Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tommy Talton - Until After Then

2014 – Hittin’ the Note
By Phillip Smith; Nov 22, 2014

I just can’t seem to get enough of singer/songwriter Tommy Talton’s (Cowboy, ex-We the People) latest album, Until After Then.  Not straying too far from his wheelhouse, based on country/southern rock, Talton masterfully walks the listener through this elegantly constructed album using a medley of different themes and musical styles.   

Talton is all revved up and ready to change the world for the better, in title track, “Until After Then”.  Snazzy guitar licks, and catchy hooks reminiscent of Todd Rundgren’s “We Gotta Get You a Woman” bring this track to the forefront. “Real Sugar” is a fun one too. It cleverly lambasts the food industry with its quirky lyrics, knocking the habitual inclusion of synthetic ingredients and additives like high fructose corn syrup and polysorbate 60 into our food.  This track is served with a nice big slice of funk with accompaniment from Kelvin Holly on wah-wah guitar, Brad Guin on sax, and Ken Watters on trumpet.  Still on track with changing the world, “Mr. Love” slows it down a notch to provide a poppy commentary about gun control in a Paul McCartney-esque style.    

I have a soft spot for “My O My”, a cool and fragile little love song about living life “two as one”. Talton beautifully plays this one on acoustic guitar. The track that really puts the smile on my face though, is the bonus track, “Surfin’ the Levee”.  This is a homage to seventies rock, like that heard from bands such as the Allman Brothers and Deep PurpleKenny Head attacks the organ much the same way as Edgar Winter, giving an outstanding performance, as Talton throws out tasty groovy licks from his guitar.   

I immensely enjoy the lyrical and stylistic twists and turns that present themselves while listening to this album.  Until After Then is a delight to hear.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prodo - Prodotype

2014 – Independent
By Phillip Smith; Nov 15, 2014

Prodotype, the debut album from Prodo, a trio from Stevens Point, WI, is nine tracks of funky and infectious grooves.   Prodo consists of guitarist/lead vocalist Henry Robinson, bassist Jeremy Erickson, and drummer Dane Paster

A fun little nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, is “The Bokonon”, which by the way, nicely kicks the album off.  Erickson and Paster keep the groove on this one, while Robinson dishes out a Santana-inspired bridge. While getting lost in the contagious rhythm guiding “The Student”, I can’t help but smile at the clever philosophical ‘tip of the hat’ to the film, The Big Lewbowski. “J2”, a tight little progressive-rock instrumental, is a definite standout performance and it reminds me just a bit of classic Yes.  This is a track the band really shines on.     

One thing for sure about Prodo: they know how to construct masterful jams.  Robertson sings of many past lives in “The Secret”, a ska-flavored track which pulls me in with unique jams and well-crafted lyrics.  I’m also quite drawn to the Caribbean-friendly groove at the base of “Chingus”, about a traveling loner.  This is a track I can identify with. 

My favorite track, however, is “Fat Pessimist”.  It crawled deep inside my head on upon my first listen, and now it beckons to be listened to every day.  The lyrics, “I got too much pop!” are not only stuck in my head, but by now are permanently secured.  Good job.

Prodotype, in its entirety, is such a fun album; I can’t help but be in a good mood after listening.  I certainly look forward to hearing more from Prodo.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mike Zito and the Wheel - Songs From the Road

2014 – Ruf Records
By Phillip Smith; Nov 8, 2014

Mike Zito and the Wheel played a live gig at the Dosey Doe in The Woodlands, TX to a sold-out crowd on January 10, 2014, and fortunately recorded this exciting event for our enjoyment.  Songs From the Road captures the essence of Zito, with an extraordinary set list of past favorites, some older and some newer, boasting five tracks off his most recent studio album, Gone to Texas.

The funky “Don’t Break a Leg” opens the set.  Rob Lee stands out as the fantastic drummer he is, and Jimmy Carter tears it up on sax.  Of course, it probably goes without saying; Zito’s guitar playing is amazing. I love the bands performance on “Hell on Me”. This one has an ominously groovy rhythm which is very pleasing to the ears.  Again, Zito, simply put, cooks when it comes to playing guitar.  Other tracks from Gone to Texas include “Rainbow Bridge”, “Subtraction Blues” and title track, “Gone to Texas”.

I’m so glad “Greyhound” made the cut for this album.  It’s classic rock in the same style as Jackson Brown and Bruce Springsteen. The band sounds big, with Jimmy Carpenter belting out blasts from his sax, and Lewis Stephens pounding the keys.  I’m also glad Zito’s cover of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” made the cut.  Although, the song sounds totally different than the original, this cool little song still maintains an Eighties vibe to it, in a “St Elmo’s Fire” kind of way.  It’s definitely a treat to hear.

Mike Zito and the Wheel score big with Songs From the Road.  He really is an amazing artist, and it shows on this album.        

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bruce Katz Band - Homecoming

2014 – American Showplace Music
By Phillip Smith; Nov 1, 2014

Just give the Bruce Katz Band’s Homecoming a listen and you will find out rather quickly why he has been nominated three times for the "Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year” Blues Music Award.  Legendary keyboardist Katz, is backed by guitarist/vocalist Chris Vitarello and drummer Ralph Rosen.  Special guests on this album include John Hammond, Jimmy Bennett, Marty Ballou, Peter Bennett and Randy Ciarlante. Homecoming is symbolic of Katz’s return to work on his own music, after several years of backing the likes of Gregg Allman and Delbert McClinton.  The music selected for this thirteen track album, is steeped heavily in Blues and Jazz, then delivered via feel-good jams.

Katz brings a new life to Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Santa Fe Blues” as a piano performance piece with a slightly quicker tempo than the original.  With Blues Hall of Famer John Hammond at the helm on vocals, this song has an amazingly authentic bluesy sound.  From the acclaimed Alexis P Suter Band, guitarist Jimmy Bennett and bassist Peter Bennett drop by to jam on Elmore James’ “Wild About You Baby”.  J. Bennett not only rips it up on guitar, but takes the vocal lead on this great cover as well.  

Joining Katz and gang again, J. Bennett sings and plays guitar on one of his own originals “It’s a Bad Time”.  It’s so fun to listen him and Katz playfully dance their instrumentation around in this Coltrane-influenced jam. I love the abundance of jazzy instrumentals Katz scatters about the album, such as “No Brainer”, “The Czar”, and my favorite “Amelia”, which has a vibe that reminds me of Page McConnell from Phish

It’s so cool how an album such as Homecoming can exude such positive energy and maintain that output from start to finish.  Honestly, I could listen to this album all day long and not get tired of it at all.