Saturday, June 15, 2013

R. Skatore

The label of ‘household name’ is often elusive for a passionate and working musician. Some lifelong artists and bands duel with retaining integrity while making in-roads at commercial viability. And of course some musicians just don’t give a fuck!

Somewhere in your listening repertoire, you have a favorite band, album or musician that it seems no one has ever heard before. And that is a shame!

But I realize that some bands and recordings are just not wired for the success of mass consumption. On the surface, and I am speaking from someone who recorded a few CD’s, toured and got to hear my band’s music on the radio (twice!); there is an urgency for critical and commercial favor. That is an increasingly tough road as you feel your music is your “child”, your “baby”- and there is no reason for the world to not see how beautiful it is.

While living and going to school in Philadelphia, I had access to a lot of cheap ass used CD stores. I had just enough expendable income to go once a week and buy a band’s disc at Green Onions, which was fifteen seconds from my apartment. One day, on the recommendation of a classmate; I purchased 24-7 Spyz “Strength in Numbers”. It was their major label debut released in 92’- and depicted three hard looking brothers with one oddly placed and scruffy long haired white guy, who reminded me of my best friend from High School. Hey listen, I was from the suburbs of Pennsylvania!! The intrigue began…

                I was preparing for the beatdown of my life.

If you read my rant on the death of music or some shit about Dinosaurs, maybe you noticed that I miss the CD sleeves and album jackets that digital media and audio hasn’t made available. There is nothing better than picking up a used and scuffed CD of a band you never heard before, projecting what audio morsels lay hidden inside.The message artists sent with the front and back of a release was often prophetic of what might be waiting for you.

But weren’t you told not to judge a book by its cover??

Strength in Numbers argued that case fervently. What do you get when you add edgy alternative tinged funk with ample supplies of thrash and enough reggae to keep the dreads moving? Yeah, Strength delivered cut after cut. The whole kitchen sink was held up and together by the lithe and tasteful play of bassist Rick Skatore. At times, Rick would lay down supportive lines while guitarist Jimi Hazel served up generous helpings of blues and thrash- the Noel Redding to his own Jimi. What’s apparent is that some of Skatore’s (Pronounced Skat-er) grooves don’t just compliment the song-- they push it into heavier funk with the strength of well constructed bass parts. And don’t fear that it’s ‘all groove all the time’. There is plenty of solid thrash riffs played in unison, delighting the lower register. Skatore’s 5 string supplanted some depth into the mix, allowing Hazel to venture into wah-wah land just as you were getting comfortable.

Don’t believe me?? Check out the monster riff in the song “Stuntman” - He blows the whole album up as the tune segues to a bass & drum outro!!

Not convinced? Then how about the treble boosted funk of the album opener “Break the Chains” or the restrained slap hook and chord usage of “I’m Not Going”- punching and locking with a super tight snare drum and then sprinting into a reggae shuffle during the bridge. Rick knew what worked and used judicious placement of fills, making the Spyz  a well-oiled machine.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it ever really happen?
              Tread cautiously or this tree is gonna fall on YOU!

Rick and the rest of 24-7 Spyz (in various incarnations) have released a multitude of quality and more channeled offerings over the years so start here, then savor some of their other recordings. It is hard to believe that this album was released the same time as Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power and I have little doubt that you heard at least a track or two from that. Catch up with this one you missed!

Often Unheralded, but no longer overlooked…

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