Andre Williams & The Diplomats of Solid Sound – Aphrodisiac

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Since reawakening the world to his outsize talents with the raw and raunchy blast of 1998’s Silky, R&B legend and self-described “Mr. Rhythm” Andre Williams seems to have gone out of his way to prove just how freaky he can deaky on each subsequent album. But Williams pulls back the reigns a bit on 2006’s Aphrodisiac  and the disc shows he can groove a bit easier and still keep the party going. Williams’ backing band for this set is Iowa City’s latter-day organ groove merchants the Diplomats of Solid Sound who, as expected, don’t generate the same sort of noisy attack as the garage rock upstarts he’s most frequently been teamed with in recent years. The result is a more laid-back and funky groove that’s soulful but potent at the same time, fusing ’70s blaxploitation sounds, Jimmy Smith-style jazz figures, and Booker T.-influenced R&B workouts into one solid package. Williams gives as good as he gets on these sessions, and if his voice is a bit frayed around the edges, the old-school toasting of “Uptown Hustler,” the potent lovers’ pleading of “I’m Not Worthy” and “I Don’t Need May (Juana),” and the post-Hurricane Katrina lament of “Three Sisters” confirm the spirit is still more than willing. Williams has certainly sounded more physically powerful than he does on Aphrodisiac, not surprising for a man of 70 years, but he’s still capable of getting on the good foot, and this album’s biggest drawback is its running time — at a mere 29 minutes, this album doesn’t fuel the party as long as it could or should, though the quality outweighs the quantity.

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