The first time I heard selections from Little George Sueref and the Blue Stars' debut, self-titled album on Pussycat Records, I thought 'Hmmm, this is some cool Excello swamp pop, I wonder which reissue this is from?' I was a bit embarrassed to learn it was Little George Sueref, a harp player from Great Britain. Lucky for me, Excello Records veteran Lazy Lester redeemed my credibility by contributing brilliantly on harp and guitar throughout most of the album. For this reason, I wasn't too far from the '50s- and '60s-rooted sound that I identify these recordings with. George, former harp player for Big Joe Louis, combines his obvious vocal influence of J.B. Lenoir, Magic Sam, Chuck Berry, and Ted Taylor, with a high register voice of sweet soul blues, producing 15 tracks recorded the right way. I commend his choice of predominately original material, authentic style and ability. The song "3-6-9" has received the repeat button treatment in my house. It begins with Sueref's rooted Mississippi rhythm guitar, reminiscent of Jesse Mae Hemphill (on that particular song), and quickly joined by a hard, thumping, rockabilly-esque groove set down by Matt Radford (bass) and Mike Watts (drums). Guest vocalist Jimmy Thomas adds a little soul power that really takes me to church. Other notables: the swamp pop groove and bass dance in "Finger Lickin'," and a dirty Chicago influenced "Living In the City," with nice harp à la Junior Wells, courtesy of Little George. Thankfully, George sticks to his own style when covering songs, and really stands out on his version of Johnny Aces' "The Clock." I can't speak for his taste in hats (wearing a straw country hat on the cover), but Little George can definitely wear the blues well. Like most blues releases these days, I found it difficult to locate it in local record stores, but it is widely available on the Internet, and is one of the most impressive albums of 2003.
--- Drew Verbis
Just like, according to some blues
specialists, the blues genre has gradually been simplified through the
history of recorded music (the 12-bar blues form, being heard on record
more often than other, less regular song structures, has been copied more
often by artists of following generations, who then recorded it even more
extensively, etc.), so Zydeco music has gradually come to be more
one-dimensional than it was at the beginning. Want oral proof? Listen to
The Best of Clifton Chenier, The King of Zydeco & Louisiana Blues, a
17-song sampling of the creator of Zydeco’s output on Arhoolie Records
(plus a 15-minute previously unreleased interview of Clifton Chenier conducted by
Arhoolie founder and radio personality, Chris Strachwitz). You’ll hear
plenty of fast-paced dance fare, to be sure, but also beautiful waltzes,
accordion-based honest-to-goodness blues, and even a Jimmy Reed-like take
of “It’s Hard,” where Chenier totally foregoes accordion in favor of a
harmonica. Zydeco is one of the most propulsive types of music in America,
and Chenier was truly the king of this style. Expect not to be able to
stand still while listening to these tracks, which cover a period of 20
years, from 1964 to 1983. Even though Chenier won a Grammy with his
Alligator album I’m Here!, his best work was done for Arhoolie, time and
again, so this sampler serves as a very good selection of the best of
his latter-day career. Check out the three live cuts, but also the
earliest track, a rough and loose “Why Did You Go Last Night,” for
examples of the sheer joy this music can bring. And remember, “laissez le
bon temps rouler”… (www.arhoolie.com)
Soul singer Carl Carlton has released at least
seven albums in the course of a career that goes back to 1969, including
Main Event, released in 1994 on Evejim. If you check out Allmusic.com, the
huge music database associated with the ongoing series of All Music
Guides, you’ll discover that there is a brand new Carl Carlton album,
titled Love & Respect. There is only one problem with the info provided by Allmusic.com: this new album is by another Carl Carlton!! How do I know?
Well, the soul singer with the long career was born in Detroit and he’s
black; the author of Love & Respect, credited to Carl Carlton & The Songdogs (on the German label SPV), was born in Ostfriesland, Germany, and
he’s definitely white, blue eyes and all. And, if you take a minute to
listen to his album, you’ll quickly notice that it isn’t a soul record. With Sonny Landreth helping out on slide, Richard Comeaux on pedal steel,
and Levon Helm on drums, Love & Respect has more than its share of rock ’n’ roll, with a touch of country, a bit of R&B, an old spirit and
plenty of youthful drive. There’s even a pretty good reggae song called
“Love, Understanding & Respect.” The promo copy I have doesn’t give me all
the details (Are all songs original? Who’s playing on which songs?). One
thing is clear from the biographical outline provided in the notes --
Carlton has worked in the past with Mink Deville, and he’s been working
closely in recent years with Robert Palmer, who makes a guest appearance
here (maybe on the Rolling Stones-ish “Queen of Attitude”?). Indeed, a
quick look in my record collection tells me that Carlton plays on four
tracks on the 1999 Robert Palmer album Rhythm & Blues. But back to the CD
at hand: if at times a slight German accent makes a few words hard to get,
there’s no denying the excellence of the music, bluesy at times (see
“Lucky” or “Deep Colors Bleed,” for example), soulful too, with good horn
charts (The White Trash Horns, heard to good effect on “Kingston”),
rocking just hard enough to please all fans of classic blues-based rock ’n’ roll, early Stones and all. By the way, the Stones unofficial
keyboardist, Ian McLagan, also makes a guest appearance here… (www.spv.de)
--- Benoît Brière
At last, the eagerly awaited new CD from guitar maestro
Stan Hirsch - and
it's been worth the wait! Covered In Blues (BFM) shows Stan's continued love affair with traditional blues, the
influences of bluesmen such as Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin' Hopkins
John Lee Hooker shining through.
However, Stan has cleverly mixed in a few surprises, too, with a couple of Jimi Hendrix tracks, a Tim Rose number and
This is Stan at his very best --- solo and acoustic.
The album opens with a beautifully rendered version of Big Joe Williams'
"Baby Please Don't Go,"
and right from the start your ears are treated to Stan's trademark guitar
playing.Those who have heard his music before will know what I'm talking
about --- this man makes it sound as though he's playing two guitars at the
same time. No multi-tracking here!!
Following is Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," and it makes you wonder if
this should have maybe been an acoustic number all along, Stan's sensitive
string fingering here is almost hypnotic.
The version of Tim Rose's "Hey Joe" (often credited to Jimi Hendrix, as he
had the big hit with it)
is another track that makes you wish that Hendrix had produced an acoustic
version --- at least then we could make a better comparison.
