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Howl, the third album by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, finds the band ditching much of what made their previous album so rewarding. If Want More was a record that recalled a fun night out partying and spending time with friends, Howl is a sexy album for when you and that special someone want to get intimate. Gone for the most part are the fun, funky, upbeat numbers that put them in line with artists such as Black Joe Lewis and Raphael Saadiq. Don’t worry, though; Jayson Brooks‘ voice is sultry and sexy, while the Uptown Sound’s sound is taut and tight, and they’re quite willing to throw down a silky, sexy slow jam. Howl is not a lascivious affair—but only just. “Married for a Week” is a funky, Prince style jam about a passionate affair that soon burned out. “Before You Die” is another funk jam, with Brooks trying to persuade a beautiful woman to give him his number. These upbeat numbers, however, are tempered with some amazing slow jams, such as the Afghan Whigs like “Rouse Yourself,” while “Cold” is a stark piano ballad. Those missing the retro-soul of the previous work will be satisfied with “Howl” and “Rivers.” It’s good that these guys decided to vary their sound on Howl, for they essentially show the world that they’re no mere tribute act, and are capable of producing a wonderful variety of sounds. In so doing, they deftly escape the major pitfall of bands like theirs: entrapment in a sound and being pegged as merely a “tribute” band.” Thankfully, they could make a follow-up with any one of these styles and would produce an entirely rewarding album; here’s to the continued variety and the growth of Brooks and company as an accomplished soul band.
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