Coming from a family background with disparate influences ranging from jazz, funk, rock, blues, soul and hip hop, must have an influence on the development of an artists sound. Add in to the mix being raised in the cultural smorgasbord of Bristol, and Richard O’Brien has a head start when it comes to producing music that exhibits spirit, passion and enthusiasm. As well as being an active member in bands such as Trip the Switch, Mango Factory, In Extremis and The Trish Brown Band, he has found time to produce “Hot Potato” under the Richard O’Brien Project.
One look through the list of musical influences should give some indication as to the pedigree on offer; Marcus Miller, Miles Davis, Alice Russell, Cinematic Orchestra and Jaco Pastorius. This release features Matt Brown on drums, Joe Price on guitar, Sam Mills on keyboards, John Herbert, Jonny Pratt and Jonny Bruce on horns, Rich Jones on violin, Jack Skuse on vocals and O’Brien himself on bass.
The album opens with the guitar driven title track ‘Hot Potato’ which is not only drenched in overwhelmingly catchy riffs, but has a progression that is not easy for the listener to remove from their subconscious once the track has finished. The solos are tight and punchy, and are restrained enough to fit appropriately into the songs taut framework. The horn section on “Definitive” again, is tight and uplifting, and provides the tune with a hook that is not easily forgettable.
By the time the listener has reached ‘Momentum’ the pace has slowed and the tender vocals introduce another level to the composition. ‘Whiskey Fever’ shows the band displaying confidence in their abilities and an authentic display of collaboration. The bass soloing is never ostentatious but remains true to the spirit of the music. ‘Sweet Protection’ and ‘Pastiche’ are affectionate, and augmented latterly with the addition of the violin, which is at times reminiscent of the playing of Jon Luc Ponty in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. ‘Frisky’ is, as the name suggests, playful and bold, whilst ‘Funkyard Jam’ lives up to its name, with searing horn and guitar passages that do nothing to detract from the overall collective sound. The album closes with the filthy, throbbing, ‘The Grudge’, featuring solo bass mischievousness from O’Brien.
“Hot Potato” has many levels and moods to ensure the listener remains attentive, and the performances are always true to the spirit of teamwork within the band, which can so often be sadly missing from a defined unit. This is unquestionably music that is destined to fill, and captivate, jazz and soul clubs the length and breadth of the country and beyond.