Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
Soul Flowers of Titan
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Those looking for a sizzling new platter to raise the roof at their next party can stop their searching; Barrence Whitfield has you covered.
The Boston based R&B wild man has been cranking out his raw power brand of high octane grungy garage soul since the mid-80s. He took a 15 year sabbatical after 1995’s Ritual of the Savages, but returned in 2011 to pick up where he left off preaching his roaring, rollicking gospel wailing and has kept those fires burning since. He has found a home on Bloodshot, a near perfect match of label and artist, to promote his insurgent, barely contained raucous rocking.
The riffs come fast and furious starting with the opening “Slowly Losing My Mind” kicking off with Whitfield shouting “baby, baby, baby, baby, look what you’re doing to me.” That energy never lets up for the next 12 tracks, all crammed into just over 35 of the most frantic, heart hammering minutes you’ve heard since well, the last Whitfield disc three years ago. From the swampy grind of “Tingling” to the propulsive sax honking of the band’s bluesy tribute to Sun Ra “Let’s Go to Mars,” this is a non-stop party waiting to happen.
You want tender, introspective, heartfelt ballads? Pick up a Joni Mitchell album ‘cause Whitfield is having none of it. The closest he gets to letting you catch your breath is the slower but still edgy grinding blues of “I’ll Be Home Someday.” As for deep thoughts, the lyrics of “I’m gonna get a gun/just to shoot it at the sky/I think it might be good/although I don’t know why” are about as deep as things go.
Whitfield inhabits the space between the unhinged bellow of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the sweat soaked throbbing psychedelic rock of The Fleshtones and the driving, gutsy pop of the Rascals, in an effort to keep fists pumping and butts shaking to rugged, rawking tracks like the pounding “Sunshine Don’t Make the Sun.” About half the songs are original, written by various Savages members including Peter Greenberg (guitar), with the rest obscure covers only the most cultish fan would know. The album’s oblique title references Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and the strength and perseverance of the flowers that grow there, mirroring the band’s own defiance against their own dark struggles. Perhaps even that is too intellectual; better to batten down the hatches, crank the volume to 11 and let Barrence Whitfield and his Savages blow the roof off your bash.
Your unsuspecting guests will never know what hit ‘em.