Burt Neilson Band Five Alive

The relationship between geography and musical inclination frays considerably when listening to the Burt Neilson Band. Formed in Thunder Bay five years ago, BNB's fusion of funk, space-rock and soul is a remarkably natural brew for such Northerly dwellers. Propelled by an impeccable rhythm section and virtuoso keyboard work from Jeff Heischolt, their level of musicianship is considerable and genuine. And like their presumably clichéd reference point Phish, BNB's songwriting skills are often overshadowed by their instrumental prowess. Recorded during shows from March of this year in various stops off Southern Ontario's 401 highway, Five Alive showcases their penchant for grooves. The tight, heady riffs and saucy keyboard sounds in "Permit Collector" recall Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, while "Funkin' Shoes" and "Fresco Lopez" have a hip-hop-paced lead vocal. Guitarist Mike Filipowitsch's punchy contribution, "I Was Watching TV...," is a refined and catchy rock song that contrasts many of the over eight-minute jams on the record. Transferring energetic performances onto a recording is no easy feat, and this endlessly touring ensemble (seven times across Canada) has successfully documented their spirit this time around. (Independent)