Best known for his work at Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s legendary record label Philadelphia International Records, Bunny Sigler is a well-respected and well-loved writer, producer and singer. Sigler began his recording career way back in 1959, but it would be his 1967 cover of the classic ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ that would launch his music career; pretty soon afterwards, with the launch of PIR, Sigler joined Gamble and Huff as a writer-producer, working initially with The O’Jays on their Backstabbers LP writing the songs ‘When The World’s At Peace’ and ‘Sunshine’, one of the trio’s forgotten great ballads.
Buoyed by this success, Sigler went on to work with most of the Philly greats, most famously producing funk-turned-disco outfit Instant Funk, as well as releasing several solo records including a slowed-down, seven minute epic cover of The O’Jays’ ‘Love Train’. Sigler went on to work at Salsoul Records after leaving PIR, as well as continuing to record and perform solo works. In recent years he has been credited as a co-writer on Jay-Z’s ‘The Ruler’s Back‘.
Today, Bunny Sigler is 74 but his voice and musical talents remain, and has released his latest album Bundino on his own Bun Z-Music & Records label. By some miracle from the soul gods, Mr Sigler joined us on The Funk & Soul Revue a few weeks back to discuss his latest album, his career, and his love of touring the UK. You can enjoy our chat below on the HaffCloud; the interview starts about halfway through the show.
For those wondering what Bundino has to offer, we’d recommend you take a listen as you might be quite surprised. At 74, Sigler still has his trademark vocals; sure, they may have aged somewhat, but his voice is as smooth as ever, and although there are hints that auto-tune might have been used, it’s still pretty enjoyable. The album’s first single ‘When I Think Of You’ is gaining some airplay on the US specialist radio stations. The song is classic Sigler: ‘Mr Emotion’, as he is dubbed, delivers this ballad well, his vocals accompanied by a sparse arrangement of drums, keys, bass and guitar which works well, providing a warm, romantic feel to the song for Sigler to lay his vocals on. The song itself is pretty catchy, and wouldn’t feel out-of-place with the classic Philly ballads from the seventies.
The album sees Sigler attempt to reconcile his classic Philly sound with the neo-soul of today, and by and large he does that well. ‘I Don’t Give My Heart’, for instance, is a mid-tempo ballad that possesses a fairly modern sound, but with Sigler’s tenor it bridges the gap between the old and new. ‘Song for Sig’ is a particularly highlight, with its neo-soul groove and saxophone solos; here, Sigler sounds at his best, there’s no sign of auto-tune on his lead vocal, and that’s how it should be. Sigler still possesses a fine voice.
There are a few intriguing moments on the album where Sigler tries to update his sound to be more contemporary. For instance, ‘I’ve Been There Before’ is actually a very good song, very catchy and Sigler’s multi-tracked vocals work very well on the contemporary beat, but the rap half way through is somewhat unnecessary. That said, the song is still highly enjoyable. It’s worth checking out for Sigler’s incredible tenor alone.
The highlight of the album must be the James Brown-esque ‘Buttermilk & Cornbread’, and as Sigler revealed to us during our interview, this is likely to be the second single from the album. First thing to notice on this song is the use of real – yes, real! – horns, a masterstroke on behalf of Sigler, who unlike other older soul artists, has made the financial and artistic decision to use a real horn section instead of synthesising one. The song, for non-Americans, reveals Sigler’s love of this homely food from down South; it may not the be most inspired lyric ever, but in the same vein as James Brown’s ‘Pass The Peas’, it’s a delightful piece of funk. In fact, it’s probably the best song on Bundino.
Bundino is a strong effort from Bunny Sigler, and we’d recommend you check the album out. In a year marked by loss of many of our older soul artists, its reassuring and refreshing to hear our icons on record once again, and Sigler has proven to his contemporaries that producing good new soul music can be done in the modern music era.