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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Floyd Cruse & Darkstar Band

Album Of The Year

Review by Larry Toering

Floyd Cruse is a Portland artist who's been kicking around a while, although this was the first I’d heard him. It just goes to show whats lurking in the northwest, besides the abundance of great artists at any glance. There is everything here from r&b and jazz, to blues, rock, soul and harder funk factors with an Island vibe thrown in. Album Of the Year is actually Cruse’s debut record. Lately Cruse has been seen on the TV show “Portlandia,” as well as getting out to perform the material featured here, along with great covers that blend as if they're his own. There isn't one bad cut to speak of on this classy piece of work from a veteran gent of the NW music scene.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Don't Hit My Daughter
This kicks right in with not only a traditional vibe but a very accessible one, as well. Considering the subject matter, there is attention to be paid at every note of this catchy little tune of perfection. The humor is one thing to keep in mind with this band. As this track in particular could run the risk of being slightly misunderstood, so the playful factor is most evident and should be noted. The backing track is as catchy as the lyrics and the whole thing rocks and swings back and forth with ease. The mid-section is sublime, taking the listener away before going back into the chorus. This is great stuff!
Give It A Go
There is a smooth jazz feel here with a very heartfelt vocal from Cruse. It's another sweet track. Cruse sings the blues in his own very soulful way here.
Fight This Temptation
Interesting temptation is narrated about here, and the blues guitar lines make a standout appearance. The tone is magical, simply searing with beauty. Cruse keeps the groove intact throughout as he whistles away at the fade. More reggae drums and bass thumps come back for a second to end this excellent tune.
Nobody
Here’s another nice track with great tonal qualities written all over it. I love the bass line here as well, and this is one of the more romantic messages conveyed by Cruse. The vocals follow the rhythm section carefully and then a bass solo kicks in and tops the whole number off. This bass player is a first class player. Of course, so are the rest of the band members, particularly the keyboard players.
Down There
This has what I find to be the peak in Cruse’s vocal efforts as it takes the listener by the ears and doesn't let go. Cruse really pours it on as he sings about a place better compared to “up here.” A nice rap enters the track at just the right time, and there goes that great humor again. What a killer piece of work this is, and the more you listen the more you want to hit “repeat.”
Mama's Baby/Daddy's Girl
This is a straight forward track that is a lot like the opener, and could almost be a reprise. I love the keyboard work in this, along with the laid back groove throughout. It’s simply infectious!
You've Got Love
This is a ballad of sorts, with another great showing from Cruse himself on vocals. The blues guitar fills come alive on this number. It features fantastic playing and absolutely tasty licks!
Confusion
This has less of a commercial appeal but more of an urban vibe, which I instantly welcomed on the first spin. The whole Island factor sets right in and a very percussive, almost reggae approach to the drums takes over. Cruse isn't hard to follow as he sings the blues over it with a swagger that can't be denied. That swagger is also very humble and laid back, creating a unique delivery. The guitar picks up here with a killer funk solo. This is soul music but with the mentioned elements that take the hardcore out and replace it with an easier listening texture. I'm reminded here of some great soul artists that need not be mentioned, but War and Third World do come to mind, with a modern touch.
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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