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Album Review

THE BIG MOTIF

Gawdamn! I might as well have hit the lottery! In all my dealings with music, I go a lot of different places and for a lot of different reasons, but seldom do I get to go to my own little happy place. In this case it is courtesy of Colorado's The Big Motif, a band that if I didn't know better I would swear formed just to prove to me that what I've been saying all these years--- that music really is timeless--- is true. It's like they picked my brain for a handful of my best musical moments and put them all together in a new package. I'll tell you right now that not everyone is going to get these guys but the ones who do are going to fall in love.

When I close my eyes, I picture the Avalon and the Fillmore, long-hairs and light shows, joints lit and passed down the row. I picture smoky, sweaty southern taverns and pitchers of beer lined up on the counter because the beer is flowing so fast the bartender can barely keep up. I picture hot girls and hot afternoons and hot music. Hot, hot, hot!

I hear it too. They put a dent in my head right off with the upbeat and jazzy The Daily Motion and it is that--- pure motion. I struggled to place the sound, but it came to me out of the blue during one of my many sessions with this EP. Moby Grape! Not the San Francisco pop/psych Grape, but the later band that recorded the overlooked Live Grape album around '78. The recording quality, the sound, and the feel echo Jerry Miller's outstanding You Got Everything I Need, over eleven minutes of gooey Grapeness, right down to the Hammond B-3 and sax of Cornelius Bumpus and the Miller-esque lead guitar. Okay, not exactly, but close enough.

They funk it up a little on Funkadalia, upping the jazz genes a mite and tossing in a downright awesome space bridge which I got right off, first listen, and normally when that happens it wears itself thin but not this time. It's classic! In fact, if the rest of the song wasn't as good as it is, I would be loading the bridge onto my player as its own track.

If you remember Sopwith Camel's fine The Miraculous Hump Returns From the Moon album, you will dig Motif's Colors, and they even throw in a little of the aura of Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady on the bridge (trust me, it's a good thing). No, it doesn't really sound like either, but I hear the influences (if influences they be). And that light ska beat? Perfecto. This may end up being my favorite track on the EP and while I certainly don't think they wrote it with those two bands in mind, I cannot separate my past from their present.

They continue on with that sound on the more-syncopated-than-funk oriented Paper Crane, space rock once again seeping through on the vocals (which are primo, by the way). Again, though, it is a modern Sugarloaf propelled along with a little psych flute and sax for good measure. Really good measure.

The Bad Cat wraps it up and is a great closer. Bluesy and jazzy, it is a bit toward the rock side of Eric Quincy Tate during their excellent Drinking Man's Friend period, the vocals a bit smoother and the guitar as well.

A certain amount of the credit for this album goes to Dave Beegle, a musician of no mean repute around Colorado, who handled production chores and added that outstanding organ. The band could not have found a better fill-in (they are presently looking for a keyboardist and should have one lined up soon). Beegle has several albums of his own as well as those recorded with his old band, The Fourth Estate.

Here is the problem. I've spent a life in music. I immersed myself in it at a very young age and have only come up for air when needed and I hear “influences”. I don't really believe they are influences in this case, though. I believe that these guys evolved toward the sound, picking it up naturally along the way, a bit at a time. And though it's not like what they play is a whole new, it is put together so well it doesn't matter to me at all. I love these guys. They aren't copycats, even if their music mirrors bits of the massive amounts of sounds out there. They are musicians! They get each other. They get the music. I do too. If you get it, let me know. There is more camaraderie in the underdog and the lesser known than in a world of superstars and I can always use some. Who knows, if you live close enough, I might even buy you a beer.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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