Dead Oceans/Easy Eye Sounds
Jan 13, 2021
If not for the fact that he is still with us, you would swear that Motown legend Smokey Robinson had been reincarnated in the form of Aaron Frazer. Frazer’s day job has been playing drums for Durand Jones & The Indications, but if you’re familiar with the group you might know that Frazer lends his sky high falsetto to several tunes, including the standout “Is It Any Wonder?” Here on Introducing…, Frazer shows that his vocal prowess is easily translatable to frontman duties. And frankly that’s a bit of understatement as Frazer nails a versatile lead across a dozen tunes ranging from breezy doo-wop (“Have Mercy”) to peak meter fireworks (“Over You”). And not to be forgotten, Frazer is behind the drum kit as well.
Frazer’s move to the helm was inevitable and with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on the boards the combination produces a retro-tinged essential. An assemblage of musicians was gathered in Auerbach’s Nashville-based Easy Eye Sound Studio, including members of the Daptone horn section and The Memphis Boys (Dusty Springfield/Wilson Pickett). Bobby Wood’s piano and organ playing, not to mention some songwriting credits, is of particular note. Not surprisingly, the playing and the crystalline production make the perfect backdrop for Frazer to show his skills.
Frazer’s high register cruises seamlessly through the more laid back tunes. “Have Mercy” is powered by a languid bossanova beat, complete with back-up vocalists that “ooh” and “aah” in all the right places. And the downbeat and slightly psychedelic “Love Is” slinks and slides not unlike Classics IV’s “Spooky.” But where Frazer truly shines, somewhat surprisingly given his understated vibe, are on the high energy takes. The opening three tracks are an arc of escalating dynamics leading to the hard bop piano and crashing cymbals of “Can’t Leave It Alone.” “Ride with Me” plays out as a double-timed take on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” with some subtle political undertones. Even the lighthearted subject matter of “Girl on the Phone” is met with towering instrumental builds. But the escalating chords of the post-breakup lament “Over You” bring the biggest shower of sparks with Frazer easily keeping pace vocally and providing a high energy drum break. Finally, Frazer and company take their foot off the pedal for a soul stirring Sam Cook gospel-inspired number in “Leanin’ On Your Everlasting Love.”
Introducing… is prone to set new listeners to these sounds down paths searching for Frazer’s inspirations. Some were in the studio with him and it’s always heartwarming to see those that played with legends provide an assist to fresh talent. But make no mistake, Frazer steps out of the shadow of earlier era giants to stand alongside them, shoulder to shoulder. (www.aaronfrazermusic.com)
Author rating: 8/10