Along the way are versions of "Red House," Freddie King's "Hideaway"
(another track where you'd swear there were at least two guitars playing),
tracks by Lightnin' Hopkins, Reverend Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy ("Key
To The Highway"), and some old trad blues whose composers' names are lost
in the sands of time.
If I had to pick out a favourite track, and it's not easy, then I think it
would have to be Willie Dixon's "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" or James
Oden's "Going Down Slow"; I really can't choose between the two of them.
Coincidentally, they follow one another on the CD, so maybe Stan had
similar thoughts about these two superb tracks.
Criticisms? Well, just one --- the sleeve notes are sparse, and anyone new to the blues
will be left wondering who wrote what. Aficionados won't have this
problem, of course, but it would be nice to include the names of the
However, the pure beauty of the music itself overrides this very small
criticism, and this CD will provide hours and hours of listening pleasure.
(If you have trouble finding this CD, have a look at
--- Terry Clear
New Orleans Rhythm & Blues may not be dead, but the coroner is standing by to apply the toe tag. It did enjoy a long, fruitful run, spanning from the late '40s to the early '70s, and influenced countless musicians from other places during that time. However, today whatever R&B is still being played in New Orleans is being played mostly by the people who made it famous, most of whom are either semi-retired or on the golden oldies circuit. A good portion of the young folks in N.O. are either into rap, funk, brass bands, jazz, gospel, or even Zydeco. This makes Deacon John Moore’s new CD an even more exciting event. The CD, Deacon John’s Jump Blues (Image Entertainment), is a loving tribute to this music. Though it is a tribute album (and also a film), it sounds as fresh as when the music was getting its start 50 years ago. The performances here indicate that this music, far from being dead in the water, still has a lively pulse. Deacon John has surrounded himself with some New Orleans legends, including Allen Toussaint, legendary arranger Wardell Quezergue, Dr. John, Herlin Riley, Amadee Castenell, and Carl Blouin. Deacon John himself is no stranger to visitors of the Crescent City, as he has been entertaining music fans for decades as a studio musician in the '60s and as an entertainer in clubs all throughout New Orleans. His vocals, while outstanding, won’t make you forget the original versions of these songs, but he more than holds his own, and his guitar work is just excellent. It’s hard to select a favorite track on this CD because they’re all so good. The opener, a tasty version of Ray Charles’ “Jumpin’ In The Morning,” really kicks things off in fine fashion. Also included are covers of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out,” the Spiders’ “I Didn’t Want To Do It,” “Losing Battle” (made famous by the Tan Canary, Johnny Adams), and a wonderful medley of “Let The Good Times Roll/Feel So Good,” with co-lead vocals by Teedy Boutte´, who also shines on Erma Franklin’s classic “Piece Of My Heart”. Boutte´, along with Davell Crawford, whose solo piano version of “Nobody Knows You…..,” closes out the CD, are a couple of younger musicians who are continuing the New Orleans R&B tradition. Dr. John also chips in with a short, but lively take on “Tipitina.” There is also a moving a capella version of “Jesus On The Mainline,” with Deacon and the Zion Harmonizers. The standout track for me was the cover of Smiley Lewis’ “Hook, Line & Sinker/Go On Fool”. Deacon really hits the groove on this one vocally and the band is really cooking behind him. The only real complaint is that it’s a relatively short disc, clocking in at less than 40 minutes. As mentioned above, there is also a documentary film and DVD of this performance (neither of which I’ve seen yet). Hopefully, this wonderful CD will get Deacon John some long-deserved recognition outside of New Orleans. For fans of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues, I can’t recommend this disc highly enough.
Another documentary, Last of the Mississippi Jukes, directed by Robert Mugge (Deep Blues,
Hellhounds On My Trail) has garnered much attention
this year. The film covers music performed at Jackson’s Subway Lounge and
at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club at Greenville (neither of which
is the last of the jukes, by any means, in Mississippi) by such artists as Vasti Jackson (guitarist for Katie Webster and Michael Burks, among
others), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Chris Thomas King, Eddie Cotton, and
several others. Sanctuary Records has released a soundtrack of the film
and it features some noteworthy performances. Hart, who does a blistering
version of his “Joe Friday” with Sam Carr and Anthony Sherrod, King, who
does an original “John Law Burned The Liquor Sto’” that sounds like it
could have been done on Paramount in the '30s, and Jackson, who does a
timely “Casino In the Cottonfield,” all acquit themselves well. However,
the stars on this disc are the lesser-known artists. Singer Patrice Moncell will make you wonder “Shemekia who?” with her blistering versions
of “Stormy Monday” and a spicy version of “Strokin’.” The old juke joint
standards “The Blues Is Alright” and “Hole In The Wall” are well done by
Dennis Fountain & Pat Brown and The King Edward Blues Band, respectively.
Other standout performances include a soulful “You Know I’ve Tried,” with Levon Lindsey & J. T. Watkins, and Abdul Rasheed’s version of “Members
Only”. Also appearing is the legendary Bobby Rush, who disappointingly
offers only a solo version of “Garbage Man,” accompanied only by his
harmonica. It would have been nice to have had something more reflective
of his live act. King Edward’s band and the House Rockers, which are the
house bands at the Subway Lounge, provide superb backing for most of the
songs here. While it would have benefited from a few additional tracks,
especially since, according to the liner notes, Eddie Cotton was also
performing at the time (What will it take for this guy to get some
recognition?), it’s a fine overview of the current blues scene in
Mississippi, which is alive and well, thank you.
