When Uncle Frank’s Love Lion is good, it is great. Lead singer Frank Benbini knows how to create songs that will have you grinning and dancing from note one. But on a whole the LP has its share of misses, songs that just don’t connect. But tunes like “Love Lion” “Hot Secret Lover” and “Ku Ku Nu” almost make one forget and forgive the moments that do not live up to the rest of the record.
“Love Lion” is the first track and begins with an electrifying guitar intro that sets the tone of the song. The sparse drumbeat behind Benbini’s gritty vocal delivery gives off a sensual vibe and also has a throwback element to it. The lyrics are often repeated many times, sometimes with just a slight variation on the words, but it completely works. The guttural grunts and the haziness that Benbini matches the instrumentation with makes it the best song on the album. It feels almost like a live performance recording with just a bit more polished feeling and the way the tune builds up is brilliant, slowly but surely getting more intense as the song goes on. When Benbini growls “I’ve been walking through the jungle, I’ve been hunting all night long,” one can’t help but me moved as all the elements come together to form a perfect piece of music.
Changing pace “Hot Secret Lover” is a slow ballad that recalls the 50s or 60s in a way that comes off as effortless. The lyrics are more modern, as the title suggests, but the melody on the verses recall The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody.” “Be happy girl, you didn’t choose me,” Benbini sings, pouring his heart out, holding nothing back and it is the most vulnerable Benbini comes across on the album. For this reason alone “Hot Secret Lover” is a standout track, and even though it is almost five minutes long it never drags, in fact it is expertly crafted and paced. The retro vibe comes as a delightful surprise, and makes the track one of the most memorable moments on the album. As stated before, when Uncle Frank is good, it becomes a work of art that is spot on perfect. And this track exemplifies that. Bluesy, and heartfelt, it showcases what Uncle Frank is capable of producing and it makes one wish every song on the album was as good as this.
“Ku Ku Nu” sounds like something INXS back in the day could have put out, mostly due to Benbini’s low register vocals and dark drawl. The background instrumentation is electronic and fun and the verses are repeated but it doesn’t get old. The lively chorus sounds a bit too pop influenced to match the rest of the tune, and not being sure what the title of the song stands for it’s a bit hard to decipher what the song is actually about, but it still manages to work even though at almost five minutes it goes on a bit too long. But one can’t deny that the tune is interesting and dynamic with lots of sounds to digest in the best way possible.
Unfortunately most of the rest of the album falls a bit flat. “Your Man” doesn’t have much of a melody, “Kiss and Tell,” isn’t appealing enough and “Tokyo” isn’t memorable.
Still Love Lion has some gems, so don’t miss out on the album.