After releasing all of their greatest hits in their 2016 debut album, Greatest Hits, the duo of Scott Amendola and Wil Blades are back with a fresh batch of material with their new album, Everybody Wins. For the sophomore album, the duo brought some of their friends along to add to the numerous layers of music they are known to create just by themselves.
Guitarist Jeff Parker, saxophonist Skerik, percussionist Cyro Baptista, and keyboardist Rob Burger all pop up throughout the album. Only three of the eight songs on the album are just the duo.
Blades says, “They just fit what we do; they straddle a lot of stylistic boundaries, all while maintaining their musical voices.”
According to Amendola, “We approached this record from the standpoint of being able to use the studio when we wanted to. When we didn’t need it, we’d focus on the duo.”
What you’ll find in Everybody Wins is a conscious effort to keep the evenness throughout. By adding three extra musicians at times, Amendola Vs Blades could have created a muddy mix. Instead, they chose to let everyone add their individual contributions while making sure the flow and pace of the album stay consistent. That creates a depth to the music while still allowing it to properly sound spaced out sonically – exactly what Amendola said they were looking to do. “I love making records where you’re building on stuff,” he said. “There are no tracks where we felt it was too much.”
Amendola Vs Blades start things off with a very funky opener “Hi-Lo.” The song has more of the traditional duo feel to it as Blades shows why he is thought of as one of the best Hammond organ players around with his groovy sounds, all while keeping up with the bassline he created as well.
Blades’ contributions don’t go unnoticed by his duo mate. “One of the brilliant things about Wil is he is an organ player, a Hammond player. He can take that instrument and gets these tones out of that instrument that I’ve never heard from other people.”
Things stay funky as the duo begins expanding their sound with Cyro stepping into the appropriately named next track, “Cyroette.” The slower New Orleans-flavored “Fess Up (Before Ya Mess Up)” again shows the fullness of sound that can be created by the duo while heading down whichever style of music they choose.
The entire sound and groove of Everybody Wins takes a complete turn with “Metropolian Hustle,” easily the most unique song on the album. With everyone adding their flavor to this song, this track could have been too much. Instead, it’s the opposite. The song itself breaks into three parts. You get all sorts of musical themes from Bitches Brew to Bob Marley as the song moves from psychedelic to jazz to what Amendola calls an homage to the Grateful Dead’s “Space.”
There is no question “Metropolian Hustle” is one of the standouts on this album. According to Amendola, the song sounds great, but the name is another story.
“This song has been the bane of my existence. In terms of the title, not the song. Metropolian is not a word. It doesn’t exist,” said Amendola. “To me, it’s a word Duke Ellington would say.”
Regardless of the correct name, “Metropolian Hustle” is a perfect example of how Amendola Vs Blades will find whatever sound is necessary to move the music into the direction that most benefits the song and not the artist’s ego.
“Wall Town” has more of a laid back Latin vibe to it. It’s another chance for everyone to focus on the whole instead of each individual part. Great contributions from Parker and Skerik make this song another standout on the album.
The rest of Everybody Wins follows more of the traditional duo sound. Amendola and Blades pick up the pace again as the album closes out with “Hambela,” then slows again for title track before ending with the very layered “Fabulous Stupendous,” which features some excellent string additions by Burger.
From beginning to end, Everybody Wins is an outstanding sophomore effort from Amendola Vs. Blades. It shows no matter how technically proficient the duo is, they can change things up on the fly and, as Amendola says, seamlessly head into any musical direction they choose. “Our music has gotten to this really deep place where we can get comfortable with things pretty quickly and we love working and writing together.”
Despite this being only their second album, Amendola and Blades have been working together for well over a decade. When asked what’s next, Amendola hints to creating an album of new material or finally recording Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, which originally brought the duo together.
Whichever road they take, if they show the same growth as they do in Everybody Wins, they will be well on their way to their Greatest Hits Volume 2.