Adam and the Waxmen deliver this weekend (shows Friday and Saturday at the Big Easy) their sophomore release, Universal Soldiers, a stronger disc than their debut, Just Play from 2008, mostly because frontman Adam Waxman’s vocals are advanced and more interesting and the mix is more immediate and up-front, especially the lead guitars and keyboard work. The songs themselves aren’t much different, a mix of wicka-wicka guitars and soul croon, taking their lead from the opening “Motown Mornin’,” which has a particularly nice organ sound.
R&B/soul might be the genre of popular music that translates the worst to disc. In a club, in the moment, it's easy to enjoy, especially a couple drinks deep. On record, even Curtis Mayfield can get a little repetitive and tiresome. That said, for fans of the genre, Waxman is a developing talent, with a feel for working a room and a group of musicians that want to play for him.
These aren't the kind of songs you sing along with. They're songs you sway and groove along with, and Waxman has a particular way of creating a relaxed and slow burn. He's helped, too, by the work of bassist Bobby Queen, who's crucial to the success of each song, driving the title track as much as Waxman's vocals.
There are nice touches here with backing vocals, horn solos, and electric guitar riffs, but this disc is more about the whole created by the big-band soul sound than it is about the individual performances.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER | Released by Adam and the Waxmen | with the Kenya Hall Band | Oct 22 | with John Clavette + Travis Cyr | Oct 23 | at the Big Easy, in Portland |www.adamandthewaxmen.com