Recording in New Orleans under Allen Toussaint's supervision, Jackie Lomax and his new band Badger are a portrait of rockers in the process of relaxing. Like Hawkins and Beckett at Muscle Shoals, Toussaint now runs a Gulf Coast clinic; another way of saying that the rhythm and blues revival in rock is finally seeking some advice. It's less the funky beat itself, the good doctors seem to say, than the relaxed head behind any groove at its best.
You might be inclined to compare Lomax's singing with Dean Martin's; though even if you did, you'd at least be admitting he's mellowed out. Lomax, though, has always relied on traditional, even slush, modes of singing, usually against a heavier band than he fronts here; but the combination has been, to me, an indication of honesty. It's easier to rip off the Otis Redding you heard at sixteen than to work out the foxtrot style that really defined your musical sense as a white child, condemn it though you must.
What's cooled out most remarkably here is the sound behind Lomax's singing. The band gets a trifle messy on explicitly funky tunes like "The Hole Thing," but it handles everything else - the light swingers as well as the album's many ballads - with admirable poise and restraint. Roy Dyke's still far from your main soul drummer, though he's finding his way down what used to seem the disreputable path toward simplicity. Toussaint's own organ and piano set examples for bassist Kim Gardner and guitarist Paul Pilnick, while his horns pop and slide mildly enough not to interfere with the textures slowly breeding in the band itself.
Originally published in The Boston Phoenix, June 11, 1974