Blues Bytes


September 2022

The Love Light Orchestra
The Love Light Orchestra
Blue Barrel Records

The Love Light Orchestra

I discovered The Love Light Orchestra via the Beale Street Caravan podcast three or four years ago. The Caravan captured the band performing in Memphis, and their performance just blew me away. The band consists of Joe Restivo (guitar), Tim Goodwin (bass), Earl Lowe (drums), and Gerald Stephens (keyboards), with a five-piece horn section of Marc Franklin (trumpet), Scott Thompson (trumpet), Kirk Smothers (baritone sax), Art Edmaiston (tenor sax), and Jason Yasinsky (trumpet), along with vocalist extraordinaire John Németh.

The band was inspired by the Memphis sound of the ’50s and ’60s, crafted by such notables as Bobby “Blue” Bland (Franklin, Edmaiston, and Lowe all played in his band), B.B. King, and Junior Parker. In fact, the band’s name is derived from Bland’s 1961 hit, “Turn On Your Love Light.”

Their self-titled debut album (Blue Barrel Records) was recorded live at the DKDC bar in midtown Memphis, featuring a dozen tracks consisting of nine tunes from the cited era and three originals that fit the time period seamlessly.

The opener, “See Why I Love You,” was written by Restivo and features a marvelous vocal from Németh. To avoid redundancy, let me just go ahead and say that John Németh is never less than completely inspired by these tunes. Maybe it’s due to singing with this tremendous band in support, but these songs rank with the singer’s best performances. The next tunes are “Bad Breaks,” a B.B. King tune with strong fretwork from Restivo, and Bland’s 1960 hit “I’ve Been Wrong So Long,” which Németh really pours his heart and soul into.

Charles Sheffield’s 1961 Excello hit, “It’s Your Voodoo Working,” might seem like an outlier, given its swampier origins, but the horns (and Neméth’s performance, of course) really give this a vintage Memphis feel. “Sometimes” was a hit for Junior Parker, and “What About Love” was released in 1962 by Freddie King. Both are given magnificent treatments here. “Poverty” is another later track (1966) recorded by Bland that is putty in the hands of Németh.

Nemeth also contributes the original “Lonesome and High” that surely would have been a hit had it been available to Bland or King back in the day. Restivo’s guitar work is standout. Franklin wrote “Singin’ For My Supper,” another excellent number. The Latin-flavored “This Little Love of Mine” was recorded by Buddy Ace in 1960 (one of three songs credited to Duke Records owner Don Robey). Meanwhile, Nemeth gives an impressive reading of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” before the band closes out the set with a horn-fueled shuffling version of Al Green’s “Love And Happiness.”

The Love Light Orchestra released their second album, Leave The Light On, earlier this year to rave reviews. The new album featured more new originals, but was just as potent a set. The band’s self-titled debut album gets a slight edge due to the live setting, which really seemed to pump up all involved to greater heights. It’s certainly worth tracking down if you’re a fan of the classic Memphis sounds of the 1950s and ’60s.

--- Graham Clarke



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