Stanley Clarke's reputation as a virtuoso on the bass is well known, though he is not as well known as a songwriter. On The Toys of Men, his new release on Heads Up International, this is reinforced. Though there are some great songs, but Clarke seems at his best when the bass takes center stage.
Toys starts off with the six-part title track, which seems to be a statement on war, not unusual for our current times. The track goes from the hard-edged “Draconian” to subdued piano from Ruslan Sirota, covering a lot of ground. “Come On” has a solid bass groove with bursts of rock guitar popping in, giving the tune the feeling of forward movement. “Bad Asses” has ripping bass from Clarke and excellent drumming from Ronald Bruner Jr. Other favorites include the spacey vibe of “Chataeuvallon 1972” and the funky “Game,” which resembles something found on a porn soundtrack.
The solo bass tracks stand out the most, such as the sad melody on “Jerusalem,” the noodling of “Broski” and “Hmm Hmm,” the dynamically pleasing “El Bajo Negro” and the killer “Back in the Woods,” which sounds like something Tom Waits would be singing over.
The Toys of Men definitely has its moments and is not a bad buy, as it is Stanley Clarke. But as far as songs go, there is not a lot here above average. However, if one is looking to hear Clarke’s playing skills first and foremost, then this is for them.