Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review - Frank Lenz - The Hot Stuff

I remember liking this album and that it was quite solid... and yet I haven't returned to it in the last ten years. Maybe it's time.

Frank Lenz is a third-generation professional musician whose career as a studio musician began as a drummer at age thirteen. Since that time he has logged countless hours behind the drum kit and as a producer but until this year he has never put out an album of his own songs. The Hot Stuff remedies this situation quite nicely.

Like the music of Steely Dan, the ten original songs on the album are a uniquely satisfying hybrid of rock, pop, soul, R&B, and jazz. The overall effect of the album is one of smooth funk, a mellow groove that burns with a smoldering intensity.

When asked to describe his album in four words, Lenz replied with "Sex, drugs, Jesus, money." A prime example is "Take The Wheel" where vocalist Bridget Bride sexily coos lyrics like "Jesus take the wheel and drive/ Saul rode his ass and was blind" while the guitar and keys have a drugged out LSD feel and the whole song sounds like a million bucks. The title track features Lenz with the same smooth vocal delivery of Elliott Smith, backed by copious amounts of Hammond organ, Honner Clavinet, and an intoxicating, subtly funky melody. "Crime On My Mind" has a 70s barely pre-disco feel with some great vocal harmonies and a real flugelhorn. Other songs incorporate these rare acoustic instruments such as "Soul Sound Revival" with trumpet, tenor and baritone saxophone and trombone and the 70s soul jam of "Electric Light Battleship" which again showcases the talents of Bridget Bride and a magic flute. More flute infiltrates "Line Dancer" with soft vibes and Hammond organ enhancing a sultry melody with Lenz singing "Cigarettes / Oh I forget the rest." Somewhat out of place but oh-so-enjoyable is "Tricycle". Like a professional version of Mates of State, this brief song is but drums, simple keyboard, and vocals weaving unusual jazz harmonies.

Proving himself to be an accomplished songwriter, musician, and producer, Frank Lenz has created an album free from social agenda or political message. This is merely fun R&B tinged pop/rock with equal influences by James Taylor, Billy Cobham, and Forrest Cokely. It's sultry and soulful and it's definitely hot stuff. For more information, go to www.northernrecords.com.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, May 2002.

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