In the nearly 40 years they have been together, the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet (formerly a quintet and better known as NRBQ) have developed a loyal cult following, and a reputation for dogged independence and madding inconsistency on record. Their eclecticism, which makes them hard to define and, no doubt, hard to market, is the key to their longevity and to the loyalty they inspire in their admirers. Their newest disc, Dummy, is on their own label and it is as varied as any longtime fan could want, but its also highly entertaining and accessible enough to attract new listeners.
Dummy contains echoes of and sideways tributes to everyone from Frank Zappa (the intro to the title song, which also contains a hint of Thelonious Monk), to the Beach Boys ("Call of the Wild"). NRBQ throws some curveballs throughout, but the bands skill and experience show -- everything works smoothly and even the missteps are light and humorous. The best songs combine savvy songwriting with sharp playing and a giddy sense of fun.
The disc would have benefited from a livelier recording -- the sound is very dry and seems to stop at the speakers. Some tweaking, even just a touch of reverb, would have given the electronic keyboards and the drums a little more resonance. Still, Dummy is a disc of great songs, well played and filled with witty observations.
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