--- Graham Clarke
It's hard to belive that it has been more than three years since Johnnie Taylor's premature death, ending the career of perhaps the greatest of all soul/blues performers. Debates have raged over who was the greatest soul singer of all time, and although there are considerable arguments made for Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, this reviewer has always placed Johnnie Taylor at the top of the list, sharing that exalted spot with James Carr. A listen to "I'm Not The Man You Need" from his 1998 Malaco release, Taylored To Please, will win over even the most skeptical listeners. This collection, There's No Good In Goodbye (Malaco Records), contains 15 outtakes from six of Taylor's Malaco albums, plus one song, "If You Take Your Love Away," that was released on a seventh album and is presented here with a new stripped down mix dispensing with the strings, horns and background vocals heard on the original recording. The earliest cut here was originally recorded in 1984 for Taylor's debut Malaco album, This Is Your Night, the Frank Johnson-penned "If You're Looking For A Fool." As is the case with many of his recordings, you can hear various vocal gestures that can be traced back to Sam Cooke. Just listen to the "woh-oh-oh-oh" that Taylor injects following the title of the song. This is a case where the student absorbed all there was from his teacher, and then topped him at his own game. Another interesting track is Paul Simon's "Take Me To The Mardi Gras," recorded in 1988 at the In Control session but not included on that release. When Paul Simon had first recorded the song for There Goes Rhymin' Simon in 1973, he had come down to Malaco to overdub New Orleans' Onward Brass Band on the track. During the sessions for Taylor's fourth album, someone suggested he try a run through on the Simon tune. You have the results here. To quote Rob Bowman's excellent liner notes --- "For a lot of Johnnie's sessions, explains producer Wolf Stevenson, we would come up with an off the wall cut by a pop artist that his fans had never heard that might get a little crossover. That was one we were very familiar with because of the fact that Paul cut the horns at our studio". It was co-producer and label owner Tommy Couch Sr.'s idea to have Johnnie's son, Floyd Taylor, duet with his dad on the track. Ironically, given the fact that Couch had met Johnnie Taylor when he sang at Z.Z. Hill's funeral, he first met Floyd Taylor when he sang at his father's funeral. Floyd was subsequently signed to Malaco. We favorably reviewed his album in the June 2002 issue of Blues Bytes. The remixed track (April 2003) also has the benefit of some great background singing by Valarie Kashimura and Freddie Young. The remaining seven songs included on this collection come from Taylor's last session for the company, cut in 1999. Thankfully he cut enough songs for two albums. One of the finest tracks from this session is the wonderful "I Found All These Things," a C.P. Love single cut for Malaco in 1970. When Malaco assembled the six-CD box anthology, The Last Soul Company, in 1999, they rediscovered the Love recording and thought it would be a great song for Johnnie Taylor. Amen. A great CD to add to your Johnnie Taylor collection. Even though many of these tracks were skipped over when the original releases came out, this CD ranks right up there with the best Taylor had to offer. Don't miss it.
What a delight. Not only do we get a Best Of collection from Dorothy Moore, but we get all new versions recorded live between 1989 and 1995. Gittin' Down Live (Farish Street Records) was recorded at concerts in Shreveport Louisiana, Paris France, The United Kingdom and Kyoto Japan. The 13 track CD has nine Dorothy Moore classics and four tracks she never recorded previously. The new works include "Dr. Feelgood," "Respect" and two duets. "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" is a duet with Eddie Floyd. It was recorded on tour in the U.K. They deliver a version to rank among the best of this often-recorded song. Dorothy added Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do" as a third encore in one of her shows in Japan. She is joined by one of her band members, Charlie Jacobs, to deliver a winning version to her adoring (as witnessed by the audience response) legion of fans. Great music is universal. Dorothy Moore's "Dr. Feelgood" is delivered as a hot slow blues. She had sung "Respect" early in her career and has now added it to her more recent performances. Of the familiar Moore classics, "Talk To Me," "Funny How Time Slips Away," the absolutely fantastic "All Night Blue" and the equally fantastic "He Thinks I Still Care" are concert favorites, but it is the mega hit "Misty Blue" that brings the house down. What a song!! What a singer!! Produced by Dorothy Moore, the CD is on Farish Street Records of Mississippi, her own label. If you are looking for an introduction to Dorothy Moore's work, this CD is a great place to start. If you are already a fan, as we are here, this CD is a must have. Even the cover art is great. It is from Peaches Cafe on Farish Street near the Alamo Theatre, where Moore started her career in Jackson. Dorothy Moore Gittin' Down Live is available in stores and online at www.farishstreetrecords.com.
--- Alan Shutro
Time for a blues riddle. What do you get when you cross a bluesman with wild taste in headwear, with a band that looks like refugees from the world of professional wrestling? If your answer is Rock ‘N’ Roll City (Bullseye), the latest album from Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater featuring Los Straitjackets, then you would be absolutely correct. Give yourself a pat on the back because I never said there was a prize for answering it right (the sly wink and silly grin go here ok folks). But in all seriousness .... Rock ‘N’ Roll City is one hell of a good album from one of the genre’s truly fun journeyman. Eddy took some time off from recording to open his Reservation Blues Club in Chicago, and returns with his first album in three years that explores a side he has only hinted at on his previous releases. Covering everything from good old fashioned Westside Chicago blues to raw rockabilly, R&B and classic 1950s rock & roll, Clearwater delivers a record that will be hailed as one of the best cross genre albums since Muddy and The Wolf invited the royalty of British rock to sit in with them. Eddy goes for the knockout punch immediately on the album’s opening track, ”You’re Humbuggin Me,” with a tune that has been covered by just about every blues artist worth his salt. Though this tune might be a victim of overexposure, this is one of the best versions of it I have ever heard. While you’re still reeling from that, he follows with a sparkling rendition of Jerry McCain’s “Ding Dong Daddy” that just sort of grabs hold of your feet and makes them take on a life of their own; this song is gorgeously supplemented by wicked guitar solos from The Chief himself. “Lonesome Town” is penned by Eddie Angel, of Los Straitjackets, and slows things down a bit and allows your heart rate to level out with its woeful tale of loneliness. The rocking “Hillbilly Blues” is up next with a very danceable beat and a trade-off of guitar solos with Angel that crossbreeds rockabilly with surf music and is punctuated by Clearwater’s aggressive vocals. Los Straitjackets take over the spotlight for “Monkey Paw,” a sizzling instrumental number that showcases this band's rough and tumble style. “Back Down To Earth” is a honky tonk shuffle, which is no surprise considering this album was recorded at George Bradflute’s Tone Chaparral Studio, which country legend Jim Reeves called home. Echoes of Carl Perkins’ influence abound in “Old Time Rocker,” with Clearwater and Angel each taking a solo set against a loping beat and its story of past R&R glory that at times is just plain funny. The Chief handles all guitar duties on “Midnight Groove,” which lives up to its title by being just a cool instrumental groove. A cover of Fats Domino’s classic, “Let The Four Winds Blow,” is one you surely won’t want to miss, as it will rock the roof off your house. The closing number, “Good Times Are Coming,” is also its longest at over six minutes, and is a study in classic blues while delivering its message of hope in times of despair. A three year break from recording has in no way affected the magic that Eddie Clearwater brings to his records, and this one in particular seems to have an aura around it that exudes good times and fun. His bold decision to record with Los Straitjackets (who, besides Eddie Angel, are Danny Amis on guitar, Pete Curry on bass and Jimmy Lester on drums) raised a few eyebrows I’m sure, but damn, it works like a charm. This one is going to sell a lot of copies and deservedly so. The Chief is back and better than ever!
