Rick Wade: The Good, the Bad, and the Deep
Yore Records

Rick Wade has issued his own deep strain of late-night House music since 1991 so it shouldn't surprise that his tracks draw upon past eras as much as the current one. In fact, when the artist, DJ, and label head (Harmonie Park and Bass Force) sprinkles a little Chain Reaction dust over the funky handclapping swing of “Prime Expansion,” one could be forgiven for interpreting the moment as his way of acknowledging a relatively recent style before shifting the spotlight back to his preferred territory. Wade's style naturally references techno and house but also pulls classic disco, smooth jazz, funk, and Philly soul into its expansive orbit. One hears traces of Barry White, Gamble and Huff, and The Crusaders: White in the soulful strings that sometimes course through Wade's steaming tracks, Gamble and Huff in the sparkling arrangements, and The Crusaders' Joe Sample in the Rhodes flourishes that caress the grooves (it's perhaps worth noting that Wade grew up listening to Al Green and Isaac Hayes, among others).

Following an intro of soft chords, triangle, and congas, “Focus” achieves liftoff when the beats kick in, after which Wade sweetens the deal with twilight synth colour and silken strings. A smooth jazz spirit infuses “Xavi” with a feathery sax motif and springy bass line buoying a sleek disco-funk pulse. If there's a single cut that captures The Good, the Bad, and the Deep's essence, it's the beautiful “Hustler's Den.” Bridging three decades in one fell swoop, the cut's pounding stomp is overlaid by a see-sawing Rhodes motif and a ‘70s-styled bass slap, which are then joined by horn accents and a soaring string line. If there's an argument against singling out “Hustler's Den,” it's that equally strong cuts such as the mightily swinging “Force Feed” and dark stormer “Forbidden Jutsu” get shortchanged in the process.

Wade's tracks are rich with detail but their essence is first and foremost groove. So dedicated is he to it that a track is sometimes stripped back to nothing more than its beat core before the other elements are brought back in. The Good, the Bad, and the Deep, his first full-length for Yore following two superb EPs (Night of the Living Deep and Night Tactics), falters only once: though “Only Love” rolls out a sinuous midtempo groove, the cut includes a rather somnolent vocal turn by Marissa G (Marissa Guzman) that doesn't do justice to Wade's fine material. This eight-track set otherwise impresses as a polished portrait of the artist.

April 2008