The High Fidelics
Review by: Justin Hayes
The High Fidelics' self-titled debut album features ten instrumental tracks in multiple styles ... and it's a doozy. For the sake of clarity, when you see The High Fidelics in bold italicized print, I'm referring to the album.
The High Fidelics is filled with great music, to be sure. However, what really makes this album exceptional are the four extremely gifted musicians who are responsible for its inception and its content. They have a deep understanding of music and structure. Their compositions and arrangements are, at times, unique, but always architecturally fulfilling.
The High Fidelics employ their instruments in ways that are attention grabbing. Interesting juxtapositions, harmonies and the use of the organ as a main instrument, as opposed to an occasional accent, makes their music captivating and uncommon. These men are consummate musicians. That's what makes their music tick.
For me, The High Fidelics is as much of an educational experience as it is a musical experience.
If I was teaching a music class, I would have my students study The High Fidelics. Not only is it contemporary, it's filled with exemplary musical execution, composition and arranging.
The High Fidelics are based in Birmingham, Alabama.
The band members are:
Edwin Cleverdon - guitars
Jeff Waites - bass and percussion
Ken Adams - drums and percussion
Robert Huffman - organ
All of the songs on The High Fidelics were written, produced and recorded by The High Fidelics. Here's my take on this truly outstanding album...
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Lil' Curfew Breaker - The opening eight measures, filled with suspense, set the stage for an intriguing tune. I can see a young, future spy who is attempting to hone his neophyte espionage tactics. He's out after midnight, darting from tree to tree, peeking around corners, always on the lookout for police. It's past curfew and he wants to make it home before he gets pinched. Sure, it's only curfew, but ya gotta start honing those spy skills somewhere. Robert Huffman's organ playing adds a neat touch to this song and his smooth-as-glass glissandos, leading into various chord changes, really set things off. Lil' Curfew Breaker ia a cool opening track.
New Killer Ray - Totally rad tune that does, indeed, make me think of ray guns and the futuristic humanoids that might use them. Robert Huffman locks his killer ray on target with a cool organ lead. Edwin Cleverdon's tremolo-laden chords makes my body shimmy as if I'd been zapped by ... a ray gun. Ken Adams and Jeff Waites propel New Killer Ray at the speed of light with their hyperdrive drums and bass. New Killer Ray is packed with energy and gives off a serious emission of ... killer rays.
Dance Of The Tiny Knives - This ain't your ordinary, everyday mumbly-peg game. Nope. The smoke signals rising from the fiery bass and snare tell me these knives are serious. Are they hostile knives? Is this a war dance? All I know is Edwin Cleverdon's distorted guitar is signaling that the knives are dancing against a whetstone. That can only mean one thing ... they're shapening up for a hair-raising event. Robert Huffman's organ, in the chorus, emphasizes the danger of the situation. I'd better be careful and get my donuts in a circle. The tiny knives are restless tonight and when their dance ends ... gulp!
Black Dahlia - Outstanding instro rock tune that showcases the talents of The High Fidelics. Ken Adams displays his mastery of the drums by executing stellar drum fills throughout the song. I strongly suspect that he's familiar with the 26 drum rudiments ... and the additional 14. The guitar harmonies are unique and very cool. The organ is an integral part of Black Dahlia, adding a rich texture to the depth and breadth of the song.
Mondo Rondo - Think Santana. Everything about Mondo Rondo screams Santana, from the opening percussion 'n' bass intro to Edwin Cleverdon's Carlos Santana-esque playing. Mondo Rondo is one cool, sexy song. The High Fidelics definitely are channeling Santana. They are that good.
Aquestrienna - Very unique experimental rock track. Once again, The High Fidelics display total command of their instruments and a remarkable musical aptitude. The contrasting tempos and rhythms keep you guessing as to what is coming next. Neat tune.
Theme From Kismet - Killer jazz rock song. Theme From Kismet opens with Ken Adams banging four-to-the-bar on his snare. Two measures later, Jeff Waites joins Ken with a hot bass riff. Four more measures and Edwin Cleverdon's Shaft-esque guitar enters the party. But wait, there's more. Robert Huffman knocks this baby out of the room, across the street and out of the park with a Henry Mancini Pink Panther-esque organ. Fuzzed-up guitars and bodacious accompaniment make Theme From Kismet too hot for words, yet cool on the ears.
Midnight Requisition - Lively, upbeat rock 'n' surf tune. At the risk of repeating myself yet again, The High Fidelics display extraordinary musicianship. Midnight Requisition is a neat song, but the juxtaposition of rhythms is a laser-like focal point. The High Fidelics' ability to shift rhythms on a dime is not an easy thing to do and it demonstrates the remarkable tightness of this band.
Spy Smasher - Fuzzed-up, rip-roaring and outta sight. Extremely cool matching guitar and bass lines in the opening verse, followed by an uber cool organ lead in the second. Things just keep getting better as the song progresses. Imaginative and creative, Spy Smasher is a stellar rock tune. I've said it before and, yes, I'll say it again ... these guys can play.
Bad Jacket - A wild, kick-ass rocker, Bad Jacket is a great way to finish off The High Fidelics' debut album. Everyone struts their substantial talents, reminding us that they are a force to be reckoned with. Bad Jacket is a fitting title for this track because The High Fidelics are bad ... in a very good way.
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