Back To Class

Drew Schultz

Pax Productions, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Stories abound regarding the woes of Detroit; its economic failures, shuttering of car companies, a city council paralyzed by inaction, and a former mayor for whom “corrupt” seems too nice a term grace Michigan newspapers on a weekly basis. The city is a punchline around the rest of the country, redeemed slightly by the Tigers’ 2012 run to the World Series.

As anyone who lives in Michigan knows, the Motor City has a long and deep history, and a significant part of that is music. From Eminem to Kid Rock, from Stevie Wonder to Madonna, from Grand Funk to Iggy Pop and the Stooges, a rich musical vein runs through the Great Lakes state. The most well-known music label bears the city’s nickname – Motown – and even though the label headed for California in the early 1970s, it will forever be associated with Michigan.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One would hope that a city linked to music would possess a strong musical program in its public schools, but like the rest of the city, Detroit Public Schools is facing economic woes and its music programs are in crisis. This is where Drew Schultz comes in; his debut Back To Class utilizes personnel from a large range of Motown and soul groups to create a modern funk/soul workout, with all the proceeds going directly to DPS’s musical programs.

It’s a noble idea, especially for Schultz, a young and friendly drummer/songwriter who spent five years working with the Four Tops as his introduction to the music business. Through that connection, Schultz recruited longtime studio musicians like bassist James Jamerson Jr. and Melvin Davis, as well as his own band (the Funk Machine), to create an homage to funk and soul music.

All songs here are originals, written mostly by Schultz, and are directly influenced by ‘70s funk and soul music; think Earth, Wind & Fire, Isaac Hayes, the O’Jays, and the like. Between Schultz’s obvious affection for this era of music and the studio musicians who helped make it, the project is a labor of love and a neat, modern update on the sounds we know so well.

The finger-snapping “Time Is Now” and the funky instrumental “Slouch Potato” are early highlights, while the duet “Try” and Rob Carter’s vocals on “Sometimes” transport the listener back to an earlier, more innocent era of R&B. A jazz influence pops up on “Jamo,” while the bassline of “So Many Fish In The Sea” is the best on the album. Granted, few of the songs will stick in your head afterward, but every song is intelligent and self-assured, a remarkable quality for a debut full of 16 original tunes.

Back To Class has little in common with today’s R&B, but those of a certain age who grew up in the ‘70s will immediately identify with the sounds and the vibe. Yet this is more than just a tribute or benefit project; it is the work of an artist ready to make a breakthrough, and if this is any indication, Drew Schultz is a name we could be hearing from a lot in the future.

Rating: B-

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© 2012 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pax Productions, and is used for informational purposes only.