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Thunder Chicken

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Album Review

No prizes for guessing what sound the Mighty Imperials are aiming for — it's the early, instrumental Meters all the way on Thunder Chicken, except when they shift to James Brown on the four tracks where singer Joseph Henry shows up to soul-shout. The title track emulates the Meters' "Chicken Strut," but then you can play guessing games on which Meters songs the Mighty Imperials were using as their model for every instrumental here. It's the same balanced interplay of four instruments, with the organist getting closest to capturing Art Neville's minimal swoops and swirls. The guitarist has gone to school on Leo Nocentelli and gets most of the way there, the funky, melodic basslines lack George Porter's fluidity, and the drums — well, you can try for Zig Modeliste, but lotsa luck getting even remotely close to capturing the second-line percussive zags of New Orleans' chop funk master. The drummer fares better in the James Brown pocket on the Henry-plus-horn tracks, and a Meters-style instrumental cover of "Cold Sweat" closes out a homage to those late-'60s soul icons. Thunder Chicken sounds like the kind of record made for, and by, people who like bars with jukeboxes loaded with hip rarities.


Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Though none of the four members of the Mighty Imperials was over the age of 18 when they sat down in the Desco Records studios in 1999 to work on the music for Thunder Chicken, they were talented enough to entice gospel singer Joe Henry to add his voice to four of their tracks. With Leon Michels on organ, Homer Steinweiss on drums, Nick Movshon on bass, and Sean Solomon on guitar, the Mighty Imperials played deep funk reminiscent of early James Brown and the Meters. A single, "Kick the Blanket/Toothpick,"...
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Thunder Chicken, The Mighty Imperials
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