Published October 1996, The Music Paper
Vocalist/guitarist David Darling and his seven-piece band, the Boxing Gandhis, are clearly disciples of the raw, soulful, funkified gospel laid down by George Clinton, Sly Stone, The Isley Brothers, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, War, Curtis Mayfield and Roebuck "Pops" Staples back in the day.
How else do you explain the rootsy, acoustic-based slacker funk; swaggering horns, smooth, multi-part, multi-gender vocals; groovin' vibes; slippery bass runs; and free-flowing, feet-get-movin' beats that drive the L.A.-based band's first Atlantic Records release, Howard.
Hot on the heels of the self-titled, 1995 full-length debut that boasted the Billboard Triple-A, Top 5 hit, "If You Love Me (Why Am I Dyin' "); Howard, the group's eclectic, 15-song second album, is unlike anything released so far this year.
"What we're doing is a little different than what's going on out there right now," said Darling during a recent phone call to discuss the album. "And the record is probably going to be a bit of a hard sell, from a business point of view, simply because it is so different."
Bursting with sharp social commentary and trenchant, biting observations layered over some of the slickest grooves to come along since Bootsy powered the Mothership; songs such as "Piece In The Valley," "Funky Little Princess," "Far From Over," "Promised Land" and "Sun Don't Shine On Everyone" are more than just potential dance hits they're front-page headlines that place the blame where it belongs and point an angry finger at the sick, rotting soul of society.
"We definitely have our eyes open," comments Darling, "and, we have a lot to say about some of the things going on in the world. We almost feel as if it's our duty to comment on what we see going on out there as opposed to singing about what we'd like it to be. I don't really think it's any of my business to try to change how you feel about certain things. On the other hand," he adds. "I can draw your attention to the things I see."
Besides Darling, the group includes singer/percussionist (and wife) Brie Darling, saxophonist/lead vocalist Ernie Perez, saxophonist/vocalist Alfredo Ballesteros, guitarist/vocalist Eric Fowler, bassist Randy Landas and drummer and former Prince cohort, Jamie Chez.
"The more colors, the more accurate the picture" is this multi-race, multi-gender band's philosophy and nothing better illustrates that than spending a little time with the amazingly diverse, always relevant, undeniably hook-filled Howard.
"We followed a few simple rules when we went into the studio with Howard," Darling explains. "One: we kept things loose and easy. Two: we didn't belabor the point. Everyone had, for the most part, a three-take limit on each track so there's a certain freshness to the overall feel of the album. And, three: we had to be able to do the song acoustically in my living room before it was even considered for the record."
"There's really not a whole lot goin' on here," he laughs. "We are, at the end of the day, a very simple, very organic band. We're low-tech, but we're as honest and as honest sounding as we can be."
"I think what makes Howard so unusual," chuckles Darling, "is that it's nothing more than great musicians playing their instruments to fairly simple formats without a bunch of lights, gizmos and noise to distract you."
-- AL MUZER