The Fantastics! – Take a Shot (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 45:47 minutes | 564 MB | Genre: R&B, Funk
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © BBE Music
The Fantastics! “Take A Shot” featuring Sulene Fleming, the band’s long awaited third studio album, nine years in the making.
The Fantastics! story begins back in 2003, when keys maestro and Freestyle Records boss Greg Boraman joined London group ‘Reverend Cleatus & The Soul Saviours’. Officially changing their name to The Fantastics! in 2007, in 2009 the ranks were bolstered by the arrival of prodigious UK vocal talent Sulene Fleming in 2009. Only Greg and bassist Raydn Hunter remain from the band’s original line-up, which now features Mark Norton (saxophone / flute) and James Smith (drums). New member James Byron (guitar) brings yet another fresh perspective on the band’s genre-agnostic approach, which takes Afrobeat, Latin, Rock and Rhythm & Blues influences in easy stride.
The band have been honing this album at gigs and in the studio for nine long years, during which time singer Sulene Fleming has been busy collaborating with Incognito and Leroy Hutson, as well as enjoying a stint as lead vocalist for The Brand New Heavies. The approach of constantly testing material in a live setting has endowed this record with an indefinable yet distinctive, authentic feel; put simply, it successfully transmits the energy and immediacy of a great concert.
The range of sounds to be heard on ‘Take A Shot’ is ambitious, but it feels pretty effortless. From the library music tinged spacey jazz-fusion of ‘Oblique’ and ‘Better Than Dead’, ‘Hey Misters’’s intense Hammond driven, risqué sister-funk, ‘Pyramid’’s touching & serene modal jazz-dance, ‘Say You Will’ with its shimmering, sweet & summery soul-pop, the Betty Davis- esque ‘Can’t Decide’ which is a straight up funk-rock monster, the deceptively slinky West Coast smooth ‘Mind Time’ that takes a sharp left when you least expect it, the woozy and tripped out ‘St Tropez Blue’ – and of course the album’s title track ‘Take A Shot’ – not only display the ensemble’s collective and solo abilities, but also frame Sulene’s powerful and versatile voice in a wonderfully wide election of musical settings.
Special mention goes to Mark Ashfield & his youthful sidekick James Nugent, who not only cheerfully put up with The Fantastics! slow and meandering methods, but also engineered, mixed and mastered this album with truly special levels of detail, warmth and musicality.
Eclectic? yes, multi-faceted? Versatile? Very much. Certainly, but the one word you couldn’t use to describe The Fantastics! is prolific.
It’s been a 9 long years since the bands last long player – 2011’s ‘All The People’ was the follow up to 2009’s ‘Mighty Righteous – so Take A Shot is the 3rd album and there isn’t really any specific reason.. other than the first studio recordings of Take A Shot album laid down in 2012 eventually got binned, trashed, disposed of and also deleted. After playing the new songs live for 18 months at venues like London’s Jazz Café and Pizza Express Jazz Club, when it came to finally mixing those tracks, the recordings, compared to how the songs had been honed and polished by those live performances in across those shows, sounded like demos’ – so the entire process was began again.
There was also, since All The People, the arrival of new guitarist James Byron, an appropriately open minded player that further embellished the bands non genre specific approach. One other mildly delaying factor was the bands long established vocalist, the enviously talented Sulene Fleming had a successful stint as lead singer for The Brand New Heavies amongst her other various projects (including with Incognito and Leroy Hutson), she also found the time to get married and start a family. The rest of us didn’t really have such good excuses.
The upside to this convoluted route – is that this collection is without doubt the bands favourite and most proud accomplishment. The time taken over the music on this has given it depth, variety, quality and as is the groups stated modus operandi on record and when playing live, is to touch upon as many styles, musical textures and modes as possible, but still maintain an identity across the project. It’s a big ask- and was that achieved? You be the judge. ‘Honorary Fantastic Status’ is awarded to Mark Ashfield & his youthful side kick James Nugent, who not only cheerfully put up with The Fantastics! slow and meandering methods, but also managed to build his 2 different recording studios, GTA Studios and then Cosmic Audio that this project was started, and then finally completed in. He also engineered, mixed and then mastered the resulting recordings beautifully, and under charged us too – so the group didn’t bust the budget in the process.
The range of sounds to be heard is ambitious but assured; the library music tinged spacey jazz-fusion of Oblique and Better Than Dead, ‘Hey Misters’s intense Hammond driven, risqué sister-funk, Pyramid’s touching & serene modal jazz-dance, Say You Will with it’s shimmering, sweet & summery soul-pop, the Betty Davis-esque Can’t Decide which is a straight up funk-rock monster with a wailing guitar solo and Sulene simply smashing it at the opposite end of her amazing vocal range, the deceptively slinky West Coast smooth Mind Time, that takes a sharp left when you lest expect it, the woozy and tripped out St Tropez Blue – and of course the albums title track – not only display the ensembles collective and solo skills on the instrumental tracks – but also frame Sulenes insanely versatile voice in a wonderful sly wide election of musical poses and explorations.
What do the band like most about this album? All of it.
1. Better Than Dead (05:10)
2. Take a Shot (03:42)
3. Oblique (03:52)
4. Say You Will (03:53)
5. Pyramid (05:56)
6. Can’t Decide (04:12)
7. Mind Time (04:12)
8. Hey Mister! (03:55)
9. St Tropez Blue (05:24)
10. The Bounce (05:31)