Notwithstanding the media-based success of the Blues Brothers, classic Memphis soul music is more a historical marker than a contemporary force in rock. The wholesale appropriation of this '60s style on "Jack Mack and the Heart Attack," the first album by a 10-piece Los Angeles horn band, raises the question of whether rock history can repeat itself (or, why bother?). There's no doubt that this band's expert and uncluttered ensemble playing, punchy dynamics and typically optimistic soul songs provide an enjoyable listening experience and dance groove -- at least to that generation well versed in soul grammar.
Fortunately, Max Gronethal avoids embracing the strenuous, grunting persona of the stereotypical soul man: He seems comfortably sincere in the blue-eyed-soul style of Michael McDonald. Unfortunately, his songs and delivery aren't commanding enough to become the album's theatrical or emotional centerpiece. So the weight falls on the band and its well-learned Stax-Volt affectations: Jack Mack's fat backbeat, Andrew Kastner's languid guitar embellishments a la Steve Cropper, the bluesy organ and piano fills and the five horns rising and subsiding in fluttery unison. However, by the time you start paying attention to this good soul band, you're ready to pull out those Sam and Dave albums and listen to a great one.
ON RECORD, ON STAGE
JACK MACK -- Jack Mack and the Heart Attack (Full Moon/Warner Brothers 23733-1).
JACK MACK -- Thursday at 8 at the Bayou.