THE HELMUT STEIN EXPERIENCE ON RETURN
(10-SONG FULL-LENGTH CD)
Last we heard from the Helmut Stein Experience, at the tail end of 2001, they had just put out a superb three-song sampler, a drippingly delish mélange of sweet soul, blues, jazz, and R&B. The standout track was "On Return," soaked in now ex-00 Soul man R. Scott's gorgeous organ swaths, which carved a path for his gruff, two-pack-a-day vocals, then slid into some spirited New Orleans horn lines and Melinda Jones' sugar-coated backup croon. So great was the tune that it just had to be on the Weekly's latest local-band compilation CD (plug, plug!). Turns out that was just a prick-tease for this full-length, which builds on the sampler's foundation of classic, what-if-white-people-were-never-allowed-to-make-music? rhythms, with some groovy, grooving extras. "On Return" now has this lush gospel organ intro. New cuts such as "The Fool," which has singer April Sweeney wailing through a phalanx of ghostly moans and old-timey instrumentation, comes off sinewy and satisfying. Scott's piano rolls and Sweeney's voluptuous voice pump "The Kiss," which feels like something you'd hear coming out of a Deep South barroom. A spoken-word rant from Larry Schulz, with Scott on piano and timpani, sounds almost like a Tom Waits outtake and, fun as it is, seems out of place here, but hey, it only lasts a minute and a half anyway. Still, every track is a standout, if only because it's all real music, rooted in real aural history, a nod to the decades before poseurs and publicists took over everything. The perfect band for an intimate room like the Continental, where, lucky you, they're gigging on Thursday, March 20. Really, our only complaint is: Can't they find a shorter, easy-to-remember URL for their website?
—Rich KaneThe Helmut Stein Experience perform at the Continental Room, 115 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-7469. Thurs., March 20, 10 p.m. Free. 21+.
OC and Long Beach bands and musicians! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.