Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker by Don Byron
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It's not as though wide-ranging avant-garde jazz clarinetist Don Byron hasn't pulled a rock tribute out of his trick bag before: His 1998 album, Nu Blaxploitation
, resurrected songs by '70s funk-rock band Mandrill. Still, this tribute to Junior Walker, the Motown singer and saxist best known for his 1965 hit, "Shotgun," comes as a surprise--as does Byron's decision to play tenor saxophone on all but two tracks. A full-scale, supercharged, organ-wailing production featuring Chris Thomas King and Dean Bowman on lead vocals ("Shotgun" is sung by the latter), Do the Boomerang
was built for pleasure. While it lacks the raw, earthy essence of vintage Junior--with his smaller tenor sound, Byron hangs back much of the time--the fullness, energy and tightness of the music make up for that. And while King's bow to James Brown on the hard funk tune, "There It Is," seems out out place, it's good hearing forgotten songs like the instrumental, "Mark Anthony Speaks," alongside familiar faves like "Pucker Up Buttercup." --Lloyd Sachs