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  • Ben Province

Album Review: Pokey LaFarge - 'Manic Revelations'

Pokey LaFarge returns with the artist's eighth studio album, "Manic Revelations."

It's worth noting that LaFarge's first two albums, "Marmalade" and "Beat, Move and Shake," are considered solo records. 2010's "River Boat Soul" was credited to Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three. Shortly after that, the St. Louis outfit adopted the frontman's name as the band's official title. (It's similar to what Alice Cooper did, just the other way around.)

From the beginning, “Riot In the Streets” hooks the listener with an upbeat feel. As the song goes on, it’s clear the subject matter is much more serious. The track tackles issues of race, specifically focusing on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown in 2014.

“There’s so much left to learn, as the bullets fly and the buildings burn,” he sings.

The track itself, which was the lead single, is compelling musically, lyrically and culturally.

It’s undoubtedly one of the best songs on the record, and one of the best songs released this year.

Pokey LaFarge’s style is undoubtedly retro, and it’s sometimes hard to put a finger on which era the band’s music would best fit.

“Must Be A Reason” sounds like a mix between ‘60s soul and ‘70s jazzy pop, but even that description feels incomplete. The track, like many on the album, has a horn section that plays a key part in the song.

“Better Man Than Me” could have been recorded in the late ‘50s through the mid-'60s. It sounds like a Vaudeville-inspired version of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

The band takes a page from The Black Keys’ deep bluesy style (another band with an old-school feel) on “Mother Nature.”

The more upbeat tracks are supplemented by classic blue-eyed soul tracks like “Bad Dreams” and the gem, “Silent Movie.” The latter pushes LaFarge’s vocals the most of any song of the album, and the St. Louisan is up to the challenge. The flute solo is a nice touch, adding to the already breezy feel of the tune.

There’s a very analog feel to the whole album, especially when it comes to how the vocals were processed. But it doesn’t sound like a dated offering. There’s something both timeless and freshly relevant to this album that’s so evidently inspired by artists from the past.

“Manic Revelations” is an enjoyable LP straight through, even if some songs outshine others. But that’s no knock on Pokey LaFarge. Few albums can put together as original of a selection.

For those new to Pokey LaFarge, I would recommend streaming the record’s two most stand-out tracks to start, “Riot In the Streets” and “Bad Dreams,” which are beyond excellent.

For longtime fans, give it a full listen. You won’t be disappointed.

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