Detroit has always been a melting pot of several different cultures, each adding its unique cultural traditions and adding to the city’s rich musical heritage. The Detroit area’s diverse population includes French, Belgian, German, Irish, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, and African-American populations. This diversity has helped Detroit in developing many well-known musical legends and each generation has managed to develop a performer who has achieved national fame.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Detroit blues scene gave us John Lee Hooker, while the jazz scene gave us Milt ‘Bags’ Jackson, the Jones Brothers, Yusef Lateef, and Alice Coltrane, although jazz would get eclipsed by rhythm-and-blues (R&B) in the 1950s.
Detroit became the center of the R&B universe in the 1960s with the rise of Motown. Not only did they give us such acts as the Miracles, Marvelettes, Supremes, Four Tops, Temptations, Contours, and Stevie Wonder, but behind the label’s huge list of hits and hitmakers was an unnamed studio band called the Funk Brothers. These guys were all playing in jazz and rhythm-and-blues bands before Barry Gordy recruited them for the studio.
Detroit bred rock n’ roll started to take form in the 1960s and 1970s giving us Mitch Ryder, MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Dick Wagner’s Frost, and The Rockets.
In the 1980s we saw the rise of the Romantics, Was (Not Was), Seduce, and Rhythm Corps.
In the 1990s, Detroit gave us Aaliyah, Eminem, Sponge, Kid Rock, and the White Stripes.
Here we are in the new millennium and what does Detroit have to offer? Who will be the city’s next rising stars? What artist will the world look back upon and remember as having a huge impact in the 2000s? The Infatuations, that’s who!
Some might think that Motown is dead but they are completely wrong. Motown comes back to us in the form of The Infatuations. This is not your parent’s Motown but a reimagined version for a new generation. These guys are heavily influenced by the funk, soul and rhythm-and-blues that were so prominent in Motown. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel. However, they play with such confidence that you would think they had invented the genre.
One of the best things about music from Detroit is it is incredibly diverse. Detroit has a ‘honey pot’ of incredible musicians ranging in all musical genres. The Infatuations are a result of this. They take the best of what the city has to offer and transforms it for a new generation. It is not easy to typecast them into any certain musical category although one might want to call it Rock n’ Soul. The Infatuations breathe fresh life into the music scene by blending a mix of funk, soul, pop and just about every other aspect of music that defines Detroit since its birth. The Infatuations sound just like… well, just like Detroit!
It’s hard to believe that The Infatuations are a relatively new band. They play with the same heart and soul as such classic artists as Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding mixed with the extraordinary musicianship of the Funk Brothers, 94 East, The Time, P-Funk, New Power Generation, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, The Infatuations do it in a way without being a derivative of any of these listed artists.
The band began as an acoustic duo to attract business into the Eclipz Lounge in the Greektown Casino. They went through several musicians before solidifying their current line-up of Caleb Gutierrez (vocals), Christian Draheim (lead guitar), The Wolf (bass), Chris Polite (rhythm guitar), Robert Myers (drums), and Nick Behnan (lead guitar). Known for their electrifying live shows, The Infatuations have delivered a celebration of high energy rock ‘n soul to audiences of all ages since 2009.
In 2009, the group released their dÃ©but EP, January Sessions, and in 2012, they released a live record, Recorded Live in Front of a Studio Audience, all on their own Acid Groove Records label.
As part of the Detroit Music Awards (DMA), they won the vitaminwater People’s Choice Award in 2011 and 2012 and an Emmy nomination in 2012 for their Blame It On You music video. The Infatuations were Top 25 Finalists out of over 12,000 bands in the 2013 Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands competition. Also in 2013, they received two DMAs for Outstanding Urban/Funk Artist/Group and Outstanding Urban/Funk Recording for their live EP. Most recently, they received five DMAs for Outstanding R&B Artist/Group, Outstanding Live Performance, Outstanding Rock/Pop Songwriter, Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording for Yesterday Morning and Outstanding Video/Independent for Yesterday Morning.
With their newest release, Detroit Block Party, The Infatuations are ready to turn their Detroit Block Party into a worldwide party. Also released on their Acid Grooves label, the album was recorded at Rustbelt Studios and Acid Groove Studios and produced by the songwriting/production duo DraLo, LLC (Christian Draheim and Marco Lowe) with Robert Myers.
The album opens up with Tonight We Celebrate. Gutierrez sets the pace for the whole album in the first line of the song, “What’s up everyone? If you came to party, you came to the right place.” This is a really fun song. At times, it reminds me of a James Brown song with a Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards disco vibe thrown in.
Dancin’ On My Knees has a great rock n’ soul vibe to it. The guitar reminds me of Lenny Kravitz, especially Lenny’s Mama Said era.
Livin’ Here Without You is a fun sounding song along the lines of Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. I found myself tapping my foot and snapping my fingers along to the beat.
Back Again slows the pace down. Here, Gutierrez shows us his soft side. The melody has a 1950s doo- wop feel to it along the lines of something you might hear from the Platters.
Harley Girl has a down n’ dirty bluesy rock feel to it. I can easily see this song being used for a strip-tease. “She’s got soul, got rhythm, Ooh she’s trouble I love getting into. She’s got style, yeah she’ll rock it. She’s my Harley Girl and we’re goin’ riding all night long.”
Let It Ride is a soulful ballad with some wonderful female background vocals. It’s an upbeat song about taking a chance on love.
Diamond Disco starts out with a wonderful flamenco style guitar intro then switches into a 70’s Chic disco-funk style sounding groove. Backed by wonderful female vocals, Gutierrez shows us his multifaceted vocal range on this one. From smooth, laid back to upbeat and boisterous, Gutierrez’s voice soars over the music showing us that he can easily sing it all. Forget Stevie Wonder’s song Superstition, I see a dance revival of the Electric Slide being done to this one!
On Box of Shells, Gutierrez is mesmerizing with his smooth, sultry voice. The music starts out with a 70s Barry White feel but quickly switches to a New Power Generation sound with a modern vibe.
Yesterday Morning is a wonderfully sung mellow song that reminds me of the Impressions classic tune People Get Ready with some Otis Redding mixed in.
Drop Top Lover is another rock n’ soul sounding song reminiscent of James Brown mixed with some Lenny Kravitz. The guitar work, in the beginning of the song, has a Jimi Hendrix feel to it.
Down Jefferson, my favorite track off the album, adds a little jazz and some gospel. It reminds me of What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. This song has an important message “When the lights go down in Detroit you can hear the sirens singing in the air. It’s a desperate situation if you’re not from here you couldn’t understand. The system works against us, they promise hope while stealing from our hand. But you know I am a survivor, I won’t play their game I’ve got a plan.” Although the song’s message relates directly to the people of Detroit, the same message can be said for numerous cities across America.
The album ends with a hip hop style sounding drumbeat and the faint sound of a choir which segues into a speech about Detroit spoken by Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan.
To quote Mike Duggan, “Here’s what I know for sure. We all share the same dreams. And, as you know, it does not matter if you are black, brown or white. It does not matter if you are Christian, Jewish or Muslim. It does not matter if you are gay or straight. It does not matter if you were born in the city of Detroit or you’re an immigrant from another country. All of us are sharing a dream to rebuild this city together.” As for The Infatuations, they are doing just that, one song at a time.
You can check out clips from each song on the album on Soundcloud here.
Photography by Thom Seling