Four years is way too long to wait between recordings from an outfit as fine as Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, but one listen to Which Way Is Texas? (Bullseye Blues) makes all those torturous years well worth it. If you compared this record to a summer day in Texas, odds are you would think this album is hotter. What I mean to say is, this bad boy is RED HOT! Funderburgh & The Rockets are in exquisite form on this 13 track exercise in primo Texas blues, featuring Anson’s first ever recorded vocals on two original numbers, “One Woman I Need,” a pretty ballad, and “Toss & Turn,” a rambunctious bop with with a few fiery, signatory guitar licks. Now, the beautifully smooth baritone of Sam Myers is in no danger of being replaced in this band, but Anson’s twangy, high-pitched pleasing vocals are quite adequate, and possess a pretty decent amount of power that hopefully we will hear more of on future releases. This album peels out and burns rubber with the smoldering groove “Can We Get Together,” with Funderburgh and Myers trading phrases as only the two of them can do, and guests Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff, John Mills and Gary Slecta (aka: The Texas Horns) adding their special brass magic which is heard throughout the whole album. Myers steps up to the plate and knocks one over the fence with a boneshaking cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Tryin’ To Get Back On My Feet Again.” Myers’ harp riffs on this classic are phenomenal. The pace is maintained with the following “Rambling Woman,” a bouncing boogie featuring the squealing piano of “Gentleman” John Street and some well-placed slide runs from Anson. Street also shines brightly on the funky instrumental “Going My Way,” swirling out some very greasy Memphis-laden B3 riffs alongside Funderburgh's piercing solos and the chugging horn section adding some well-placed fills. A simmering cover of Tabby Thomas’ “Hoodoo Party,” a mind-boggling version of B.B. Kings “Jungle,” and fiery treatment of Homesick James’ “Crutch and Cane” are undoubtedly the record’s best numbers. All three tunes allow Sam Myers to soar majestically on vocals and harp, but its “Crutch and Cane,” the album’s closer, that finds the whole band jamming like there is no tomorrow. Mike Morgan & The Crawl alumnus Johnny Bradley provides the thundering bass on half the numbers, while guest Eric Mathew Przygocki, whose name you may recognize from Nick Curran’s band, The Nitelifes, handles the other half. Wes Starr once again fills the drummer’s seat after a one album hiatus. Anson Funderburgh has always struck me as a “less is more” style of guitar player that always relies more on tone and precision than speed and flash, making every note count in the process. In recent years this highly entertaining band has moved out of the clubs, thrilling festival audiences with their dynamic performances, and winning them tons of new fans along the way. Which Way Is Texas is a magnificent addition to an already impressive catalog of albums, and by all means should finally put these guys over the top once and for all. Careful handling --- this one cause it might burn your fingers. The Texas heat ain’t got nuttin’ on this ball of fire!
For all you boogie woogie blues piano junkies who have been jonesing for a decent fix, I’ve got just what the doctor ordered in the form of Gene Taylor’s new album that is simply titled, Gene Taylor (Pacific Blues Recording Co.). Few piano players can boast a resume as impressive as this guy. He is currently a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and his past credits include Canned Heat, The James Harman Band, The Blasters and Ronnie Hawkins’ Hawks, as well as countless sessions with artists like Gary Primich, Teddy Morgan, Kim Wilson and Junior Watson. This is, in actuality, his second solo album (the first is long out of print and, if anyone has a copy, please get in touch as I am dying to get my hot little hands on it!) and is a very basic meat and potatoes blues record, with just former Blaster band mate Bill Bateman on drums and Dave Carroll adding percussion. Gene pays tribute to several of the piano greats, starting things off with a smashing version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie.” Now a lot of folks are under the misconception that this classic number is the work of Pinetop Perkins, which it is not. It was written by Clarence ‘Pinetop’ Smith, a brilliant piano player who was cut down by a stray bullet during a fight in the dancehall he was playing back in 1929. Taylor’s drawling, twangy vocals are first heard on the next number “Sugar Bee,” which has been covered by many artists over the years and is given a smoky treatment here. A traditional tune made famous by Barbeque Bob, “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,” is next, with Taylor doubling on piano and organ for a smooth stroll through what is actually a somewhat sad tale of a man’s loss due to heavy flooding, but is very enjoyable. I am going to take a wild guess that the harp player on the aforementioned number is James Harman, as he is the only other musician credited on this album, for another tune he co-penned with Gene, entitled “The Loser And The Wheel”, that features Harman’s slashing harp and biting vocals. Two stunning numbers are heard back to back, with the first, “Pete’s Thing,” being a frantic study in boogie woogie piano (and a tribute to Pete Johnson?) and the second, “Blues For Jerry West,” slowing things down a touch and adding a little honky tonk. Baby Boy Warren’s tale of unreturned love, “Santa Fe,” is given a stomping workout, and is followed with Gene pouring his heart and soul into the traditional “Honky Tonk Train Blues,” which was originally made famous by another boogie woogie legend, Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis (who used to keep company with Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson, two other piano greats of the genre) and gets my vote for the best piece on the album. Peetie Wheatstraw’s “Six Week Old Blues” gets a striking treatment, with Gene’s spirited vocals perfectly capturing the essence of the original. Like label mate Jamie Woods’ album, this gem sounds like it could have been cut 60 or 70 years ago, minus the crackles and pops, while still remaining modern enough not to be labeled a retro type of recording. Gene Taylor has heard and played a lot of blues over his professional career, and is undoubtedly one of the best piano players in the business today. The ferocity with which he plays is matched only by the passion that erupts from his music. It remains a mystery to me as to why there are only two solo releases bearing his name to date. Hopefully, it won’t be his last, as Gene Taylor is a terrific record.
