JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

Howl ( Bloodshot)

Rating: NNNN

Howl is a sensible name for JC Brooks & Co.’s third album. The man can sing. If things don’t work out for the Chicago quintet (I think they will), he’d make an excellent Collins in a Broadway presentation of Rent. Sometimes his controlled, highly trained vocals slip into an Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations-like falsetto, and that’s special, too. “Howl” also connotes a certain amount of wretched pain, and thematically it’s a painful album (lots of heartache).

Luckily, the band tricks you into thinking life’s a party. The Uptown Sound draws from the best of Chicago’s musical DNA: blues, gospel, 60s R&B plus funk and rock. (Also, if Seal and Prince had a baby who listened to punk and Tom Cochrane in the womb.) The middle lags a bit, but that’s forgotten when ninth song Cold brings the breakup album home with simple piano and Brooks’s wounded singing.

Top track: Rouse Yourself

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