Fresh Goods by Tao of Groove


The Groove Gravy label (don’t you just love that name?) which released this CD was only founded in March 2002.  This project is the embodiment of the musical philosophy of the label’s head Roy Shakked. 

Roy is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and has been active in the industry for over a decade. For a year he served as in-house composer at Music Pen in New York City, developing music for CD-ROM games marketed by Microsoft, Paramount Interactive and others. 

A classical music CD-ROM project he managed for Delta Entertainment, resulted in Shakked moving to Los Angeles and becoming Production Manager, then Director of Repertoire for Delta.  Between 1996 and 2002, Shakked worked on production projects through his own Score Music Productions, Inc., devoting all his energy to Score once his association with Delta ended in 2000. 

On this 2002 release, he has called on the help of artists with talents as diverse as classical cello and aggressive turntable work to create the Groove Gravy sound: “a blend of laid back beats, world rhythms and urban attitude”. 

Makes you Extatic opens with an old-fashioned brass intro that sounds like it came from a 1960’s TV show.  A looped acoustic bass riff, hip-hop drums, samples and scratching flood in like a tidal wave and drive the four-minute song right the way through.  The ‘tricks’ don’t do that much for me but J-Radical’s sweet semi-acoustic guitar and Artie Webb’s delicious flute do lots!  The lazy and cool Mulatica Mia is a mix of authentic latin vocals courtesy of Martin Padilla (from the fabulously-titled Orquesta Tabaco y Ron), hip-hop beats and even rap.  Webb’s flute dances above it all and again it’s the ‘real’ elements of this song that do it for me. 

Is Honeybee Blues ‘real’?  Well, no, but it grooves along so well with J-Radical’s bass and Roy Shakked’s tasteful drum programming.  If you push J-Radical’s ‘down-south’ acoustic guitar forward in the mix and dump the vocal samples, you’ve got a real crowd-pleaser.  Superspectral is gorgeous because it just is what it is.  There are layers of lazy percussion and some great jazzy keyboard textures.  The nearest comparison I can draw is with the mellower moments from “100o and Rising” by Incognito.  Sarah O’Brien’s expressive cello and Sally Dana’s otherworldly background vocal hold your attention in this beautiful, dreamy song. 

The cello also adds flavour on the spaced-out Maybe.  Shakked’s songwriting talent shines on this song because it combines elements of ‘60’s psychedelia with modern pop/rock tonalities and ties the whole thing together with a soft hip-hop backbeat.  Should be a single release if it’s not already.  Skip the first interlude.  Prelude No. 1 is a pointless rework of music by J. S. Bach.  Surely the time for pseudo classical music – no matter how competently executed – has gone now. 

The latin/hip-hop fusion kicked off on track two is revisited on Cha Cha Cha 57.  The busy hip-hop rhythm occasional breaks down and an absolutely bea-utiful timbale is dropped in its place.  Rhythmically, this song is perfection.  The piano and flute fills become repetitive though and I’d really like to hear Artie Webb let loose, as it’s obvious he can do more.  Skip the second interlude.  I adore Brand New Delhi.  Yes, it’s got a jazzy feel with lovely ‘70’s keyboard sounds, coupled with a deft drum track and well-chosen vocal and string fills.  It reminds me of the fabulous material released by the Ministry of Sound on the “Karma Collection” set

in 2002.  You don’t need scratching on a song like this though…  Ease up guys!  This is exotic, funky and a lot of fun.  Rewind!! 

She Went Around is quite sinister and if some vocal samples were pushed back in the mix – or left out – it would make great film music.  I know that film and TV have picked up tracks from the CD and this has got to be one of the choice cuts for them.  It has a slow, pulsing bass line, manic sax stabs and pretty much everything has a massive delay effect applied.  I’m not sure if I like the song but I admire its intricacy.  The previous two interludes on the CD are pointless – unlike T Drops In.  Aaron “Teo” Lee literally splatters the place with slap bass.  This rocking track lasts a tantalising 41 seconds and leaves you wondering what “Teo” does the rest of the time.  I want to hear this guy pull off the kind of thing that Hidden Beach’s house bassist Gouché delivers! 

Try to stay still for the racing hip-hop jam Flowing Like Water.  DJ Resy’s really vicious on here and guys, I’m putting on my music editor’s hat again, this would make a killer backing to a car chase scene.  This is short, sharp and it rocks!  After this breathless workout, Coda comes as a surprise and is mellow and moving in a Zero 7 vein.  It’s a testament to the breadth of Roy Shakked’s musical vision.

Let’s talk about that musical vision.  Shakked describes his music as “…some branch of electronica, but adult-oriented, intelligent and eclectic. It's neither club-thumping rave, nor pure ambient chill-out…” 

I can’t improve on that description but I can confirm that on “Fresh Goods”, that vision is clearly expressed.  All kinds of music listeners will find things here to like.  I like music that’s blissed out, music that’s funky and music that fires the imagination and it’s all on this disc.  And why not? 

The people behind this release understand gamers, film and TV fans and classical musical lovers.  Keep your eyes on this label and the street-smart Mr Shakked…



 Groove Gravy Records – GG 1100   Producer – Roy Shakked