I remember back in the mid-sixties when my parents dropped me off at the movies in Flushing, Queens so I could watch a double-feature whose headliner was Sean Connery as James Bond in “Thunderball”. Is it purely coincidental (not) or timely that this Bambatta-influenced disc named cinematically after that spy classic has appeared on my Spector radar here in the Bond year? Even the font used on the CD’s cover suggests the movie. “Cinescope”’ by the production trio Thunderball [ESL 101 ESL Music] hailing from the U.S. nation’s capitol obviously cops the clone of the movie magic visually. They are really into soundtracks from yesteryear in general, giving a touch of Afro-Funk, Brazilian and Latin funk. Even Karma Sutra-like Indian sitar dub rhythms like on cut one, “The Road To Benares”. On this, their third album, Thunderball shows off rainbow DJ roots; the method as to why this CD rocks so consistently with more categories from go-beat to downtempo represented thematically as this album plays like a Hollywood feature film. When not in-studio, Thunderball performs live as an eight- piece band, by the way.
Afrika Bambattas’ first blessing on this is an “Electric Shaka”, track two, with his trademark voice vocoder sound!
There is no Thunderpuss here; they take genres by the horns. Thunderball thrives and lives with the necessary inclusive string orchestrations that are lustily fulfilling without being overt in places including drum & bass, breakbeat, hip hop, Bollywood, and jazzy reggae.
My favorite is “The Return Of The Pink Panther” featuring their long time amigo Mustafa Akbar rapping, ole skool style on this hip, urban flavored track. “Bulls**# talkin’, nasty walkin’, ego-trippin fool; walkin’ outside party lines/ Breakin’ all the rules. He’s a panther! Original gansta!” After beginning mysteriously, that is the refrain on top of a movin’ funk with brassy flourishes that are reminiscent of some cuts by vintage groups like the Fantastic Four right up to the cold ending. Bambatta’s influence is throughout this album, and I still hear shades of his last effort, “Dark Matter Moving At The Speed Of Light” on subsequent songs including, “Get Up With The Get Down” and “Thunder In The Jungle” where he is featured again. Biting my adopted nickname (Ha!) is track six, “Strictly Rude Boy”, which cruises with ‘nuff respect to the dancefloor massive. I surf the waves into cut seven, “The Mysterious Mr. Sandobar” who must be the villain character in this version of the movie Thunderball, and maybe the backdrop is another Caribbean island as the ragamuffin bass groove continues. I can just see “Bond, James Bond” about the chase after the evil bad guy to this song, femme fatale in tow.
“Chicachiquita” has that’ tropical or bossa nova beat from the sixties, evoking visions of Astrud Gilberto and the Ipanema girl.
On “Elevated States”, Mustafa Akbar gets my attention once again by biting the sound of, and singing an old Marvin Gaye line about “ego-trippin’ out” from the sparsely played “In Our Lifetime” LP, circa 1981 I believe. What might Marvin be doing in his grave when he hears this, I wonder? Somebody is busted...or not according to whether a tribute was intended. If so, I’d think he would say or sing it.
I read from their press release where they had some “Mediterranean Soul” on this CD and was disappointed because apparently I kept missing the last songs on the album by getting involved with other activities within my listening space throughout the course of a session. You know, mundane tasks like cooking dinner, taking calls, television, etc. – that sauce never jumped out to my cortex. I still never heard it even when I concentrated on each track as I penned this review – proof of a writer’s “Lost Vagueness” I guess. I recommend you go check it for yourself and let us and Thunderball know. Nevertheless, I rate it four point five stars on my musical multipurpose Richter scale.