Saturday, May 30, 2015

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers - Live in 1967

2015 – Forty Below Records
By Phillip Smith; May 30, 2015

For a short three-month stint in 1967, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers consisted of future Fleetwood Mac members, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.  Because a devoted fan from Holland was ballsy enough to sneak a one track reel-to-reel recorder into five different clubs in London to record a handful of shows, we are blessed to hear the magic which took place when these four musicians took the stage.  Keeping in mind, this was recorded in mono, from a hidden tape recorder; the results are consistent with most bootleg recordings from that era.  Live in 1967 gives us thirteen sweet blues-smothered tracks to chew on. 

The Bluesbreakers break out a little briefcase of blues featuring Freddie King songs : “Have You Ever Loved a Woman”, “The Stumble”, “Someday After Awhile”, and “San Ho Zay”.  Peter Green kills it on guitar covering these.  It’s just downright cool to hear him rip into “The Stumble”.  This is blues guitar at its finest.  The opening riff on “San Ho Zay” is so lush; I wish it could have been recorded off a board.

I love their performance of T Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”.  This one puts me in my bluesy space immediately. Mayall on vocals and organ guides this one from start to finish with a delicious guitar performance from Green.  This is what music is all about, right here.    

John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac fans are sure to enjoy this historical bluesy treat.

Also check out my review of John Mayall's  2014 album, A Special Life  => 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Cash Box Kings - Holding Court

2015 – Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; May 16, 2015

Chicago blues masters The Cash Box Kings return again to serve up a nice and healthy dose of classic-sounding blues on their new album, Holding Court.  Stomping through the decades, they seem very at home playing in the musical styles prevalent during the Thirties through the Fifties.  Joe Nosek, and Oscar Wilson continue to front the band, and it absolutely pleases me to see Barrelhouse Chuck back on piano/organ, as well drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith sitting in on three tracks.  

Nosek holds down the harmonica, and Joel Paterson delivers great twangy licks on lead guitar while kicking things off with the Willie Dixon cover, “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man”.  They also nail down a sweet cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Hobo Blues”.  Paterson plays it nice and slow.   

The Cash Box Kings certainly have a knack for bringing current issues to light in their lyrics.  “Download Blues”, written by Nosek, documents the monetary hardships musicians face these days because of illegal downloading on the back of a common devil-may-care attitude about sharing copyrighted material. Whereas “Gotta Move Out to the Suburbs” is a commentary about folks living in the inner city, being pushed out of their homes, to make way for expensive high-rises and skateboard parks. Both are favorites.  

It’s so nice to hear the Blues presented in the unadulterated manner The Cash Box Kings meticulously perform it.  Holding Court is true gem.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saun & Starr - Look Closer

2015 – Daptone Records
By Phillip Smith; May 9, 2015

If you’ve listened to the music of Sharon Jones, you most likely have heard Saun & Starr.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to catch Jones in concert, and remember being bowled over by the exquisite harmonies of backing vocalists, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan- Lowe , aka Saun & Starr.   They made quite the impression then, and they make a tremendous impression now with their stellar performances on their debut album, Look Closer. To top it all off, the Dap-Kings perform on this new record, drizzling their familiar funky soul on every song, in the Daptone style, and I love it. 

Title track, “Look Closer (Can’t You See the Signs?) ushers the listener in with an up-beat dance-friendly rhythm guided by a buttery bassline served up by Bosco Mann. When I hear the bouncy beats and soulful vocals on “Hot Shot”, I’m immediately taken back to the early music of the Jackson 5.  I just love the way this song was written and performed.  Whereas “Another Love Like Mine”, with is restless funk and echo-laced guitar effects, seems to draw in a little more inspiration from the late great Isaac Hayes.    

Every time I hear the infectious grooves of “Big Wheel”, I can’t help but get a big ol’ smile on my face.  Like Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff”, this track takes a soulful approach to calling out tricksters and scoundrels in wolves clothing.  Another fun little track, “Dear Mr. Teddy”, happens to take awkward situations to a new level. This is the kind of song that sounds best on a rainy day.  Saun & Starr close the album out with a light-hearted ditty about communication breakdown, “Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah”. I like the cool little jabs Victor Axelrod lays down on the organ and the Steve Cropper-flavored guitar riffs from Binky Griptite.  This is such a smooth song.

Look Closer is a sheer delight.  It’s the best soul album I've heard this year.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Billy Hector - Old School Thang

2015 – William Hector / Ghetto Surf Music
By Phillip Smith; May 2, 2015

The latest album, Old School Thang from Billy Hector is slathered in blues and quite the listen.  Hector dishes out his songs in a variety of formats, ranging from traditional and swampy, to trans-blues.    

“She’s Gone”, a great track to open with, grabs me with the smooth Santana-influenced guitar licks.  It sounds so good, especially with the accompaniment by David Nunez on organ, and the horn section made up of Tommy Labella and Steve Jankowski.  Hector breaks out the big guns and totally nails down a cover of Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” in a tribute to Freddie King.  The musicianship is nothing less than phenomenal.  This is what the blues is all about.  I love the funky rhythm on title track, “Old School Thang”.  If Prince decided to cross over to the blues, I think this is very close to what it would sound like.  I have to mention the awe-inspiring drums provided by Sim Cain, which made me think of the late great Chuck Ruff who played drums on the iconic song, Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”.  

“Rita”, a despairing and tragic tune which seems to fall in the same wheelhouse as the music of Tom Waits, has a nifty way of getting stuck in my head.  For the finale, Hector closes out “People of the World”, a tasty treat full of groovy jams coated with organ and horns.  Funky repetitive grooves reminiscent of the trans-blues music of Otis Taylor, keep this one going for eight minutes.   

Every song on Old School Thang is a winner.  This album comes highly recommended.