The Sun (BOP)

Written by Derek Jacombs Wednesday, 06 December 2006
The opening tracks, Funkflewin (Starlifter Mix) and  Light Moves set down the template for the album: cool programmed drum grooves (there is a mix of programmed drums/percussion and live playing, mainly from Tauranga’s Nick Ririnui) with an array of seamlessly blended hot soloing. Three of the album’s main contributors emerge here: guitarist Trevor Braunias and trumpeter Grant Mason (both of the Torch Songs Band) and Auckland saxophonist Cam Allen. Their playing, and that of Midge Marsden, whose plaintive harmonica adds soul to both tracks, is simply world class. Fantastic.

But that is almost by way of an introduction.[…] From the opening sounds of Richard Nunn’s extraordinary Toanga Puoro on the title track M2M you know this is something unique, with evocative traditional noises giving way to a journey that blends a hint of Delta earthiness with the open-hearted funk of the sax and trumpet.

A journey? That’s a world used all too often and way too lazily these days, but this album is very much a journey through Liam’s personal musical landscape. And, after the title track things veer off to several corners of his mind before returning for the album’s two most obviously blue-inclined tunes. In the meantime, there are excursions to Latino territory with ex-Torch Songs guitarist Dave Maybee as well as with guitarist Regan Perry (brother of blues-playing Darcy), while Carol Storey provides some very smooth vocal stylings on Te Mahana and Here In My Heart, a reinvention of the song from the Torch Songs’ ‘Light Moves’ CD, now sounding like a sensual remix of Astrid Gilberto.

And, just when you’re wondering about the “Mississippi” bit, along come the album’s two blues closers, announced by the scratching of Hone Ngata (DJ Poroufessor), who also adds immeasurably to the album’s opening track. With some decisive acoustic guitar from blues maestro Peri Kohu on  Blues Fell This Morning Liam moves into the territory first mined several years ago by Skip McDonald and Little Axe and the journey comes full circle, back to the Delta.

It’s very satisfying stuff, the look greatly enhanced by Melissa Gibbard’s photography and Mike Dunn’s design work, which musically manages to retain the soulfulness of the soloists while manipulating their playing to create juxtapositions and passages they surely never imagined. It avoids the over-worn pitfalls and predictable repetition of much groove music, perhaps because Liam is a real musician, and an extraordinary one, as his keyboards throughout this album - from piano to sublime Hammond organ - demonstrate.
Last Updated ( Monday, 07 May 2007 )