Dance Hall Pimps – Beast For Love – Lakeshore Records LKS342352, 46:36 [3/6/2012] ****½:
(RJC – banjo, guitar, vocals; Jeff Jourard – guitar; Bruce Mann – keyboard, trumpet; Steve Carr – saxophone, clarinet, flute; Vic “Baron” Migenes – drums; Eddie Fish – bass, vocals; Matt Beisner – vocals; Nancy Nisi – vocals; Jen Crowe – vocals)
Sometime after closing time and before dawn, the creatures of the night prowl the earth. They search for love, immortality and eventually succumb to fated events. Weaving through the surreal and occasional supernatural, the world is cast in shadows and spells. If these nocturnal inhabitants had a “house” band, it would undoubtedly be Dance Hall Pimps. Known for their dizzying array of rootsy rock and roll, soul and gothic swamp, the band attracted attention with a five-song demo in 2009. After their appearance at the renowned Viper Room in Los Angeles, Nightbird Studios owner Jed Lieber convinced the band to record.
Beast For Love (Lakeshore Records) represents an auspicious debut for Dance Hall Pimps. Fronted by songwriter/lead singer RJC, the new release Beast For Love is comprised of ten original compositions and two covers. Produced by Matt Hyde (Pornos For Pyros, Cypress Hill) and Rob Hill (Korn, Xzibit), the band rocks out the eerie underworld with contemporary narratives. More importantly, the muscular rock and soul arrangements are engaging. “Underneath Your Stone” escapes its morbidity with a screeching guitar by Jeff Jourard (Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers) that is layered with Steve Carr’s (Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin) jazzy saxophone. This combination works on several cuts, and complements RJC’s tough vocals. Campy fifties rock is captured on “Mommy Was A Zombie”, as the serious issue of being raised in a drug- influenced single-parent household gets a Chuck Berry-like treatment. The title track combines the cinematic images of monsters with the unending quest for love. The jitterbug swing is percussive with trumpet (Bruce Mann) and sax lines that are explosive.
All of the band members contribute at least one songwriting credit. Their chemistry is a glowing tribute to the widespread influences of rock music. Sultry New Orleans blues graces “You’d Drink Like I Did Too”. “I’m No Prince Charming” is a straight shot of urban blues. There are always plenty of hooks and grooves with the right touch of garage attitude. Edgy organ runs (Mann) energize the toe-tapping “In The Back Of My Mind”. Vic “Baron” Migenes keeps the ensemble locked and loaded with his pounding drumming.
The first of the two covers is “I Put A Spell On You”(Screamin’ Jay Hawkins). The band has followed the spooky organ lead of the Animals version with a more relaxed vocal but it still packs a wallop. Another surprise is a version of the Lou Reed’s 1972 gender-twisting anthem on Transformer, “Take A Walk On The Wild Side”. Again Dance Hall Pimps lay down their own rock vamps with growling vocals (aided by soulful back-up singers), a funky bass line (Eddie Fish) and Carr’s 50’s sax riffs.
It is amazing that The Dance Hall Pimps came together from such divergent musical backgrounds. Beast For Love is quite a calling card.
(Note: Despite the provocative band name, the group expressly denounces sexual exploitation and contributes a portion of the album’s profits to that cause.)
TrackList: Seems Holy; Underneath Your Stone; Mommy Was A Zombie; Heartbreak Of Dawn; Wrong Guy Baby; In The Back Of My Mind; Beast For Love; You Drink Like I Do; I’m No Prince Charming; Transylvania Girls; I Put A Spell On You; Walk On The Wild Side
A lesser known jazz pioneer gets a re-mastered vinyl upgrade.