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Feature Review: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Want More

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound
Want More
[Bloodshot Records (2011)]

Classic, soulful R&B is undergoing, if not a full-on ressurgence, at least an reawakening, with singers like Rafael Saadiq leading the way in the U.S., and Britain providing a slew of singers like Adele to park themselves at the top of the charts. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound take some of the lyrical seriousness of What’s Going On and marry it to the earlier, harder R&B/rock sound characteristic of Otis Redding.

Brooks has the smooth delivery of a gospel singer mixed with his soul man’s shout, and the quartet (with a little help from a dozen guests) keeps the disc upbeat front to back. A mix of early secular gospel (“I Got High” and “Missing Things”), Motown (the title track), and late 1960s proto-funk (“I Can See Everything”) keeps the party diverse. But Brooks’s best performances on Want More is the falsetto-filled, heartfelt ballad “To Love Someone (That Don’t Love You),” a fairly obscure Kaldirons tune that manages a glistening smooth edge without straying into the Barry White bedroom jams that took over soul in the 1970s and eventually formed the bulk of modern commercial R&B.

The songwriting duties are split between Brooks and guitarist Billy Bungeroth, and though most of the songs are party tunes, a deeper look at the lyrics reveals sadness and frustration:

Missing things is all I ever do
Cause I done settled for substitutes
Missing things is all I ever do
Places I’ve been and all the people I knew
See you again if my dreams come true …
Spent all my time just missing you

And this is in one of the love songs. This is where the disc shows itself to be a modern composition and not merely a retro exercise or long-lost forty-year-old gem. The other cover on the disc is a nearly unrecognizable rendition of the giants of their hometown of Chicago, Wilco, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” a song that lyrically would be rejected out of hand by most party bands for its downbeat subject matter but also for its wordy density.

It’s this ability to go deeper and darker with their words while never losing the groove that sets JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound apart, from their predecessors and their fellow revivalists.

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

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2 comments on “Feature Review: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Want More

  1. “The songwriting duties are split between Brooks and guitarist Billy Bungeroth”

    I believe the title track was originally written by the bassist, if your read this entry on their blog: http://theuptownsound.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/why-baltimore/

    I haven’t seen other songwriting credits for the album.

    • Hi, Al,

      Thanks for the comment and for linking to their blog.

      The inside of the CD jacket indicates that Brooks and Bungeroth wrote a majority of the original songs on Want More. “Baltimore Is the New Brooklyn,” the song you linked to, is on a 7″ they released over the summer.

      Thanks again for reading!

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