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September 2002

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Surprise

The Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers
The Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers
Blue Suit Records

Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers Rhythm and Blues music may have fallen from the limelight, but it never really disappeared in Detroit. People who have followed the Detroit music scene since the mid '50s will instantly recognize the names of Joe Weaver, Stanley Mitchell and Kenny Martin, collectively known as The Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers

For those of you who fall outside of the baby boomers era, this CD, The Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers (Blue Suit Records), is a crash course in vintage Detroit R&B. Each of these celebrated vocalists had exciting careers in the vibrant R&B scene that preceded the Motown era. Mr. Martin had five singles on the Federal label. Mr. Mitchell had a #5 Billboard hit for Chess Records and sang with the Royal Jokers on the Fortune label. Mr. Weaver and his band, the Bluenotes (featuring Johnnie Bassett), were the house band for Fortune Records. 

As you can imagine, a disc by any one of these gentlemen would be distinctive, but combining all three on the same CD is pure ecstasy. The majority of the 13 exquisite tracks on this 48 minute recording were either written by Joe, Stanley and Kenny, or members of the affluent backing band, RJ Spanglerís Rhythm Rockers. Included are some re-recordings of the three artistsí greatest and most classic hits, such as "Four OíClock In The Morning." 

Mitchell and Martin are both featured on four songs, while Joe gets front and center on three. They combine their rich and diverse vocals on two numbers. There is plenty to bop to and doo-wop to on "Iím Sorry," which features Detroit Johnny Ogenís backing vocals atop Kennyís smooth voice. Paul Careyís guitar is just as smooth on "Blackjack Baby." The stunning keys of Mark Thibodeau carries the rhythm of "Making Up For Lost Time," while Stanley lays down sweet, soulful vocals. 

By contrast, Joeís vocals are scratchy, yet extremely emotional, on "Soft Pillow," where Keith Kaminskiís saxophones are exceptional. "Reconsider You" is in the vein of "The Thrill Is Gone." Here, Stanley Mitchell performs the Weaver-written tune. The songís rich drama vividly unfolds in the imagination of the listener due to the way Mitchell lays down the lyrics. 

"A Memory Walked Through The Door" is dreamy and clouded in hazy memories that are clearly described via the lyrics. The song could have easily been a hit for a 1940s era jazz singer. The track is one of six penned by bass playing Tim Marks and is a modern day curio. 

It is still mystifying to learn (via Willy Wilsonís insightful liner notes) that this R&B renaissance had its start at an afternoon barbecue. You will be pleasantly shocked to find they still make records like this. Although this style of music no longer gets much airplay or attention from the music media, Blue Suit Records needs to be commended for releasing it. The songs on this disc were performed and recorded as in the glory days of R&B. Even the new material seamlessly meshes with well-established songs from the '50s. 

This is life-embracing and soul-stirring music of the highest caliber. For CDs, booking and information, contact: Blue Suit Records, PO Box 35207, Toledo, Ohio 43625-2707, website: www.blue-suit.com, e-mail: rjblues2@aol.com.

--- Tim Holek

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