Sunday, September 2, 2012
Review: Hearts of Darkness- Shelf Life
The cover of Hearts of Darkness' new album Shelf Life depicts a delectable stack of vinyl that includes titles by James Brown, Trouble Funk, Sonny Sharrock, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament, Herbie Hancock, the Neville Brothers and Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra. The influence of each of those acts is easily discernible on the Kansas City-based band's second release.
Shelf Life represents a significant progression for the large collective. Although it's an imperfect document of the rapidly evolving band, Shelf Life is a first-rate party-starter by one of Kansas City's premier live acts.
"Chippin' Away," the best of the album's nine tracks, highlights the band's strengths- rapper Les Izmore's boasting, brash horn charts, an aggressive sax solo, swinging female vocalists and a vital groove.
The Bobby Watson jingle associated with Steve Kraske's Up To Date program on KCUR is really hip. As soon as a savvy programmer claims Hearts of Darkness' brief instrumental "Come Forward" as his or her theme song, however, Up To Date's soundtrack will become the second-best in town. Longtime fan favorite "Numeration," the deeply funky "Suspicious People" and the unruly "Standing On the Corner" provide additional highlights. All three songs are superior to the material on the band's 2010 debut album.
Occasional blemishes- a momentum-killing sax solo on the opening track and a couple of unmemorable songs among them- prevent Shelf Life from being the best locally-released album of 2012. Should Hearts of Darkness continue to progress at its current rate, however, it will soon join the elite ranks of contemporary Afrobeat-related acts like Antibalas.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)