Review: Larry Graham
Mon, 5 Nov 2012


RAISE UP [Razor & Tie] Larry Graham’s first album in 13 years is an instant reminder that unless you’ve seen him live over the past decade you haven’t been experiencing the full force of funk, as established by a cornerstone founder of the idiom. After an all-percussion opening piece that links drum- line to R&B, Graham and his fertile 5-piece band (seen at Bass Player LIVE! 2011, and fortified by Den- mark’s Millfield Horns) segue into the surging “Throw-N-Down the Funk”— led by Larry’s deadly thumb lilt. “It’s Alright,” a 1975 Graham Central Station redo follows, sitting at the same bright tempo but with a subtley altered feel, thanks to different layers of band syncopation—a great example of the depth of Graham’s groove genius. Two other ’70s GCS covers also sparkle: Al Green’s “It Ain’t No Fun to Me,” which rides Larry’s double-stop-accented eighth-notes, and “Now Do U Wanta Dance,” a classic Graham vocoder feature built around his octaver-inflected, off -the-down- beat bass line. In addition, Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” receives Larry’s distinct shuffle stamp.

Graham’s considerable and unique vocal prowess gets the spot- light on the 12/8 bluesy ballad, “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda,” and the pop crooning “Hold You Close.” Elsewhere, Raphael Saadiq lends vocals to the uplifting, backbeat- driven “One Day,” while Prince guest drums and sings on the slinky, social commentating title track, and adds stinging guitar to the sick gospel boogie stride of “Movin’.” Graham dedicates the disc to people everywhere strugging to overcome adversity; Raise Up is both an inspiring return and soundtrack for his cause.

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