyl Hampdin-turning again to an album of arranged orchestral music with a compelling result.

The group's debut CD Red, featuring arrangements by trombonist/composer/arranger Steve Wiest and sporting alumni musicians from the bands of Maynard Ferguson and Carmen McRae, produces an epic session. The melodies of Stevie Wonder ("Superstition"), Bonnie Raitt ("The Road's My Middle Name"), and Paul McCartney ("My Love") obtain new dimension with Wiest's glowing arrangements.

Hearing from veterans such as trumpeter Frank Greene, baritone saxophonist Art Bolton, tenor saxophonist/flutist Ray Herrman and trumpeter Frank David, along with accompanying vocalist Lisa Dodd and a powerful rhythm section in arrangement after blockbuster arrangement of orchestral richness constitutes a long sought-for experience for listeners of all music.

Track Listing: Superstition; Gottaluvit; One Song; The Roads My Middle Name; Pay for It; Flowers on the Wall; Billions; I Just Want to Celebrate; Diamonds; My Love; Use Me.

Personnel: Lisa Dodd: vocals; Stockton Helbing: drums; Ryan Davidson: guitar; Eric Gunnison: keyboards; Gerald Stockton: bass; Frank David Greene: trumpet; Ray Herrmann: tenor saxophone Art Bouton: bari tone saxophone; Steve Wiest: trombone, composer-arranger.


Vinyl Hampdin



Steve Wiest, the founding member of the jazz-rock collective Vinyl Hampdin, sums it up this way, “What would Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Tower of Power sound like if they started out today?” That’s a tantalizing question that probably describes the band’s approach better than this writer can. In any case, now that you’re here, keep reading. The concept and pedigree of the musicians is rather stunning for this debut effort.

There’s a descriptor that the same trombonist/composer/arranger Wiest uses as the subtitle for the band – “Rocked Out Seriously Funky Jaw Dropping Ear Candy.” The background of these musicians extends from DJ Logic to Maynard Ferguson to Carmen McCrae to the current band Chicago. Taking his cue from Charles Mingus, Wiest recruited players with big voices, including lead singer, the explosive Lisa Dodd, multiple Canadian award winner on bass and vocals from the Gord Bamford Band. She needs all that power to project against a 4-horn, 4-rhythm ensemble. They are only nine, but they sound like twice that number.

Wiest and Dodd combined to write/co-write five of the eleven tunes, choosing both familiar and rather unpredictable covers for the mix. The arrangements make tunes like the AM radio hits “Flowers on the Wall” and “I Just Want to Celebrate” almost unrecognizable.  The other notable covers may be a bit more familiar, but the arrangements, solos, and energetic pulses are just as dazzling. They begin by covering Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious,” Bonne Raitt’s “The Road Is My Middle Name,” Paul and Linda McCartney’s “My Love’ and Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”

Comprised of:

  • Ryan Davidson (guitar) acclaimed Canadian award winner
  • Stockton Helbing (drums) (Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen)
  • Eric Gunnison (keyboards), Gerald Stockton (bass) (Michael Brecker)
  • Frank Greene (trumpet) (Paul Shaffer, Roy Hargrove)
  • Ray Hermann (woodwinds- mostly tenor sax) (Chicago)
  • Art Bouton (baritone sax and flute) (Denver and Philadelphia Symphony Orchestras)

along with Wiest (Maynard Ferguson) and Dodd, they are a versatile unit, brining unflagging intensity as well as subtle accompaniment with solid ensemble work.  The solos are the epitome of “get in, say it strong and get out.” No one soloist, excepting Dodd’s vocals, gets an unfair share of the spotlight. It’s an exercise in tightly woven group interplay.  Horns often play the guitar and keyboards lines on the original cover tunes, but Gunnison and Davidson find plenty of opportunities to also make their statements. Wiest has a natural tendency to be an inventive arranger, but he knows better than to mess with an artist like Stevie Wonder’s horn and synthesizer lines in “Superstition.” Yet he still manages to throw us a curveball.  Bouton’ baritone sax takes the lead, the syncopation is filthy funky, and Gunnison bursts forth with a sparkling piano solo.

There’s no filler here. It’s packed with great tunes.  Let’s just cite three: the arrangement of the Statler Brothers 1966 hit “Flowers on the Wall” is given a spoken word/funked out/horn drenched fascinating treatment.  Wiest’s tune “One Song” has elements of a classical concerto and offers perhaps Dodd’s biggest vocal challenge that she pulls off flawlessly, dripping with emotion throughout. While the Statler Brothers may have meant it as a lament. Vinyl Hampdin just has wild fun with it. Similarly, if Withers was bemoaning in his original, the VH version is completely joyous with Davidson taking a wild excursion on wah-wah guitar.

Check the Vinyl Hampdin website for more on this “Rocked Out, Incredibly Funky, Jaw Dropping Ear Candy.” You’ll find lengthy bios on each of the musicians and might also notice this announcement. Grammy nominated sax player, Sly5Avenue is joining the collective.  This is as strong as a debut gets –it’s  breathtaking!

  • Jim Hynes

Click on the logo above to go to Dick Metcalf's great review!