Grapevine by Metro – Reviewed by Chris Mann



Metro – an adventurous band which brings together the talents of guitarist Chuck Loeb, keyboard player Mitchel Forman, drummer Wolfgang Haffner and bassist Mel Brown – releases “Grapevine”, its fourth album (and second for Hip Bop records) in July 2002. 

The band has undergone several lineup changes since it’s debut album in 1994.  Members have included bass legends Anthony Jackson and Victor Bailey, saxman Nelson Rangell and respected ex-Blue Note percussionist Bashiri Johnson. 

Chuck Loeb has been a constant presence since the formation of the band, which can trace its roots back to the late 70’s when he and Forman both played with Stan Getz. 

Sound effects kick off Trance and a monster groove quickly develops.  That drum backbeat and oh-so-funky bass grab you hard and that warm electric piano sounds fabulous.  Indian percussion, vocal samples and every funky guitar and keyboard sound known to man get thrown in.  Chuck Loeb gets rocky and you know that the band, in the nicest possible way, has “lost it”.  Too late – you have too!  Jazz-rock like it used to be! 

Those tablas are back, pitter-pattering gently behind Loeb’s steely acoustic guitar on The Third Law.  It’s a slow, dramatic track which builds in intensity as that rock guitar sneaks in.  Mitchel Forman is really going for it on keyboards in the middle of this song. 

Funky bass and that tight snare drive I Heard It Through The Grapevine.  I don’t know why but the distorted guitar melody really makes me smile!  Bass freaks form a line – the bass solo is juicy.  I guess I never expected to hear Marvin Gaye’s classic of classics get a treatment as original as this. 

Oh, the piano intro to Can You Hear Me Now? is dreamy and the guitar doubles it on the lovely melody.  The many key changes make this a challenging song – but it’s very elegant.  This is hugely creative and I’m trying to think of comparisons with other bands, but it’s hard.  Yellowjackets come closest… 

Yikes! is frantic and groove-laden.  A bit moody and discordant in the verse sections – which works really well.  That drummer is a powerhouse and Loeb is cookin’.  Oh Lord! 

On the sexy Cream, I hear echoes of George Duke in the keyboards and quirky arrangement.  I’m tempted to carry on writing but I’d rather just drift away.  It’s my favourite song. 

I thought that the tightest, hardest, maddest jazz-rock ended when the 70’s did.  Mr Fruity proves me so wrong with its flying rhythm, manic but in-the-pocket electric piano and dazzling mood changes.  Ever heard a song and thought “how can humans play this well”?  You know how I feel then… 

The mood is sombre as Where She Was opens.  The bluesy guitar and minor chords on the piano are very moving.  It’s a strong instrumental “power ballad”. 

Indian percussion, swamp noises and a sense of fun pervade Lagoon.  The track slithers like a snake – oh, well, listen and you’ll know what I mean.  This defies an accurate description, as much of my favourite music does. 

You’ve learned to expect the unexpected by now.  The Shine opens like something from David Byrne and Brian Eno’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”.  The vocal is lost in the heavy rhythm and other-wordly wall of synthesizer. 

Azul has a lighter and more conventional touch.  The pretty melody is doubled on piano and acoustic guitar.  I love the subtle cymbal work and percussion on this slow and beautifully crafted song. 

The heavily chorused guitar over the skittering rimshots and deft bassline on One Of Many remind me of something but each time I think I can remember, it’s gone again.  Listen hard and there’s a waltz in here and it’s a very jazzy and intricate dance indeed. 

A short but sweet, untitled piano and guitar interlude closes out the set. 

All I can say is, if you think you knew what any of the players on this CD could do, think again.  And if you hear music more original than this sometime soon, well, my email address appears elsewhere on this site.

Hip Bop Records – HIBD 8028
Produced by Mitchel Forman and Chuck Loeb