Spam All Stars Introducing

Latin funk has had a big year in 2008. Solid to outstanding albums by Grupo Fantasma, Ocote Soul Sounds and Brownout have revitalized a form that seemed dead and buried for 30 years. The Spam All Stars have been keeping on keeping on in Miami, where Latino musical experiments have a greater chance than anywhere else (save NYC) of being commercially viable. The title is a misnomer — the All Stars have been around for almost ten years and have three CDs and three vinyl releases to date. They are a combination of a live band with electronic ingredients — each track plays out with a live kit drum- or clave-driven groove on top of which turntables, horns, flutes and keyboard parts float in and out, dub-style. That’s all well and good but the songwriting is often not at the level of the execution. The lack of memorable melodies or tension-building key changes starts to be a factor after the first few songs — extended solos are simply not a substitute for solid tunes. The grooves are fine but are not head and shoulders above so many other jam-based funk bands. Most of the time the end result is a static five minutes of groove, unless more aggressive dub mixing is used. These are fine as DJ ingredients but you’d best be prepared to keep on mixing when the first breakdown hits. (Riverboat)