‘An amazing album, all the more jaw-dropping for its deceptive simplicity and for the way it refuses to funk out a more obviously raunchy soundtrack’
‘Brings the questioning quirky funk of Sly Stone together with the provocative poetry of pathfinder Lou Reed’
‘Art Terry makes music that has a vivid element of meta-theatre as well as a broad sound palette, and he remains a genre all of his own’
Kevin LeGendre, BBC Radio 3
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Californian singer-songwriter Art Terry brings gospel-fired psychedelic funk to a subject that preoccupies us up to 388 times a day: sex.
When a 17-year-old Art sat down at the piano at his gospel church in Los Angeles, the unsuspecting congregation were rocked in their pews as he turned a sacred Christian hymn into a profane sex song. The church, where he had learnt to sing and play, ejected him, and he became a runaway, playing in the seamy punk rock clubs of downtown Los Angeles and in Europe, living in squats and art collectives and surviving on a diet of shoplifted food, hashish and freaky music.
Playful, passionate and tragi-comic by turns, his new Sex Madness album aims to connect the sacred with the profane, and embodies an appeal for loving understanding. Art’s raw and personal lyrics about modern love and making out have a lush backdrop in his masterly piano riffs; brilliantly dense orchestration includes vibraphone, viola and trombone; and complex harmonies add to the rich mix of this idiosyncratic yet universal song cycle.
Art Terry will be touring in 2019 with the Sex Madness Orchestra, whose uplifting talent includes percussionist JT Taylor, Ike Onwuagbu on bass, Miss Hypnotique on theremin, Safo NP on trombone and vocalists Kayo Anosike and Ben Briggs.
Art was born and brought up in Los Angeles between two worlds: Black America's gospel/folk traditions, and the hedonistic rock'n'roll culture that is the city's carnal heritage. His live performances channel these two streams, and evoke the figure of the robed and commanding gospel preacher. Whether playing solo or with his collective of talented musicians – the Sex Madness Orchestra – Art’s live performances are theatrical and compelling.
The songs on Sex Madness explore sexuality, Black politics and religion, through a lyrical fusion of psychedelic folk music and orchestrated funk. The music inhabits the space between the sacred and the profane, a place that many musicians touch upon but rarely own.
The album opens with an instrumental written by the album's producer Raphael Mann, titled Theme From Sex Madness. It is a romantic lush production with layered vibraphones and violas.
The next song is the album's infamous Can't Get No Pussy. It was inspired by the archaic oral sex laws in certain US states such as Georgia in the deep South, which imprisoned young teenagers including Genarlow Wilson.
Ask Her explores the definition and genderfication of God. The preacher declares his worship of female genitalia, rationalising that it is the origin of humankind.
Casual Sex is the fifth song on the album and is a collaboration between Art and the artist Stew; Stew created the musical Passing Strange (filmed by Spike Lee), exploring his and Art’s experiences in Europe as young men. Casual Sex was written in Berlin which is one of the cities where Passing Strange was set. Art has been a keyboardist with Stew & the Negro Problem at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, Redcat in Los Angeles, the Harlem Stage and many other venues. The New York Times described Art’s playing as ‘terrific’.
Pimp is perhaps the strongest song on the album. It balances itself between old skool funky soul and rocking gospel, asking the pimp why he "needs so much to feel good?" The pimp turns the question on its head and ask us all to take responsibility for the hurt we unknowingly inflict on each other.
All songs written by Art Terry except Sex Madness & Theme From Sex Madness written by Raphael Mann & Art Terry
Casual Sex written by Stew & Art Terry
Orchestral arrangements by Raphael Mann & Art Terry
Engineered by Ed Deegan at Gizzard Recording
Additional engineering on Madam Baby & Sex Madness by Raphael Mann
Produced by Raphael Mann. Production assistance by Ed Deegan
Artwork layout by Simon Russell
Design consultant Helena Smith
Photography by Tracy Allen
Paintings by Frederic Violin
ART TERRY Vocals, piano, electric piano, clavinet, organ, acoustic guitar, vibraphone
RAPHAEL MANN Vocals, base guitar, piano, organ, synthesiser, vibraphone, percussion
MAREE CHOIE Vocals, clarinet
SHOHEI KAWAMOTO Flute
GEORGE SIMMONDS Trombone, bass trombone
JAMIL REYES Vibraphone, glockenspiel, percussion
DAMIAN HORNER-PAUSMA Drums
AMY MAY Viola, violin
CLEAN CUT MARK Drums on Can’t Get No Pussy
TOM RODWELL Electric guitar on Ask Her
MIKE WADE Baritone sax on Can’t Get No Pussy
PAUL TAYLOR Trombone on Can’t Get No Pussy
KAYO ANOSIKE Vocals on Casual Sex and Ask Her
KAORU NODA Vocals on Casual Sex, Sex Magic & Sex Madness
MARIONA DE LAMO Vocals & cello on Sex Madness
Special thanks to the late VINCE SIPPRELL – viola, violin