WIFEE AND THE HUZZBAND CD Review Songs of Eternal Love and Immediate Satisfaction

front-cover-finalBy George Halas

The great multi-instrumentalist and thought leader Dennis Jones once opined that Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go would have been a hit in any decade of the Twentieth Century.

Likewise, Songs of Eternal Love and Immediate Satisfaction is a record that combines and ultimately transcends genres; one can’t help liking it for a bunch of reasons.

On first listen, it is an infectious pop tour de force that utilizes the fun rock of the 50’s and 60’s with big band R&B to inform a robust, very danceable, horn-accented sound.

The songs are the product of the combined pens of Ruby James (Kitty CoopDeVille) and Steve Cooper (Coop DeVille). On second listen, it becomes apparent that, while the songs recall certain pop rock genres, they are sophisticated, multi-layered well-crafted compositions; Cooper’s horn arrangements – and his always stellar tenor sax playing – complement the songs and the sound.

Fun and danceability are the common themes that weave throughout the record. Alert: this is not the best music for meditation. Think party.

In addition to a talent for turning catchy hooks into full-blown musical compositions, the duo harmonizes very well vocally.

James has a multi-faceted voice that ranges from the virginal innocence of the 50’s (i.e., Sandra Dee, Annette Funicello as well as certain Taylor Swift tunes) to smoldering sultry. Cooper’s tenor has never been better as when he takes the lead and blends perfectly with James.

The opening track, She Won’t Go, and Goodnight Moon are a pair of 50’s-inflected tunes that give James an opportunity to run a full gamut of “relationship” emotions. I’ve Been A Fool has an early 60’s – Carole King kind of sound and showcases Cooper’s tenor playing. The band, with a Cooper vocal lead, turns Girl Can’t Take It into an R&B anthem with exactly the right groove to showcase the horns and a tasty trumpet solo by Greg Garcia.

With Kipp Wylde’s B3 setting the tone, James takes an understated vocal approach on I Knew that exposes complex emotional vulnerability and sets the stage for perhaps Cooper’s best work on the record.

Forever My Dear is one of the first tunes James and Cooper wrote together and, in addition to the obvious chemistry, the song gives Cooper the chance to shine vocally as well as contributing another stratospheric sax solo.

Baritone sax player Julio Reyes sets the groove of Our Love in a way that recalls Where Did Our Love Go by The Supremes – James brings a level of emotional sophistication that takes the tune into new territory.

The Get Down starts with a Jailhouse Rock feel and tempo, then Cooper and the rhythm section cut loose, and the result rocks.

The album tells, in part, the story of the romance between Kitty CoopDeVille and Coop DeVille, but it also tells a bigger story.

“All originals so far have been penned under the roof of the Holiday Music Motel.  We say the band was born out of the Motel as that’s where the songs have been written and our rhythm section came out of the events,” James said. “That world of singer songwriters that I come from mixed with Coop’s virtuoso jazz world out of the Fox Valley is the magical combo that has created what is WiFEE and the HUZz BAND.  A little punk rock rhythm section mixed with a pristine horn section from the jazz world and with a couple of crazy looking front people and voila, you’ve got us!”

Produced by pat mAcdonald, the album features a group of outstanding musicians including Vee Sonnets on guitar, Greg Roteik, bass, Zach Vogel, drums, Kipp Wilde, keys, Kurt Shipe, trumpet, Tommy Vanden Avond, trombone, Greg Garcia, trumpet and Julio Reyes, baritone sax.

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