Barrence Whitfield and the Savages Seamlessly Blend Bluesy Garage Rock and Retro Soul On ‘Soul Flowers of Titan’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The Boston based Barrence Whitfield and the Savages have continued to put out strong, hard edged, punk infused soul music for over 30+ years and their newest, Soul Flowers of Titan continue their string of successes.

The group has found a home on Bloodshot Records using their strengths of gritty retro R&B combined with garage rock playing/production ethos to rough up the edges. All of the tracks on this short record (another throwback) succeed, with the best arriving early.

Opener “Slowly Using My Mind” blares with killer brass and ripping electric guitars as the blues stomp takes over, all of which allows front man Whitfield to dig into the singing with his raspy pleas and full throated screams. An excellent statement song before other winners like the motoring soul rock of “Pain” and coffee metaphor laced “Tall, Black and Bitter” solidify the patented sound of the long time band.  The players get in the groove via gorgeous B-3 work on “I Can’t Get No Ride” but are always more confident in their heavy blues romp style, such as on “I’ll Be Home Someday”.

The closest comparison for the uninitiated is a slightly more serious Screaming Jay Hawkins backed by a whip crack group of payers and three rollicking blues numbers spell this out plainly on Soul Flowers of Titan. “Adorable” shoots its gun getting down and grimy (almost careening off the tracks), “I’m Gonna Leave You” uses a bubbling bass line around tons of yelling while “Let’s Go to Mars” takes the blues vamp form and directs it into outer space.     

That cosmic destination and a glimpse into the psychedelic unknown are referenced in the title of the record and on “Sunshine Don’t Make the Sun”. The bad ass tune contains dark rumbles, explosive outbursts and dreams of Sun Ra with a freak-out free jazz ending; little twists like these keep the group fresh and always worth checking out.

While Daptone has nailed a cleaner retro soul sound, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages are perfectly suited to keep delivering their brand of garage rocking, ragged and raw, retro soul music. Soul Flowers of Titan is all of that, coalescing into a damn hot record.      

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