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- Posted on Jun 20th 2007 2:00PM by Gaylord Fields
'Chicken Payback,' A Band of Bees
From 2005's 'Free the Bees'
Countless musical folks these days are employing the classic '60s and '70s heyday of soul music as the template for their own sound. Why, certain British singers have even made a cottage industry out of it. And that would be nifty, keen and wonderful if all these retro-soulsters didn't shoot so damn high. They all want to sing like Aretha or Marvin, they all want their lyrics to extract every last tear from the listener, and they all want their backing tracks to sound like Stax's Booker T. and the MGs crossed with Motown' s Funk Brothers. But A Band of Bees have aimed their sights lower, which is what distinguishes and redeems their 'Chicken Payback.' This primarily but by no means exclusively neo-psychedelic rock sextet from England's Isle of Man show they are capable of gettin' down while simultaneously steering clear of the temptation to record an homage to any one superstar soul artist. Instead, they crafted an actual living, breathing slab of soul music circa 1965 whose only shortcoming is not having been pressed on a soon-to-be-scratchy 45.
'Chicken Payback' is a paragon of perfectly rendered throwback production, driven by a horn-and-guitar groove that sounds like nothing less than the newly unearthed third part of Shirley Ellis' mid-'60s R&B schoolyard-nonsense twin smash hits 'The Name Game' and 'The Clapping Song.' The Bees (as they're known outside the U.S.) have put into practice the notion that some of the most enduring soul sides were recorded in locales off the beaten path by journeymen singers backed by faceless session players and released by mom-and-pop labels all striving for that one magic hit.
Well, whatever vintage hooch fueled those hit-making sessions of the past was decanted by the Bees for 'Chicken Payback.' The deliberately formulaic yet twisty wordplay in the lyrics summons the entire rock and soul dance-craze menagerie of chickens, camels, monkeys, donkeys, and other creatures great and small -- and exactly what all these animals are doing, and exactly who they are paying back, is utterly irrelevant. In summary, the Bees demonstrate their understanding of two important tenets in creating a floor-shaking foot-stomping soul smash of the very old school: Don't try to imitate the best of the best, and don't let the words get in the way of a good time.
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