|All Artists: Bernard Fowler|
Title: Friends With Privileges
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Release Date: 2/28/2006
Album Type: Super Audio CD - DSD, Import
Genres: Rap & Hip-Hop, Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
Friends With Privileges
Genres: Rap & Hip-Hop, Rock
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Long Awaited Solo Debut Among the Year's Best
J P Ryan | Waltham, Massachusetts United States | 06/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernard Fowler has been on scores of albums since he emerged in the early 1980s. I first heard him on several Bill Laswell-produced gems, including Laswell's ambient/dub classics, & discs by Sly & Robbie, Herbie Hancock, and Material's classic "One Down." Fowler had a club hit with the NYC Peech Boys, was a member of seminal dub/hip-hop group Tackhead (along w/Adrian Sherwood, Keith LeBlanc, Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald, issuing a pair of underrated albums, "Friendly As A Hand Grenade" (1989) and "Strange Things" (1990). Later Bernard collaborated with guitarist extraordinaire Stevie Salas under the name Nickelbag, issuing two brilliant sets, "12 Hits & A Bump (1996) and "Mas Feedback" (1997) both of which I highly recommend. Still, Fowler is best known over the past fifteen years for working closely with The Rolling Stones, appearing on all of the group's tours since 1989, many of Stones' albums as well as all the band members' solo efforts. "Friends With Privileges" marks his solo debut, and despite having worked with many famous friends with privileges over the years this marvelously eclectic set has so far only been released in Japan.
Nickelbag evoked the hard rock/funk fusion of Living Colour as well as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix circa "Band Of Gypsys". On "Friends" this mercurial vocalist collaborates with a handful of associates - Sugar Hill/Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, Waddy Wachtel (who was in Keith Richards' solo band), Salas, among them - on a dozen good-to-great tracks. Not surprisingly, the album evokes numerous genres and eras yet features exceptional production and a totally contemporary vibe. As expected from the Nickelbag discs, Fowler has great taste in covers, and kicks things off with a real winner, the Isley Brothers' "Pop That Thang," (the underrated followup to "It's Your Thing") featuring a deep groove and Stones-like guitars. It is followed by a shimmering (with incandescent guitars) and modern take on Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." A suberb ballad (courtesy guitarist Wachtel) follows, "I Go To Pieces," which is gorgeous enough to stay with you after a couple of plays and would be all over the radio if quality had anything to do with airplay. A trio of collaborations with Wimbish follow, the best of which is "Get Away," a techno/funk rocker with Ron Wood and Salas' guitars especially standing out. The Wimbish tracks are rather dark, and the mood is brightened with Fowler and Steve Luthaker's unsentimental and melodic ode to "New York Time."
Fowler pays tribute to the Stones with a warm and soulful "Wild Horses," which leads into a Salas rocker, "Small," that's short and sweet. Ron Wood shines on the pensive, medium tempo "You Know What I Mean," weaving a gorgeous guitar tapastry with Wachtel, and the closing "Never Met A Girl" brings to mind classic Al Green from the Hi era, updated for the 21st century with a warm synthetic rhythm bed, and the groove and hooks are once again funky and infectious.
The Japanese pressing (the cd feels twice as sturdy as most) and cover art is first class, as is this sonically spectacular and consistently enjoyable production, which Fowler has likely been planning for a long time... A first rate collection of funk/rock/soul/pop songs, "Friends With Privileges" will be one of my most played albums of the year."