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The Budos Band - The Budos Band III

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Artist: The Budos Band

Album: The Budos Band III

Label: Daptone

Review date: Aug. 9, 2010

You gotta be careful around snakes. The cobra poised to strike on the cover of The Budos Band III signifies that they are nine bad-asses and they have made a spooky record. But at a recent outdoor performance in Chicago sponsored by the Old Town School of Folk Music, the between-song stage patter about the snake they found in their van nearly sunk the show. Meandering and bereft of punch lines, the un-jokes made you wonder if the backstage consumption of leafy greens had gotten out of hand. Of course, all would have been forgiven if the music had connected, but it took them way too long to settle into their groove, which is a deadly thing when you’re a groove band.

So how come this album, which was recorded live in the studio and whose songs featured prominently at the concert, works so much better? It may sound paradoxical to say so, but good production is the answer. Engineer Bosco Mann’s work here exemplifies the principal that it’s better to capture the sound right than to try to fix it in the mix. Then you can spend the mix getting the balance right, making some sounds stand out and others blend just right.

Such is the case here; this record simply sounds right. It’s hard to deny the sensual pleasures of “Black Venom,” the baritone sax edges just a hair ahead of the rest of the horn section, and the haunted house organ hangs in the background, ready to grab a moment of space and say “gotcha” like your old buddy did halfway through that tour of the haunted house back in eighth grade.

A peek at the Budos website shows that they wanted this to be a doomy record, and also a more self-referential one that sounded more like the Budos Band and not so much like variations on the equation Mulatu Astatke + the Daktaris + Booker T and the MGs. They failed on the latter count; should you play “Nature’s Wrath” and not think Ethiopiques, there’s either a problem with your record collection or with your associative processes. But the tune’s minor key moodiness and the liberal echo placed on the brass sounds eerie enough that it might earn a late night slot in your DJ’s Halloween party mix, so give ‘em a mission accomplished on the spooky count. And for old-time Budos appreciators, there are other tracks, like “Mark of the Unnamed” and “Rite of the Ancients,” where the band mixes up the listening and grooving elements so that they’ll sound as good on the dance-floor as on your hi-fi.

By Bill Meyer

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