--- Steve Hinrichsen
J'ai été au Bal (I Went to the Dance) (Brazos Films) is a film from legendary filmmaker Les Blank (Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Burden of Dreams). This DVD is a shining example of how any celebration of a roots genre should be. Les Blank takes us from the earliest roots of Cajun music springing from traditional French music of displaced Acadians mixing with Creoles to how the music continues to live and thrive in Zydeco. Along the way there are numerous interviews and lots of great, live music. Clifton Chenier, Queen Ida, Michael Doucet, Wayne Toups and more are highlighted in this lively, entertaining and informative feature. It exists as not only a celebration and exploration of the Cajun-zydeco spectrum through first-person accounts and testimonials but a video encyclopedia of the history and variety of Louisiana's aural exports.
Joe Louis Walker, roommate to blues rock architect Mike Bloomfield in San Francisco during the late '60s, systematically leads a set of potentially fiery R&B in front of this German audience at a 1991 concert on In Concert (Inakustik/MVD). However, Walker seems surpassed in energy by his band, especially the exhorting Chicago bassist Art Love. This was only a few years after Walker returned to secular electric soul-blues after a gospel stint. The way he pours his heart into a measured and emotional delivery of "The Gift," one can hear that is where is heart truly is. This was only a year after the two riveting sets cut live at Slim's that were the highpoint of his career. Huey Lewis amped up those shows on harp, but Walker plays the harmonica himself here and thus provides one of the concert's highlights.
Master showman Albert Collins, 'The Iceman,' puts on a dynamic, animate electric blues performance in the 1988 concert recorded on the DVD, In Concert (Inakustik/MVD). Collins' band is a real feature of the show and they stretch out on a lengthy intro before Collins takes the stage. This intro and the rest of the show exhibit the sensible, understated blues playing of second guitarist and John Mayall veteran Debbie Davies. The three-man horn section is Chuck Williams and Sam Franklin on saxophones with Gabel Flemmons on trumpet. There is a rhythm section of long-time Collins sideman on bass, Johnny B. Gayden (Son Seals, Johnny Winter), and drummer Soko Richardson (John Mayall, Ike & Tina Turner). The closing number is "Frosty," with special guest Duke Robillard. The title of this song is one of chill-sounding pieces that led to him becoming The Iceman, although the playing is as hot on this instrumental as on the rest of the set. Other standout tracks include "Mastercharge," "Blackcat Bone," and the vocals duet with Davies, "I Got that Feeling." The set draws largely off the then-current Collins albums Cold Snap and Ice Pickin'. It is amazing to watch Collins get crisp and precise notes and accentuating string bends effortlessly out of guitar in his unique style, finger picking with a capo clamped high on the guitar neck.
Clifton Chenier is singularly responsible for blending the swamp sounds of French Creole music with the popular R&B sound to conjure up the still popular zydeco. The music on The Best of Clifton Chenier – The King of Zydeco & Louisiana Blues (Arhoolie) is wild and exuberant ("Je me Reveiller le Matin (I Woke up this Morning)") or sincere and soulful ("I'm Coming Home") on this bilingual disc. Long-time Chenier producer Chris Strachwitz selected the tracks of this excellent, bluesy compendium from Arhoolie releases and included a previously unreleased alternate take of Chenier's signature zydeco anthem "Zydeco Sont pas Sale (Snap Beans Without Salt)." Chenier left this world in 1983 and the final track here is a 15:30 1978 radio interview with Chenier that allows us to hear Strachwitz gently pull from Chenier the story of fusing the traditional Louisiana accordion music with some fiery R&B.
James Mathus Knockdown Society's Stop and Let the Devil Ride (Fast Horse Recordings) is a recording of down-home rock in a country-blues vein, done at the Kudzu Ranch studio of Rick Miller from like-minded Southern Culture on the Skids. Knockdown Society is like that, but without the humor. Instead that emotion is largely replaced with a big-bottom Chicago blues intent, as heard in Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. The pronounced backbeat in this trio comes from the rhythm section. That team is made up of Mathus' former bandmate in Squirrel Nut Zippers Stu Cole (bass) with Nate Stalfa on drums.
Angola Prison Spirituals (Arhoolie) is a set of 22 tracks recorded by Dr. Harry Oster. It features Robert Pete Williams as vocalist and/or guitarist on several tracks. The late '50s recordings are compelling and starkly spiritual. There is little to no background noises so that this appears to be more of a studio recording than field recording, no matter how makeshift the studio Oster may have used at Angola. This is the entire original LP with a full nine more tracks added to the programming.
Mark Carpentieri has done the world a heap of good by creating such a compelling and shining tribute to criminally forgotten gospel guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Featuring Maria Muldaur and through much of her effort, Shout, Sister Shout: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe (M.C. Records) is a who's who of female artists covering the Sister's songs. This includes Joan Osborne, Odetta, Michelle Shocked, Victoria Williams and more. Many of the tracks feature the gospel-tinged blues of vocal group The Holmes Brothers. This is an excellent collection of material, dynamically delivered, and running the spectrum from the spiritual ("Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread") to secular ("I Want a Tall Skinny Papa"). It was that breadth of her art that caused such controversy in Tharpe's career, and overcoming that adversity through her talents made her an inspiration to the talented artists on this CD, like Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey In The Rock, who performs "Precious Memories."
--- Tom Schulte
Seminal blues label Delmark Records continues the celebration of its 50th anniversary with four budget priced, theme-based anthologies. The compiler did a good job in mixing vintage recordings with contemporary numbers done in the same style. Masters of the Boogie Piano includes recordings from Speckled Red, Meade Lux Lewis, Roosevelt Sykes, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Little Brother Montgomery, plus more recent recordings from Ken Saydak and Steve Behr. Everything here is great ... if you like boogie woogie, you'll want this collection of a dozen keepers. All 12 songs on For Jumpers Only date back to the '40s and '50s, with jump blues standards from Cab Calloway (the excellent "Shotgun Boogie," with a hot sax solo from Sam "The Man" Taylor), Paul Bascomb (a great version of "Pink Cadillac") and the girlish vocals of Earline Johnson ("Jump & Shout"), backed by Plas Johnson on sax. Other notables on this disc include Panama Francis, Illinois Jacquet, Tab Smith and Arnett Cobb. West Side Chicago Blues shifts gears to the gritty urban blues sound of Chicago, with nine cuts from Otis Rush ("Cut You A Loose"), Magic Sam ("I Need You So Bad"), Syl Johnson ("Driving Wheel"), Willie Kent, Jimmy Dawkins, Tail Dragger, Luther Allison, Little Arthur Duncan and Johnny B. Moore. My only complaint is that it would have been nice to have more than nine songs from Delmark's vast reservoir of Chicago blues recordings. The series wraps up with Blues From The Country, with country blues numbers from mostly the '50s and '60s. The gems on this 11-song CD include Robert Nighthawk ("Crying Won't Help You"), Champion Jack Dupree (the classic "Rub A Little Boogie"), Jimmy Rogers ("That's All Right"), Curtis Jones ("Lonesome Bedroom Blues"), Big Joe Williams ("49 Highway Blues") and Arthur Crudup ("That's All Right," a different version than the similarly-named song by Rogers). For those with a wide range of blues tastes who can only choose one of these discs, I'd go for the country blues collection, as it contains the most songs that could be considered essential recordings. But they're all worth having, along with the double-CD compilation reviewed in July 2003.
