The lead cut here, Blood Red, is a paradise of satiny MOR smooth jazz exposing the Groove Kings' strengths in no small manner, readily telling why the ensemble went over gangbusters in the Canadian charts right from the starting gate. Combining Sade with Annie Lennox, Randi Crawford, Norah Jones, and a bit of Gladys Knight, singer Irene Marc is the band's central draw, above what only appears to be a smooth and tight backing ensemble—in reality, what we have is really just one guy flanking her, the irrepressible Howard Forman, a wizard on multiple axes.
Though it doesn't appear here, Marc's spine-tingling concert rendition of Aretha's Chain of Fools has been wowing crowds up north, legitimizing her stand as a torchy powerhouse. What is here, however, is more than enough to back up that status and expand on it. Temporary Man, for instance, cuts the line between jazz, chart, and rolling MOR genres, a swaying number evoking hazy lazy smiles as the listener's head bobs and weaves in tempo. That track resolves into the seductive eroticism of Chore, snaring the ears and other regions, pulling the listener into a dimly lit rendezvous rich with perfume and cognac. In the middle of it all, Forman conjures a burning guitar solo a la Carlton, Ritenour, or Baxter, one that will have more than a few top lead players paying close attention.
Chore also revolves around an extremely interesting and honest pensee on unrequited love, promiscuity, and the desire for the bonds and intimacy monogamy brings. It's a breathtaking baring of the soul that I suspect will have quite a few listening with widening eyes and a good deal of rumination for days after. It travels directly into the bluesy Rain, both members trotting out their best once more, and not surprisingly, really, as Forman wrote every single track here. They all line up one right after the other, uniformly beguiling. Blood Red is prime Billboard material but designed to snag anyone with a wide palette of appreciation, a disc in line with Steely Dan, Michael MacDonald, Little River Band, and a bevy of toe-tappin', foot-shufflin', hip-shakin' groups who cater to the aesthetic cats who like to lick up the cream.
Expect to hear a good deal more from this dynamic duo. Howard Forman is a triple threat, and Irene Marc was custom designed for his talents. Thus, this isn't really the Groove Kings; instead, the two are reigning King & Queen, we but hungry vassals impatient for more, and it takes only one listen to induct anyone into citizenship. Thus, don't be afraid to cross borders.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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