Friday, November 14, 2014

Review of Brick’s Self-Titled Second Album

In 1977, R&B/funk/jazz band Brick followed up their successful debut album, Good High (1976), with this surprisingly strong effort. The Atlanta-based quintet easily sidestepped the dreaded sophomore slump with this winning collection of R&B, funk, jazz, dance and pop. It proved that the success of Good High was no fluke, and Brick was definitely a band to be reckoned with. The LP is chock full of great tracks that make for a very cool and enjoyable listening experience.

One of the album’s biggest highlights is the sunny, upbeat cut “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.” This breezy mix of soul, pop and jazz is pure sonic joy. Its irresistible chorus will have you singing along. Also, Jimmy Brown serves up a superb trombone solo, and axman Regi Hargis  Hickman sweetens the groove with his dope guitar work. The song saw some significant chart action, climbing to #7 on the U.S. R&B singles chart.

And “Dusic" is just incredible. The powerful groove is driven by Ray Ransom’s hypnotic and extremely funky bass line, which really pulls you in. The song’s arrangement is tremendous: tight horns, phat beat, bumpin’ Hammond keyboard—all complemented by the band’s signature unison falsetto vocals. It also has a terrific bridge, which sounds like the band stopped off at a funk station to fuel up on some more funk before heading back into the main groove.

Additionally, Brown augments the funk with a killer flute solo. Listening to “Dusic” today, it still sounds as original and fresh as it did when it was first released more than 30 years ago. It kind of encapsulates Brick’s singular sound, which distinguished them from other R&B/funk bands during that period. The track performed extremely well on the charts—peaking at #2 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #18 on the pop charts.

“Happy” is a blithesome soul/pop track with an uplifting, positive message. The song has a fun, playful vibe that wouldn’t sound out of place on a children’s TV program. It’s a great cut to put on when you’ve had a rough day and need a little boost. Brown again displays his versatile brass and woodwind skills on this track, playing a trombone, flute and trumpet solo. And the vocal work here is topflight, particularly on the unison-sung falsetto parts.

Another album highlight is the relentlessly funky party groove “We Don’t Wanna’ Sit Down (We Wanna’ Git Down).” Ransom’s bass work is fantastic throughout this hot track, and he takes the funk to another level with a nasty thumpin' solo during the breakdown. The track also boasts some dirty guitar licks and funky brass lines.

And the band members show off their considerable jazz/funk chops on the Earth, Wind & Fire-esque “Living From the Mind.” This kinetic, high-energy groove will have you bouncin’ in your seat and bobbin’ your head. And Ransom gets busy with some sterling bass playing on this cut.

The band slows things down a bit for the infectious love song “Honey Chile.” The track contains solid vocal work from the band members and a super-smooth sax solo from Brown.  Another great mellow track from the album is the soothing, reggae-flavored “Fun.” This is the perfect song to play while you’re just chillin’ and relaxing. And the track boasts some exquisite flute work from Brown, who’s pretty much the MVP of this album.

After listening to this album, you realize just how underrated Brick really is. This album catches the band at the very top its game. There are literally no weak tracks to be found on this outstanding collection. It’s an extremely consistent effort and stands up well after repeated plays.

And Brick is one of the band’s most commercially successful albums. It topped the Billboard’s U.S. R&B album charts and had an impressive showing on the Billboard pop album charts as well, peaking at #15. The album was co-produced by Brick and Phil Benton and was released on imprint label Bang Records.  And all the band members tended to the songwriting duties.

The lineup for Brick when they dropped this album was the following: Jimmy Brown (saxophone, flute, trombone, trumpet and vocals); Ray Ransom (bass, keyboards, vocals and percussion); Eddie Irons (drums, vocals and keyboards); Regi Hargis Hickman (guitar, bass and vocals); and Donald Nevins (keyboards, vocals).


"Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody"

Brick album at Amazon

Related blog entry: Brick Adds A Little Jazz To Their Funk on Hit Song "Dazz"

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