A nice collection of contemporary blues comes from Putumayo, the company that specializes in issuing anthologies of various forms considered to loosely fall under the category of "world music." Their recent blues sampler, American Blues, contains 14 cuts stretching across a wide swath of blues styles. The better cuts, at least in my opinion, are the more traditional numbers from Keb Mo' ("Hand It Over"), the wonderful pianist Henry Gray ("How Could You Do?"), Taj Mahal ("Cakewalk Into Town") and Eric Bibb ("Needed Time"). In more of a Chicago style are the fine collaboration between Robert Cray & Albert Collins, "She's Into Something," from the 1985 Alligator album, Showdown, and Otis Rush doing "I Got The Blues." It wouldn't be a celebration of American blues without including something from the King of the Blues, B.B. King, who teams up with Arthur Adams on the album opener "Get Next To Me." The disc closes with Solomon Burke's stirring "None Of Us Are Free." Not an essential purchase and not really a party stomper, but American Blues presents a nice collection of blues music, especially for the normal Putamayo customer that might be looking for an introduction to the genre.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds started out as a swampy-sounding Texas blues band prior to their more commercial, "'butt rockin'" material that can now be heard on automobile commercials. Tacos Deluxe (Benchmark Recordings) captures this early bluesier T-birds sound with nine songs taken from their first four albums, plus two previously-unreleased things and a pair of songs from the hard to find Different Tacos. The early lineup of Kim Wilson (harmonica, vocals), Jimmie Vaughan (guitar), Keith Ferguson (bass), and either Mike Buck or Fran Christina on drums are all here. Many of their classics are here, including "You Ain't Nothing' But Fine," "She's Tuff," "One's Too Many," "Scratch My Back," "C-Boy's Blues," and the south of the border-ish "Los Fabulosos Thunderbirds." Of particular interest is a live recording of "Wait On Time," recorded at the Bayou in Washington, D.C.; it's notable to me since I quite likely was there when this recording was made. It sure was fun reminiscing and hearing songs that I hadn't listened to in a long time. If you don't have these early recordings from the T-birds, do not hesitate ... get it now!
--- Bill Mitchell
I saw Rufus Thomas (1917 - 2001) perform at the Rum Boogie in Memphis in 1990. He was wearing leopard skin shorts and matching suspenders, and he premiered a new song for us, entitled, "Without Rufus Thomas, Y'all Wouldn't Have No Soul Music Whatsoever." While it is hard to imagine anyone other than James Brown being the "Funkiest Man Alive," I am confident, having seen Rufus Thomas, that he would have gotten in Brown's face and disputed the title. To continue the comparison, James Brown used emerging technologies and techniques to polish existing R & B traditions, appearing suddenly with a sound and image that's remained essentially unchanged. Rufus Thomas came out of minstrel show traditions, developed into a popular radio and theater program host, made a big splash as Sun Records' first hitmaker, then found Stax and the dogs, chickens, penguins and various other creatures he encouraged his listeners to imitate in dance. James Brown reached the top of a mountain; Rufus Thomas was the mountain's bedrock. As entertainment personas, Rufus Thomas would have existed without James Brown, but James Brown probably would not have existed without Rufus Thomas. Funk, like later reggae and rap, is a rhythm-driven music. It takes a loud, strident and heavily amplified vocalist to come out on top of big, talking drums and thumping bass. Rufus Thomas had that voice. He also had the resourcefulness to find the funk wave in time to help define it and skillfully ride it on his own material. He was always a great songwriter, which gave him an advantage over most of his competition. While not hesitant to repeat nonsense verses that happened to go with dance beats, he was tapped into the blues lyric stream that ran down extra dirt road in the South. Where James Brown could only grunt (though better than anyone else), Rufus could call on memories of "Sister went to milking but she didn't know how / She grabbed the bull instead of the cow / Come here, mama, come here quick / Sister's got the bull by ..." Because they're a logical culmination of a 40-year trip down African- American Entertainment Road, the 18 funk classics on Funkiest Man Alive -- The Stax Funk Sessions 1967-1975 (Stax Records) are reassuring and familiar while at the same time being funky. Play this record at your house during a party and people will loosen up. Play it in a bar and people will come in off the street for a good time. Play it in a car, and your trip will seem shorter. Play it, play it, play it.
Unexpected and somewhat bizarre, this blues / rock / zydeco / R & B record, Wire and Wood (NorthernBlues Music) from Glamour Puss, is strong, strong, strong. The first great strength evident to the listener is the record's layered rhythm. Double-time bass working closely with drums, a precise horn section and a fat-bottomed organ sound give the band, in essence, three rhythm sections, so when one of the three distinct rhythm entities decides to drop out and explore the front line world of lead every so often, it doesn't detract from the song's drive at all. Among the record's 15 tunes are numbers definitely emphasizing the separate musical genres performed by the band, but few of the tunes are purely "blues," "Zydeco," or whatever. Glamour Puss impressively blends genres that often conflict in other hands. I can think of no musician friends with whom I would not happily and enthusiastically share this release. The band sounds at different times like Huey Lewis & the News, Sam & Dave's backing act, the Edgar Winter band or the Saturday Night Live orchestra. Altogether rewarding.
Chris Cain's Hall of Shame (Blue Rock'It Records) is successfully soulful, jazzy blues. Lyrics, on a scale of one, one being an element of pure musical expression, to ten, ten being an element of pure verbal expression, come in at around three. Cain really shines as a front line and vocal arranger here. In back, the bass is short on ideas, but everything's solid. His vocals are reminiscent of a younger B. B. King. Overall arrangements recognize rests as being in partnership with notes in creating music. The Real Blues Magazine observation that "Chris Cain is one of those artists that all the other musicians groove to" is pretty accurate. Sometimes, it seems that there's no point to a musician devoting all energies to a traditional genre such as blues, because the patterns and songs have all been written, done, recorded and bought; it seems something like continuing to hammer a nail after it's driven all the way into the board. Cain reminds us here that there's plenty of opportunity left to polish the blues.
