Extended drum solos are usually saved for late in a band’s set, but Lubriphonic doesn’t play by the rules.  “Rhino,” the opening track to the group’s 2010 album The Gig Is On begins with a rapid-fire 30 second drum solo before loud horns and ultra-fast funky guitar kick in.  Just about all of the group’s skills are jam-packed into that 4-minute opening song, soulful, James Brown-esque vocals and a soaring guitar solo included.  The group doesn’t waste any time displaying a wide range of style and skill.  And once you hear what the group can do, you don’t want to stop listening.

Lubriphonic is a group from Chicago, and their style incorporates that city’s signature soulful sound.  But rather than singing the woeful blues for which the Windy City is known, Lubriphonic primarily plays upbeat, funky jams.  The amount of soul packed into their songs is similar to the blues greats, but Lubriphonic sounds much happier and much more danceable.

In fact, one of the album’s slowest points tempo-wise occurs on a song called “No Blues.”  Although the song utilizes bluesy chords and vocal stylings, the repeated refrain (“I got a groove / ain’t got no blues / got a girl that knows how to knock me right out of my shoes/ we got a thing, make me wanna sing / got a girl that knows how to knock me right out of my shoes”) is not necessarily something to be upset about.

In a similarly misleading title choice, “Punk” is nowhere near the three-chord sloppy genre of the same name.  With Lubriphonic that’s a positive, as the group excels at creating precisely-timed grooves with complex musicianship.

While the rhythm section, bass and guitar often provide those tight grooves, much of The Gig Is On’s charm comes from the band’s talented horn section.  Norman Palm’s trombone and Charles Phrophet’s saxophone skills are almost always on cue, making the already-funky tracks even more danceable.

The horns are an integral part of Lubriphonic, but it’s obvious that singer and guitarist Giles Corey is one of— if not the— driving force(s) behind the group.  He wails, shouts and fires off quick lyrics in a slightly scruffy yet ultra-soulful voice on each of the songs on The Gig Is On.  His wide range and knack for lyricism is especially noticeable on the album’s slower songs, such as the aforementioned “No Blues” and the keyboard-driven track “Speed Dial.”

The album’s title track is also one of its best, as it features an extended guitar solo that leads into an equally powerful sax solo.  It’s songs like these that make one wish the album title was true— that a Lubriphonic gig really is going on somewhere (on many nights, one probably is).  The group’s sound and style seems as if would work well in a live setting that encourages improvisation, especially on solo-prominent tracks like “The Gig Is On.”

The group is as talented at varying their style as they are at improvising solos, which is revealed by the album’s tenth track, entitled “The Getaway.”  The song starts off sounding like sped-up classic rock song, reminding listeners that funk wasn’t the only genre popular in the 70s.  It’s not until the 3:00 min mark that the track changes pace, speeding up the rhythm and incorporating a solo from the keys.

“The Getaway” is a satisfying change of style that breaks up the album’s otherwise steady flow, but it’s just as satisfying when the horns and funkiness return for the remaining four songs.

Overall, The Gig Is On is a great contemporary funk album.  It’s aware of its roots— similarities to groups like Tower of Power abound— yet it also pushes past them into other territories, revealing Lubriphonic’s different styles and unique influences.

Click here to listen to “Rhino,” The Gig Is On‘s opening track on Earbits Radio!

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