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Maceo Parker

Roots & Grooves (Heads Up)

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James Brown's favorite saxophone spark plug reanimates a batch of Ray Charles chestnuts on the first disc of this two-CD live set before devolving with a somewhat less successful clutch of originals on the second. Parker is an engaging, gravelly singer, who turns appropriately sentimental on "Them That's Got" and unexpectedly creative and sprawling on the thoroughly re-imagined "What'd I Say." The music goes down easy — although the drum solo on "Pass the Peas" seems endless (aren't they all?), and Parker relies a bit too much on old Average White Band riffs. Think of the first disc as real, durable songs, the second as a largely inspired recycling of funk tropes from the '60s and '70s. Still, they groove hard. Besides being commercially safe, Parker's takes on Charles' hits are far more than respectful. His originals also certainly have their moments: The joyful "Uptown Up" rocks so solid, you'd like it to last forever. And "To Be or Not to Be" is a blast of a novelty.

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