With Ten Years On The New Mastersounds, Britain’s best-kept-secret in funk, mark their first decade together with a dozen red hot tunes to keep you plenty warm this winter, no matter where you live. Rarely does a band come along with so fitting a name as these four Brits, and they’ve got more chops than a karate tournament. The roots of their sound draws from the greatest ’60s and ’70s funk, soul and beyond, rounded out with a confident new school coolness and originality of vision that you just can’t fake. Names like George Benson, Clyde Stubblefield, Jimmy Smith and Lenny White come to mind. Every member of the band is pivotal to the overall sound, with guitarist Eddie Roberts’ smooth, floating yet strong tone, Joe Tatton’s thick and buttery organ and piano riffs, and the supernaturally tight rythm section of bassist Pete Shand and drummer Simon Allen, equally represented on virtually every track.
The cookin’ pimp strut of “Cielo” makes for a deliciously funky piece of music, and features one of the band’s original members, Sam Bell, on percussion. Rising superstar Grace Potter adds vocals to the Mastersounds’ stellar reworking of one of her hits on “Nothing But the Water (II)”. They took Potter’s original and injected it with 10,000 CCs of soul, picking up the tempo a bit and making the tune very much their own while keeping all of the original’s killer hooks in tact. It might be the bassline’s odd resemblance to the music in the underground level of Super Mario Brothers, or just the fact that it just oozes with the vibe of dirty, dingy latenight adventures, but “Narcolepsy” is definitely a keeper. All in all, there’s really not a single throwaway track on the entire album, with every tune standing strong on its own.
At times, Eddie Roberts sounds like a riled up Ernest Ranglin out looking for a fight on tunes like the choogling “Make Me Proud!”, and I mean that as the utmost compliment. Guest Chip Wickham’s soulful flute work is certainly the main attraction on “Chocolate Chip”, but Roberts’ nearly steals the show with his “float like a butterfly, sting like a funky bee” guitar work. While their U.S. tours have mostly focused on the West Coast and major market cities for several years, the band is finally starting to get the recognition they deserve elsewhere in the States, and it’s about damn time. With friends like Potter and Skerik on this side of the pond here’s to hoping we see even more Mastersounds tours on American soil during their next decade together as a band and beyond. Please England, let them visit us a lot, this funk’s just too damn sexy not to share.