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High Fidelity

Hot Dog (1969)


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Melvin Sparks

A wildly erratic slice of funky soul-jazz in keeping with Lou Donaldson's late-'60s commercial accessibility, Hot Dog isn't a total washout, but it's just as hit-and-miss as many of Donaldson's albums from the era (even if you are a fan of the style). The main sticking points are the contemporary R&B covers that open and close the album. "Who's Making Love" has an out-of-tune group vocal that fails to be charming in its amateurishness, and the funk of "It's Your Thing" sounds leaden and lifeless despite the best efforts of breakbeat legend Leo Morris (later Idris Muhammad) on drums. Take those away and Hot Dog would be a fairly decent effort. Also featuring guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Charles Earland, and trumpeter Ed Williams, the ensemble really catches fire on "Turtle Walk," a Donaldson original where the groove sounds natural and helps push the soloists. The Donaldson-penned title cut also gets pretty funky, though the underlying vamp is a little insubstantial to stretch out over ten minutes. The Tommy Turrentine ballad "Bonnie" returns Donaldson to the sweet, romantic territory he's mined so well over the years. So Hot Dog does have some worthwhile moments; it's just a pity the overall finished product isn't more consistent -- the cover photo is great. ~ Steve Huey