An old-style Texas blues-rock record in the tradition of Edgar Winter's White Trash, Another Fine Day (Blue Rock'It Records) from The Ford Blues Band is a guitar/bass/drums/harp quartet with horns and keys grafted on for the studio sessions; this is an outstanding good time record. The title track should be picked up as a theme by morning radio program hosts the blues world over. It's full of punch and blue-eyed soul and a good clue as to what those cracklingly electric horns and keys are going to be doing for the rest of the album. There's a feeling of hip early '60s detective program background music to the whole project, too. It flirts with danger and minor keys, but always comes out right and with another drink and cigarette at the end. Specific delights include the tight, echoing jam between guitar and keys, the crescendos with everyone joining the back line on the last note of song lines to force listeners' feet to move and the tense, dragged out mastery of traditional blues openings perfectly executed. This is a great record in itself and a fine tool for the band. With this release out there, we should see the Ford Blues Band headlining festivals all over the States and beyond for the next few years, and that's going to be a good thing for all of us.
Renee Austin's good songs on Sweet Talk (Blind Pig Records) are very, very good, with vocals and instrumental passages swooping and soaring like giant, predator birds. Her weaker moments are icepick in the ear shrieking forgettables. Ms. Austin has things to say and things to contribute to bandstands and records. Most of these 11 songs are cool. The next album, assuming she develops her persona and sings of real life as it would happen to that persona, will be even better.
I had heard that "Big Bill" Morganfield was a so-so singer and guitarist getting festival gigs and record deals from his father's name, his father having been McKinley Morganfield, AKA "Muddy Waters." Opening the CD Blues in the Blood (Blind Pig), looking at the titles of Big Bill's songs and even listening to the first cut, I was prepared to continue believing what I'd heard. As the CD played, I changed my mind. The people who'd misled me were guitarists, and the cause of their denigration of Mr. Morganfield quickly became clear as I perused liner notes more carefully. "Aha," I said to myself, "there's only one song on this record that breaks the four-minute mark, and that explains it." Most blues guitarists don't realize that a live set or recording is the same overall length whether it contains 20 short songs or six long ones, and they don't like being cut off after 12 or 24 bars of solo time. Big Bill's a short song guy, deep in that pocket where the recording limitations of his father's seminal years and the attention span of dancers and listeners coincide. In short, once a blues goes over about four and a half minutes, it's usually a song for the players, not the listeners. If you can't say it in that time, you don't need to be on a blues bandstand or record, and if you're still saying it after that time, you're probably repeating yourself. Big Bill's a very good songwriter with a voice that combines the rich, trademark vocal nuances not only of his father, but of his father's Chess Records labelmates. Howlin' Wolf's rusty iron growl is there at times, as are John Lee Hooker's built-in echo, Muddy Water's issuing-from-a-cave-rather-than-a-human-voicebox tone and even Rice "Sonny Boy Williamson II" Miller's tremolo. The band's a barebones quintet with no superstars, so it falls short of sounding like a real Chess Records compendium, despite its reliance on that label's classic, Chicago blues ambiance, but that's exactly where Big Bill's going when budgets and networks mature for him. He's on the right track, and I am happy that this CD has corrected my earlier thoughts about Big Bill Morganfield.
Rory Block has no entry in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, and that is a serious oversight. It must have been around 1978, when she would have been 25, that Polydor included her on a Guitar Gods anthology alongside Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin and others of established, lofty stature. Tangled, snarled and hidden in constant, intensive listening to increasingly obscure blues, folk and gospel records, experimentation with unique tunings and a voice used not just as an instrument, but as a percussion instrument, she has some secret that makes everything she records wonderful. A protégé of Son House and respected interpreter of Robert Johnson, she also gives us what Joan Armatrading and Traci Chapman would give us were they rooted in blues instead of radio. Does she speak for women? Does she speak for the blues? She is simply too large a talent to be fit with tags so tiny. The 14 songs on Last Fair Deal (Telarc Records), ranging from some of the best solo, acoustic Robert Johnson covers this critic has ever heard to a full, choir-backed commentary on the Book of Job that seems to agree with the theory that it was an early Hebrew attempt at formal, classical Greek tragedy, chorus and all, to impressionistic slices of personal life written quickly but at the right moment, as was right and proper, all sparkle like exquisite, inherited diamonds, reset and displayed by a fine artist. Every song on this record deserves to be played widely and often. It is as hard to stop listening to it as it is to stop admiring the liner note photos of Ms. Block, who is also an achingly beautiful woman.
