REVIEW: Rented Mule’s “X”

Great jazz gets me going, funky jazz has me sold, so when you combine the two genuinely, I’m wanting to shake what’s left and just get locked into the grooves they’re slicing left and right. Now add to that a bit of fusion and what might sound like a collision ready to get ugly, it’s perfect in the hands of Rented Mule, who combine these elements successfully on X (self-released).

They may call it jazz-rock, perhaps in the vein of Santana‘s mid-70’s output, and you would come very close, but Carlos Santana always flirted with jazz without ever pushing it to the side (at least in that era of his career). X sounds a bit like Frank Zappa if he wanted to jam with Tower Of Power, complete with great musicianship and arrangements, and a tightness that you want to somehow get inbetween in order to, in your mind, truly feel its magic. The rhythm section of bassist Danny Greenberg and drummer Don “DA” Jones are the bands core, and with them the entire band follow while not being afraid to share their individual qualities in their instruments. It’s loose and funky, and when there is a guitar solo (duties of which are exchanged between Pete McRae, Ron Budesa), it takes the music on another playing field. It’s very much in the spirit of those jazz/funk/fusion albums of the mid to late 70’s, where jazz was splintering into more directions yet keeping to the integrity of the music.

They’re more than capable of backing any vocalist if they wanted to, but this is an all instrumental album, which is perfect. Solid from start to finish, I’d like to see these guys become a house band for a talk show, or maybe do some movie soundtracks.