Red Hot Chili Peppers: Mother’s Milk (1989)

rchp mothers milkBy Scott Goldfine

Los Angeles-based quartet the Red Hot Chili Peppers are back on the beat with this 13-song collection of rousing funk, rock and punk. This is a transitional effort for the Peppers. Half the lineup has changed since 1987’s “Uplift Mofo Party Plan” album. Guitarist Hillel Slovak overdosed on heroin last summer just as the group was preparing to go into the studio to record new material. The band’s future was uncertain, but lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea regrouped and enlisted John Frusciante as the new guitar player and Chad Smith as the new drummer, replacing Jack Irons.

As with their previous releases, this set opens with a bass-plucking, guitar-crunching funk romp. “Good Time Boys” is just one of the LP’s several pieces of ear candy. A rocking cover of Stevie Wonder’s masterful “Higher Ground” follows. It’s an unusual treat since most bands cover Wonder’s “Superstition” instead. The shuffling, horn-augmented “Subway to Venus” continues the hearty groove. The pulsating psychedelia of “Taste the Pain” is another aural delight, as are the grinding “Sexy Mexican Maid” and “Johnny Kick a Hole in the Sky.” The latter touches upon the U.S. government’s abuse of American Indians. A cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” and a hyper, self-titled tribute to Magic Johnson are also included.

Producer Michael Beinhorn is back at the helm for the second straight time, allowing the Red Hots to do their thing ― jam. Actually, the producer is incidental. The band has managed to retain virtually the same sound through four LPs, three producers and a 50% turnover in personnel. For many bands, this might signal stagnation. But in the case of the Chili Peppers — who thrive on avant-garde arrangements, outrageous lyrics and music that is at once precise, spirited and anarchic ― it’s just not so.

With roots that trace back to Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic and the punk movement of the late 1970s, the Peppers have created such a refreshingly uninhibited sound that other bands, such as 24-7 Spyz, are just beginning to catch up to their cutting-edge style. Living up to this album’s title, the Red Hot Chili Peppers deliver music that’s basic, pure and naturally good.

GRADE: B+

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