Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Bus Boys - American Worker

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, the Bus Boys started out as a Top 40 cover band before branching out into their own original material. The group consisted of brothers Brian (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin O’Neal (bass, vocals), Gus Louderman (vocals), Mike Jones (keyboards, vocals, Victor Johns (guitar) and Steve Felix (drums).

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the group's second studio album American Worker.

This May of 1982 release got an added boost when the band appeared in the film 48 Hrs. which was released in December of that year. The film's star Eddie Murphy was so taken with the group that he had them open for his Delirious standup comedy tour the following year.

The title track opens side one. "American Worker" opens with a jackhammer pounding drumbeat, followed by a rock/synth mix that makes a fun dance track. Hearing this one again after many decades, it is like visiting a forgotten friend; I am sure I either heard this a lot on the radio or perhaps even on MTV (if there were a video for it).

The track "New Shoes" was performed by the Bus Boys in 48 Hrs.. This high-energy rocking track mixes in a rollicking piano part.

The opening and chorus hook of "Last Forever" sounds like it could have come right off a Springsteen album.

The band changes things up by going down the reggae route with "Opportunity". Once more, they switch up genres with great ease and sound good doing so.

"Heart and Soul" continues that island-sound with an emphasis on the keyboards and raw sexual energy. In 1983, Huey Lewis and the News did a successful cover of the tune for their third album Sports, riding it up the charts. Hearing both versions on two back-to-back days, I can easily see both having a place in my music library.

Side two begins with "I Get Lost", a rocking number about being distracted while trying to attain a major goal. If the Bus Boys were not an inspiration to Living Colour, I would be greatly surprised. This one sounds like it came straight out of the later group’s back catalog.

"Soul Surfing U.S.A." is a nice send up to 60’s surf-rock right down to the musical style. The lyrics make a tongue-in-cheek statement about the segregation of beach scenes a few decades prior.

"Yellow Lights" is a cautionary warning to future generations set to have a heavy rock groove.

With "Falling in Love", we switch genres again - this time landing on new-wave. The lyrics address the unexplainable aspects of falling in love.

The album closes with "I Believe", another new-wave track that brings to mind Devo. Here, the band takes on religion and faith.

American Worker is a hodge-podge of musical styles, which prevents the record from getting repetitive or boring. The Bus Boys possess the chops to pull each type very well. Some would say though that perhaps this is more copycat work versus developing a signature style. I do not see it that way at all; I see it as a band that likes many kinds of music and can play them all equally well.

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