SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing HiFi Sneakers – Hip Hypnotic cd

Recently i had the pleasure in these pages of reviewing the bands charity  Christmas single, a reworking of the classic ‘Catch A Falling Star’. Now here is the brand new album from Hi-Fi Sneakers & from reading Tich Turners intro liner note the gestation period was a difficult one with Covid laying waste to gigs, the retirement of their long term drummer & a health scare, requiring an operation for Tich, who I’m very happy to say is on the mend and getting his strength back. So, to the album. If you are not familiar with the band they are a soulful act well known in South London. The album features 11 tracks & track 3 ‘Hypnotic’ is available to view on YouTube. I really don’t like to make comparisons in my reviews, as a wise man (John Lydgate in 1440) once wrote ‘comparisons are odious’. I agree, However it’s my job to inform the reader of what style/genre to expect from the band I’m reviewing if they are not a name you instantly recognise. Hi-Fi Sneakers are a 5 piece band with local lad Tich Turner as lead vocalist. Matt Percival guitar, Derek Sumption keyboards, Bob Kelly bass & new drummer James Britton & the band are augmented by a first class horn section & on this album 2 excellent female backing singers Isobel & Vanessa. So to their musical style & it’s here where inevitably I have to make a comparison with some names everyone’s familiar with. As i noted they are a soulful band, think along the lines of The Commitments as a ballpark overall view. I can hear all their nods to Stax, Motown & various soul acts in their material, all of which is original. However, after my first complete listen to the full (39mins) album something kept niggling in my head that there’s a warmth & depth about the whole album that reminds me very happily of another act. It took a while…I’m getting old now…then it came to me..& here the band may heartily disagree with my view & the references I’ve already made, the ‘feel’ & ‘warmth’ of their sound compares very favourably with Robert Cray Band around the time of his ‘Bad Influence’ & ‘Strong Persuader’ albums. Tich & the guys exude the same warmth & do it very well. The album kicks off in fine style with the up-tempo ‘Delivery Man’ where the horn section could have stepped straight out of Geno Washington’s band. Tich’s voice is assured, mature & rich as i noted when reviewing ‘Catch A Falling Star’. Track 2 ”Deeper (In Love With You’) (Gamble Huff cover) swings along in great form with some very nifty piano plus some great backing vocals. In fact having listened to the album right through 3 times (not something I do regularly I found myself returning to ‘Deeper’ several times. If they are going to release further singles from the album, my personal view is ‘Deeper’ is a strong contender & its certainly the one i would pick. Track 3 ‘Hypnotic, the lead single, is easily the most ‘commercial’ song on the album & I can see why they chose it, it’s interesting lyrical content, referencing the hold the ladies often have over us, is one most can relate to & its also an earworm of a song. Track 4 ‘Ginny Go Lightly’ is a smooth soulful song that begins slowly before changing gears & upping the tempo & developing a ‘swing’ style & contains one of Tich’s best vocals on the album, plus some fine guitar work. Track 5 ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ a slow-to mid tempo burner contains some of the best lyrics on the whole album in my view, again the lyrics relate to a situation, most of us have encountered, that of relationship breakdowns. It also contains some great work from the horn section. Track 6 ‘Whoops Baby’ is i personally feel the weakest track on the album (sorry lads) it’s just a little too generic, pleasant but underwhelming compared to all the other tracks. Track 7 ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’ (Curtis Mayfield cover) see’s the band back on track & full strength with a strong number containing a very ‘hooky’ horn section & a relaxed, nicely chilled vocal from Tich. Track 8 ‘When I Come Home’ comes closest to the Robert Cray comparison I made earlier (although a Stevie Winwood cover) some neat guitar work here, altogether a very pleasing track & yes, another earworm! Track 9 ‘She Sparkles’ is a really neat snappy number again dipping into swing with a soulful lick & has a very upbeat feel. The penultimate track ‘Oh Pandora’ is lyrically my favourite track with its contemporary take on the legendary fable of ‘Pandora’s Box’ a great turn from the girls on backing vocals, some fine keyboard & guitar & a warm assured vocal. The album comes to a close with Track 11 ‘Let’s Get Hot’ another up-tempo number, which I just know, played live, would be a crowd pleaser & become a favourite. It rounds off the album in fine style. So, to sum up, I’ve made comparisons with several names & the lads may disagree with my view. no problem. Robert Cray is always referred to in the press as a blues man, but i disagree, to the effect he blends blues & soul in a particular way, as do Hi-Fi Sneakers with their own material. However, here let me firmly point out Hi-Fi Sneakers & their music does not copy or plagiarise any of the artistes or specialist record labels mentioned. All their music is authentically fully theirs. So, finally just what does ‘Hip Hypnotic’ deliver to the listener. I’ll tell you. A hug. And a very warm one at that. And who doesn’t benefit & appreciate a hug?  Enjoy.

Til next time….stay safe & warm…..Colin

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