The Melvin Sparks Band
"What You Hear Is What You Get"


It's hard not to be biased about Melvin Sparks. After over 30 years of listening to, and enjoying his works, this disc clearly elevates the artistry of this fine, Texas born guitarist. This is Melvin's eighth solo outing, since he has appeared as a sideman/contributor on over an amazing one hundred and fifty recordings!

One of many strengths that Melvin has, is his ability to keep his deep roots while staying with current trends in the industry.

So it is no surprise to find both Melvin's Blue Note Records partner Reuben Wilson (1970) as a guest, right along side one of today's exciting performers, the saxophonist "Topaz"! Spark's regular touring unit is also on board for this recording Joe Hrbek (Herbie J) is on sax, George Papageorge is on B3, Tim Luntzel is on acoustic and electric bass, and Carter McLean plays the drums. Derek Layers is the current touring band bass player.

The percolating "Another Joe" written by Sparks, opens the disc, and is so funky with its driving and mesmerizing complex changes and rhythmic beats. The double tracking of Melvin's rhythm and lead guitar is tremendous on this track as well as throughout this recording.

It is warp speed ahead on Sparks' "What You Hear is What You Get" with a nice B3 solo from George Papageorge, and a great finish with Melvin taking out the fade at breakneck speed.

George Papageorge gets you into the funk with his "The Governor", and takes the first solo, Melvin contributes with a strong grooving solo, and this track marks the first appearance by Topaz on tenor sax that shows nice early 70's funk roots.

Get down with "The Hardest Working Man in the Business's" James Brown's, "Funky Good Time" with Melvin on vocals, and a powerful alto solo by Hrbek, fueled by Melvin's driving rhythm guitar.

One of the best tunes here is Melvin's appropriately titled "Turning Point" which will twist and turn you around with all of its neat chord changes, and lets Melvin loose with several dynamite yet pretty guitar solos--a great track! The soulful "Matter of Time" by Sparks, brings in Melvin's long time partner Reuben Wilson for the ride. It's obvious that these two Acid Jazz founders of time have been doing this for a long time. Wilson and Sparks set the foundation and lay down a tight beat, which allows Joe Hrbek to take a super solo on alto, and Melvin is superlative and obviously comfortable in this context.

Reuben & Sparks collaborate together on Spark's bouncy "Get n' It", with a cool solo guitar funk ending by Sparks.

Melvin lets us know what he wants on Barrett Strong & Berry Gordy's soul chestnut, "Money (That's All I Want)" which finds Melvin in a pretty bluesy mood on both vocals and a sharp biting guitar.

The album closes, on this disc's prettiest track, with Melvin's "Breez" offering some of the most gorgeous guitar playing in a long time. It's hard to choose but "Breez" may be the best song on this very fine recording. Listen to Melvin play here, it will bring a smile to your face, and perhaps recall a fond memory of your past. This is Melvin's strongest guitar playing on the disc too, as he really lets those sparks fly!

It's good to have you back with this recording, Melvin! May there be many more to come.

Happy listening!

Bob Putignano,
President, NY Blues & Jazz Society
Radio Host @ WFDU's "The Sounds of Blue".