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Brute Force - Brute Force

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Artist: Brute Force

Album: Brute Force

Label: Sepia Tone

Review date: Jun. 3, 2004

Originally released in 1970, the debut album of sextet Brute Force was largely regarded as a tangent in the discography of famed guitarist Sonny Sharrock. Fair or not, after 30 years and a reissue on Sepia Tone, Sharrock’s guest role is sure to be the beacon that brings attention to this album again. This is a shame, partially because Sharrock’s work on the album is hardly revelatory by his standards, and secondly, because the six men who make up the band’s core lineup deserve a larger portion of the attention.

Brute Force’s music is surely a product of its times. The breadth of their sound – which included a tenor sax, flute, electric piano, a pair of trumpets, two basses, drums, and conga drums – makes for some interesting arrangements, especially when Sharrock is added to the mix and allowed to play more than a punctuational role. “Monster” and “Right Direction,” two tracks upon which Sharrock wasn’t originally credited, contain some of his signature slide sound, running free along with the other instruments. The group’s ensemble hybrid of soul, jazz, and rock was nothing spectacularly new in 1970, but there are some “far out” moments, and their philosophical outlook, no matter how positive, is decidedly against the intellectual and political status quo.

The best tracks on Brute Force, however, are the least didactic. “Ye-Le-Wa,” penned by purported leader Stanley Strickland, is a full-on jazz suite, moving from contemplative, mellow sounds to a funk-infused swing, to lengthy solos, with vocals that, aside from the title of the song, contain little recognizable lyrical content. “Doubt,” which concludes the disc, is the most beautiful selection on the album, led by Strickland’s flute over the vibrato of Richard Daniel’s electric piano and well-placed percussion from Sidney Smart. Though the rest of Brute Force has high-minded ideals and directions for positive living, like “Do it Right Now” and “Right Direction,” it’s only during “Doubt,” and parts of “Ye-Le-Wa” that the sextet really reach the proverbial next level.

By Adam Strohm

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