Acid jazz survivors reconvene to deliver confident soul/funk outing with added social commentary.
According to their press release, Pearls Cab Ride were borne out of the acid jazz scene that was prevalent in the early 90’s, though I have to admit it passed me by when living in the out-on-a-limb city of Hull, were the band members also resided. Singer Lyn Acton and original guitarist Karl Arthur shared a love of funk and soul from across the decades and were soon joined by fellow accomplished musicians Peter Robinson (trombone), Jason Fawcett (drums) and Simon Crook (keyboards), gigging regularly in the north of England. These were augmented by many other musicians over the years, with the more recent settled live and recording line up including guitarist John Shepherd, Kieren Iannidinardi on trumpet and trombonist Patrick Henderson-Tucker. Live performances are sweat stained orgies of high octane funk and soul mixed with slower jazz inflected songs delivered imperiously by a diminutive singer with a massive voice.
The Beat Routes album has been some time coming, but does an excellent job in capturing the variety of styles and feel of those live gigs, giving the whole a fresh and at times progressive feel to the music on offer. ‘The Only One’ has a stately paced drum and descending bass opening that wouldn’t be out of place on a Portishead album, before keyboards and a rather unexpected guitar figure propel the song atmospherically forward. Lyn Acton’s vocal is compelling, as it is throughout the album, both impassioned and pleading. It appears to be an age before the brass arrives, kicking the song on again. The solos add more credence to an excellent opener, setting the scene for what is to come.
Second track ‘Jill of All Trades’ ups the funk quotient and pace, rocking out quite tastily with some doozy guitar and horns. There’s a Latin American feel to ‘Look Around’ with a breakneck rhythm section and dexterous keyboards. Oh yeah- and more great sounding guitar. The pace slows somewhat on ‘Breadhead’ with some stabbing horns, funky rhythm guitar and a jazzy keyboard break. The six minute ‘Cookin’ Pot’ allows for further instrumental dexterity and a lyric which appears to involve putting the likes of the clergy, newspaper reporters and police in a big pot of people stew. Live, this is a tour de force. The following ‘Colours’ is one of several songs that decry the way people treat others who outwardly look different and is also a kind of companion piece to their cover version of The Special’s ‘Racist Friend’ which follows later. Ironically, though some of the album has a similar feel to ‘In The Studio’ by The Specials in its updating of soul, funk and jazz along with its political and social commentary, that cover version is probably the one track that’s furthest away from that sound, with the possible exception of the final track.
‘Troubled Soul’, with its foghorn trombone, and the piano/horn driven ‘We People’ bridge the gap expertly between ‘Colours’ and ‘Racist Friend’. Throughout proceedings, the musicianship hints at a whole raft of sounds and influences, from Stax, seventies soul and early 80’s funk to the aforementioned Specials and fret work reminiscent of Shuggie Otis among others. Penultimate track ‘Never, Never Love a Married Man’ is another live favourite showcasing Lyn Acton’s vocal prowess in a more playful mode. The closer, ‘Sunrise’, is a stunner, partly down to being an unexpected closer both sonically and lyrically. It’s a soul/jazz slow burner with an almost ambient instrumental passage beautifully bridging the vocal passages and complementing lyrics which recount a mother coping in the aftermath of losing her beloved son.
Having witnessed the band play several storming live sets prior to hearing this album, I have to admit some concern as to how well the songs would transfer to studio recordings. I shouldn’t have worried- I was suffering from dance induced perspiration just as much after hearing this as I was when seeing them live. ‘Beat Routes’ mission is accomplished with aplomb.