Essential New Music: Barrence Whitfield & The Savages’ “Soul Flowers Of Titan”

Pre-release hype on the 12th full-length slab from these Boston kings of garage/R&B claimed it to be under the hypnotic spell of Sun Ra’s cosmic free jazz. It’s difficult to tell through the hardly-lo-fi-but-not-quite-high-fidelity sonics of Cincinnati’s clearly analog Ultra Suede Studios. Full, raucous and live-in-a-room—and definitely swelling under tube and tape compression until it explodes—the dozen-song Soul Flowers Of Titan is the sound of hard-roots vets displaying muscular expertise.

The LP, the follow-up to 2015’s Under The Savage Sky, is bolstered by new Savage Brian Olive’s thick, warm Hammond B3. But the focus remains square on Barrence Whitfield’s unhinged vocals and the screaming blues guitar and slashing power chords of Beantown punk legend Peter Greenberg (DMZ, Lyres), who also served as Soul Flowers Of Titan’s producer. The material runs the gamut from Texas blues shuffles (“Slowly Losing My Mind,” “Tall, Black And Bitter,” “Let’s Go To Mars”) to Stax-y soul stomps (“Pain,” “Tingling,” “Sunshine Don’t Make The Sun”) to street-corner doo wop (“I’ll Be Home Someday”). Retro futurists like JD McPherson should definitely take notes.

—Tim Stegall