--- Arthur Shuey
Like so many who are currently part of today’s blues scene, Montreal’s Steve Rowe was bitten by the blues via the British Invasion. He was a hit at the first ever Blues Summit (held January 2003 in Toronto) where he had the unenviable task of opening for two of Canada’s best known blues artists. This fixture of Quebec’s vibrant blues scene is looking to break into a wider market with his second CD, No Refund No Return (Howlin' Blues Productions). In person, Rowe is quiet, reserved, unpretentious and modest as pictured on the cover of the 45 minute disc. However, an alter ego shines forth on the 11 original tracks which were recorded on half inch tape using a 16 track board. Nine were co-written by Steve, and he performs lead vocals and guitar on all tunes. He loves the studio as evidenced by the numerous studio photos included in the liner notes which feature all the songs’ lyrics. "Yes You Do" features a lazy rhythm and Delta sounding, slow-burning, slide guitar. "Four In The Morning" contains a North Mississippi influence. Those who favour rockin’ blues from the hills will dig this track. Here, Steve’s steamy guitar solo strays from the blues and crosses into the state of rock and roll. The melody is mysterious, haunting and enticing on "Same Old Song." Steve’s vocals are the most powerful on this cut, while his guitar takes on the presence of Carlos Santana. "If My Cat Could Talk" is fun, with the rockin’ keyboards of Kevin Komoda. Steve’s guitar has a big, fat tone on the jazzy and swinging "Caviar Blues," which would go down well at a martini bar. Rowe’s British influence can be detected on "Gone Too Long," while "Stop This Dance" has a sense of rockabilly and country & western. Here, Lorraine Baldwin’s background vocals add punch with an impact. "Wasting No More Time" is a funky mix of Pedro Ullman’s B3, Alec McElcheran’s heavy bass and Dave Neil’s drums. Steve Rowe is a stronger guitarist than vocalist, and his music isn’t blues but rather blues-based roots rock. On listening to the disc for the first time, only half of the tunes really grabbed me. Upon multiple listens, I realized the CD is a complete package, yet don’t expect to find it on next year’s W.C. Handy Awards ballot. It has, however, been nominated for "Best Blues CD of the Year" by the board of Quebec's leading blues authority, Le Net Blues.Com. Steve Rowe needs to be more unique and adventurous as he journeys upstream. The songs are not the same caliber as the musicianship of Rowe’s nimble guitar and his band member’s unbridled keyboards, but the potential is present for greater things to come. For CDs and information, contact: www.steverowe.com or Kathy Wolf 514-362-1257.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Vino Louden gives his best whether he is performing for 20 or 20,000. He was hand picked by Koko Taylor to join her Blues Machine ten years ago. Her interest was sparked while he was in Mighty Joe Young’s band. Later, when she saw Louden in an Otis Clay video, she knew she had to have Vino as her guitarist. If you have seen Miss Taylor during the past decade then you have seen Vino. He is the charismatic showman who plays guitar with his tongue during one of the most tantalizing moments of the performance. It’s more than just a gimmick, it allows Vino to demonstrate he is one of the genuine real deal contemporary blues guitar players. Along with other modern day unsung guitar heroes such as Carl Weathersby, Chico Banks, Kenny Neal, Carlos Johnston, Bernard Allison and Ronnie Baker Brooks, Vino holds the future of the blues in his hands. Although he continues to regularly perform with the Queen of the Blues, he put together his own band a couple of years ago. The six favorable recordings on this 42-minute disc, Vino Louden Live, were compiled from numerous performances at Chicago’s Kingston Mines. They originally aired on WRMN’s Chicago Blues Explosion on 1410AM. Four of the tracks are well known covers. "Black Cat Bone" has a laid back structure yet Vino’s guitar is adrenaline-laced. The organist is set loose and proceeds to shake the walls. Here and throughout, Louden rolls the lyrics out with bellowing force. The band rocks "Bright Lights Big City" up old school style. The piano impresses and holds the rhythms while Vino solos like a forerunner. Here, the entire band cooks and functions as a single unit. The lyrics to "Big Leg Woman" are tempting and satisfying. Perhaps they are what enables Vino to float effortlessly up and down the fretboard. On "Teeny Weeny Bit," the guitar notes bend and curve quickly to the point where you expect the guitar to flip and roll over. Vino stays in control of his six-string engine and weaves through the backfiring notes from the keyboard. The ride ends on the verge of contemporary blues ecstasy. "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" is Louden’s signature 12-minute tune where he becomes the ultimate entertainer. He strings his audience in like a fish -- telling them, ‘you gotta put something in if you wanna get something out.’ You can practically see him licking the guitar strings at one point. Based on the crowd’s reaction, all agreed it was string lickin’ good. The production is less than stellar, the majority of tracks are covers, you can only purchase the disc off Vino’s bandstand, there are no liner notes (so who is in the band and when it was recorded are unknown) and it isn’t near as bewildering as seeing him perform live in person. In a nutshell, the disc only hints at the brilliance of Vino Louden. However, it does succeed at introducing a new modern master whose clever arrangements, high-energy guitar hooks and enthusiastic stage presence will appease a new generation of blues lovers. With stronger production and marketing, Louden will easily be able to make the break from being a constant sideman. For additional information, contact Vino at 773-838-8330 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Occasionally I stray from the blues. When I do, the music has to be full of emotion and excitement in order to match the intensity and passion that is pure-bred blues. One artist who rises to that challenge is Vincent Yannucci. His latest release, Eye Of the Storm - The Best of Vincent Yannucci (Starsound Records), is a "best of," yet most readers won’t be familiar with this obscure Ohio artist. Yannucci fuses rock, boogie, R&B, jazz and pop while he concentrates on drums, congas, percussion and synthesizers. Once again he has teamed up with Gary Lee (guitars, bass guitar, keyboards and vocals), Jeanette Jones (vocals), Mike Talanca (background vocals), Johnny Dexter (alto sax and percussion), Richard Manley (tenor sax), James Lauriente (trumpet), Dominic Ventura (trumpet) and Melvin "Mr. Bowtie" White (harmonica). The CD contains 13 originals that play for an hour. Four were taken from 2001’s popular Soul Groovers CD while the remaining cuts come from singles or were previously unreleased. "On The Road Again" features Leon Russell-sounding vocals. Here, Lee’s strings get a proper plucking while the chorus rolls you over with the power of a tank. The rest of the tune is funky, upbeat and hip. The vocal harmonies are super cool on "Blues Got Control." This is 12 bar, pure bliss blues with hot rockin’ guitar that does not need several rounds of ammunition to complete its deadly massacre. Jeannette’s vocals are so zestful on "Dog Eat Dog World" that soon she will be a household name. It’s a shame that the live audience sounds so false on the track. On "Back To L.A.," she sounds like a Texas crooner in the vein of Lou Ann Barton. No doubt, the tunes with vocals are impressive. But it’s Vincent’s jazz-tinged, Latin-laced, instrumental rumbas that are most poignant, enjoyable and memorable. Drums with a jungle rhythm begin the intense "Nights On Lafayette Street." Here, Lee takes you on a wild safari cruise where the surprises are many and the attacks quick and ferocious. The synthesizer could be heavier sounding to more evenly maintain the tune’s natural, animal instinct. A couple instrumentals, "Santa Ana Winds" and "Night Flight," have a Santana and Allman Brothers Band feel of the early '70s. The former is alluring which will produce mad, passionate actions from your partner thanks to the mysterious magic of the arrangement. Although this effort was not produced on a Hollywood film budget and at times the drums sound like a machine, the guitar, keyboards, percussion and arrangements astound. Gone are the glory days of rock instrumentals like Edgar Winter’s "Frankenstein." It's time for these dinosaurs to move over and make way for the new lord of jazz/rock fusion, Vincent Yannucci. For CDs and information, contact: www.vincentyannucci.com.
--- Tim Holek
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