There’s lots of so-called ‘neo-soul’ around these days, but most of it lacks the spark, the fire, the sheer passionate intensity of soul music’s glory years. Bucket List, the debut disc from Richmond, Virginia-based Julius Pittman & The Revival makes no concessions to modernity. As an utterly period-perfect collection of hot soul and funky R&B, It’s as though the last 45 years simply haven’t happened.
Pittman, possessed of a gritty marvel of a voice, leads a horn-heavy ensemble of industry vets through an authentic romp of a recording, right down to the slightly muddy lo-fi production that avoids the slick and sterile in favor of an earthy, organic sound.
Pittman, who contributes electric piano and Hammond B3, wrote four of the disc’s nine tracks, with covers from the likes of Al Green (“Tired Of Being Alone”), Albert Collins (“A Good Fool Is Hard To Find,” easily the bluesiest track present) and a pair from Jack Mack & The Heart Attack (“Don’t Need No Reason” and the yearning ”I’m Willing To Learn”). Pittman’s heart is clearly in the era, as his own compositions (one a co-write with horn arranger Terry Baber) are virtually indistinguishable from the covers.
The material is party-hearty, with equal emphasis on sweaty funk and percolating rhythm and blues – stuff that fills dance floors while sending a shiver down your spine. The band treads that tricky line between impeccably tight and gloriously loose with aplomb, and Pittman is a stunning vocalist, with a gritty, raw delivery that’s as believable as it is passionate. Whether he’s strutting his stuff or baring his soul with gut-wrenching candor, he absolutely owns every tune he tackles, directing the show with unquestionable authority.
A killer collection, this one might be ‘retro’ but you’d never know it – it’s a fresh and as vital and packs a punch as visceral and immediate as – well, as an immediate need to dance. Right now!