05 Feb Robert Walter – Spirit of 70 – Album Review
Robert Walter’s debut album ‘sprit of 70’ is a classic that is engaging 25 years after it was released as it was in its 1996 debut. In his first recording as a bandleader, Robert Walter shines. Young, inspired, and in a room full of vintage keyboards, including Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, Clarinet, and Mini Moog, Walter leads legendary Alto and Soprano Saxophone artist Gary Bartz and The Greyboy Allstars through forty-six minutes of 70s funk. Two covers, Jan Jan by organist Mose Davis and Little Miss Lover by Jimi Hendrix, round out the original set composed by Robert Walter and the Greyboy Allstars.
The Greyboy Allstars—the band that Walter co-founded, show up in top form and ready to play. Karl Denson on Alto and Tenor Saxophone, Elgin Park on Electric Guitar, Chris Stillwell on Bass Guitar, Zak Najor on Drums, and Skip on Percussion fill out the personal list along with Walter and Bartz. They burn through each groove with style, grace, and precision. Wearing their hearts and their influences on their sleeves, it is easy to see why they would go on to be favorited by musicians and fans alike over the next three decades.
‘Spirit of 70’ is a master class in west coast groove and the execution of great ideas. Robert embarks on a journey with his close friends to expand the sonic pallet of seventies funk while paying homage to the voices who brought them there, and boy do they do it justice. Gary Bartz lends his credence to the passing of the mantle from the older generation to the new. ‘Spirit of 70’ is more than a tribute or a throwback album. It is unique and new art created in the image of what came before.
The groove is immediate. It only takes seconds for Walter and the boys to have you sitting deep in the pocket of a feeling that could go on for hours. Striking the perfect balance between fresh and familiar ‘Spirit of 70’ is a force. The mix feels like it places you in the middle of producer DJ Greyboy’s living room turned studio. Almost like you are sitting behind the Rhodes with Walter himself. With the drums in front of you and Elgin Park’s guitar slightly ahead and to the right, it feels inviting and intimate. The band members support each other, moving as a unit, as they play off each others melodies and ideas. Walter makes his first statement around the two-minute mark after a tasteful solo by guitar player Elgin Park. Robert’s melodies are full of style and soul. Grounded and often understated, his keys sing with the brilliant backing of his trusted collaborators.
Walter has fond memories of recording this record and the place in time that it existed for The Greyboy Allstars. He said, “I think it captures the band right as it is beginning to establish its own identity. We are taking the lessons learned and emulating the records we love, and starting to create something unique. I am still very proud of this one.” He should be proud of it. It is an excellent record played brilliantly by players who would continue to innovate together for the next 25 years. The energy is real and palpable. The camaraderie is evident in every solo and every rhythm complementing them.
This record will continue to give pleasure and new experiences on every repeated listen. It will also continue to stand firm in its place in history, ready to inspire new generations of fans the same way that Robert and the rest of the Greyboy Allstars found themselves inspired by Gary Bartz and the giants that came before them.
Sound: 10/10 – The production could not be better and the placement of every not can not be argued with. This is a true sonic enjoyment
Originality: 6/10 – It’s hard to judge the originality of a project that has the intent of being a throwback album that harkens the sounds of its influences. With that considered, we did not judge too harshly, but we did have to leave room to score higher, the albums that are truly breaking new ground.
More about Robert Walter: www.robertwalter.com