Album Reviews

The Frank Popp Ensemble – The Frank Popp Ensemble

(Universal) UK release date: 21 November 2005

The snappily dressed Herr Popp caused quite a stirwith his Swinging Library Sounds EP earlier this year,and here he goes on to prove he’s no flash in thechrome plated pan, producing a long player offull-bodied, brassy funk.

In fact Frank Popp seems tobe a blend of fact and fiction, with the classyartwork on his website painting him as a sports cardriving figure of fun, with more than a whiff ofStarsky and Hutch about him, not to mentionKevin Keegan.

It turns out the real Frank Popp started out as agraphic designer, hence the quality drawings, and wasdrawn to experimenting with sequencers and samplers,bringing in his trademark organ sound later on. He hasan unashamedly retro approach that seeks to recreatethe sounds of the 1960s and early 1970s, and itsucceeds handsomely, incorporating modern recordingtechnology with ease. And although the tracks mayborrow ideas from that period and may even use the oddsample, inspection of the writing credits reveals theyare in fact Popp’s own.

It’s often difficult to believe these slabs offunk, soul and R&B aren’t true originals, so good arethe riffs and the immaculate, widescreen productionand orchestration. These players aren’t afraid toindulge themselves either, whether it’s the extendedfarfisa organ solo of the wonderful Mullett King, orthe cinematic atmospherics laid on for Hurry Up, oneof the best tracks here with its slide guitar. Quiteapart from all this, they’re obviously having hugeamounts of fun!

On principal vocal duties is Sam LeighBrown, not the most powerful of singers butpossessing a nice edge reminiscent of Lulu.When she’s let loose on the winning lyrics of HipTeens Don’t Wear Blue Jeans the results are spot on,no airs or graces.

The real reason for buying this album however isPopp’s arrangements, a joy when turned up loud on thestereo, with punchy brass (Enough), evocative guitarwork (Hurry Up) or big, big drums (Goo Goo Muck). It’sno surprise to learn that Hip Teens was snapped up byCoca Cola for an advertising campaign, nor that Popp’smusic has seen use in film, with Swordfish ahigh profile example.

While some of these tracks may be almost five yearsold, when they’re recreating a style so successfullythey are in fact timeless, and so this is a goodcoming together of Popp’s best work so far. Moreimportantly it’s great fun when turned up loud, andsucceeds handsomely in blowing away the cobwebs.

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The Frank Popp Ensemble – The Frank Popp Ensemble