Map By The Moraz Alban Project

March 30, 2016

I'll See You In The Summertime Outsiders

Patrick Moraz is a classically trained keyboardist who, despite releasing 20 solo album of progressive and fusion rock, is best remembered for his stints with Yes (1974-1976) and The Moody Blues (1978-1990).

Drummer Greg Alban has been a friend and professional compatriot of Moraz for 30 years and they have finally recorded an album together as the Moraz Alban Project.

Moraz is the driving force as he wrote, arranged, and co-produced the nine tracks. When he is not confined to the structures of a band over which he has little control, he tends to exhibit a creative streak, which pushes his music in a number of directions; sometimes on the same album. While this may not always lead to cohesive reeleases, it does lead to interesting ones, especially if you are an aficionado of keyboards or progressive rock.

My favorite tracks tend to be the ones with just Moraz and Alban. Drum and keyboard duets have existed primarily in jazz music but Moraz takes the form in a different direction with his majestic approach. “Alien Species” is the most avant-garde track as it is Alban giving a cymbal clinic, which is a foundation for Moraz to build his melodies. “Jazz In The Night” finds both instruments playing off of each other. “The Drums Also Solo” is keyboards vs. percussion as they challenge each other on several levels, until finally blending together.

The other tracks have more of a band feel as other instruments are introduced. “Jungle Aliens” thunders as Lenny Castro adds conga’s to the mix. “Canyon Afternoon” and “The Reel Feel” fall into a progressive sound as Moraz takes center position and allows the sound to revolve around him.

When Patrick Moraz conceived and wrote the music for this album he adapted it to a drummer being his partner. The result is music that travels in a different direction and is worthwhile exploring.

 


Stardust: The Rare Television Performances By Nat King Cole

March 30, 2016

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Nat King Cole, 1919-1965, had two distinct phases to his career. During the 1940’s and early 1950’s he was recognized as one of the leading light jazz pianists in America. His Nat King Cole Trio was one of the more successful small groups of its era. The last part of his career found him as a crooner, who was one the first Afro-American artists to cross-over into a white audience mainstream acceptance.

During late 1956 The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC, first as a 15 minute show and then for a half hour. During its existence, it not only featured many of the leading stars of the day but found Cole singing a number of songs that would not appear in his recordings. Real Gone Music has now resurrected 26 of Cole’s performances from the show. While it is amazing that these performances actually exist as TV networks at the time destroyed of taped over many programs; the sound quality is subject to the technology of the day so enjoy but beware.

Cole was not a part of the rock and roll generation. Had he lived, he would have settled in Las Vegas and played the club circuit. His baritone voice had a laid back and smooth quality that appealed to an adult audiance. The vocal albums issued during his lifetime were all similar in style and approach but live he took liberties interpreting the songs.

There is a jazzy performance of “Sweet Lorraine” with Oscar Peterson on piano. “Life is Just A Bowl Of Cherries” and “Rosetta” find him sharing the stage with Billy Eckstine. “Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)” finds him twisting the melody all out of shape. Songs such as “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “April Love,” “A Blossom Fell,” “The Nearness Of You,” and “St. Louis Blues” are all vehicles for Cole to ply his craft.

The second disc of the release has a bonus for Nat king Cole fans. During February of 1963 he appeared on an episode of the Australian Television Show Mobil Limb. Host Bobby Limb had no other guests that night but rather turned the entire episode over to Cole who proceeded to give a nine song mini-concert. That concert fills out this release.

It is a presentation of primarily well-known songs. “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Mona Lisa,” “When I Fall In Love,” and “Ramblin’ Rose” were a part of his live act for years. “Dear Lonely Hears” finds Cole at the piano and he takes it from easy listening pop to funky jazz. It makes one wish he would have played the piano more during this phase of his career as his connection to the music was different than just being the vocalist.

Stardust The Rare Television Performances is a release aimed at Nat King Cole fans and people invested in the pre-rock and roll era. The word rare is bandied about quite a bit but here it rings true.


Winning Hand By The Lucky Losers

March 30, 2016

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Cathy Lemons is a blues vocalist with a clear and powerful voice. Phil Berkowitz is a crooner who also happens to be a master of the harmonica. They have now teamed together for an album of modern day blues and roots music.

It is an album of originals and some rarely recorded cover songs. They use a full band to create their sound and while the musicians rotate in and out they are a tight unit that have some funky elements in places yet it always comes back to the blues.

They are an unlikely vocal duo as they each have a distinct approach but they make it work.  While  Lemons voice tends to dominate, their is a subtlety to Berkowitz’s style that enhances their sound. He also proves his worth with his harmonica runs, which flit in and out of the music and keep it connected to the blues.


I Got You Babe By Sonny & Cher

March 28, 2016

It’s not so much that Salvatore Philip Bono and Cherlyn Sakisian LaPierre had a number one hit as Sonny & Cher but what happened to them afterward.

They has a hit television series together. Sonny was a member of Congress before tragically dying in a skiing accident. Cher won an Oscar for Best Actress and had three solo number one hits. She remains a Las Vegas concert attraction.

They may have dressed the part during the hippie/psychedelic era of the 1960’s but they were at heart, a pop duo. Their “I Got You Babe” became the number one song in the United States August 14, 1965, and there it remained for three weeks.


Sweet Soul By Deb Callahan

March 21, 2016

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Deb Callahan may have written or co-written eight of the 14 tracks but it all comes back to her voice. It has a wonderful soulful patina that can purr and soar as the occasion demands.

Her sound is not so much a fusion of blues and soul but rather she moves back and forth between the two styles. “I Keep Things Running” and “I Am Family” are solid blues. “Sweet Feeling” has a precise and soulful quality that just reaches out and grabs you. “Seven States Away” finds her giving a sassy performance. “Slow As Molasses, Sweet As Honey” should have added smooth like butter to describe her approach.

Sweet Soul is Deb Callahan’s first new release in five years. It is an excellent introduction to an artist with a bright future.


The Devil To Pay By Kim Simmonds And Savoy Brown

March 21, 2016

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The career of Savoy Brown reached the 50 year mark last year. Their sound may have matured but it is still an elemental fusion of blues and rock. The constant has been guitarist and now vocalist Kim Simmonds who has been with the group since its founding in 1965.

Somewhere in the last five years or so, Simmonds must have received a rejuvenation injection as the bands career has undergone a revival of sorts. Songs From The Road (2013) and Goin’ To The Delta (2014) helped revive the groups creative juices. The Devil To Pay continues this string of very good releases as it is a stripped down affair of basic rock and blues.

Simmonds voice shows its years but is has a nice bluesy patina. His guitar work has always been among the best of his  generation and he has lost none of his technical ability  and overall brilliance.

Many times it is the slow blues songs that define an artists ability and creativity. “Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Got An Awful Feeling” just percolate along, always threatening to explode, but ultimately maintaining a control and tension that are at the heart of the blues.

Tracks such as “Stop Throwing Your Love Around,” “Evil Eye,” “Bad Weather Brewing,” and “Snakin’” have an excellent energy that is a credit to a band that has embarked on their sixth decade.

At this point in their existence, Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown are not going to change the musical landscape but they have managed to create an album of relevant modern day blues.


Henry The VIII I Am By Herman’s Hermits

March 18, 2016

The British Invasion was in full bloom and no two singles could have been as different as “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones and “I’m Henry The VIII I Am” by Herman’s Hermits. Yet, on August 7, 1965, Herman’s Hermits replaced The Stones at the top of the American Singles Chart.

The song was a British Dance Hall tune from 1911, which the Hermits recycled. It was simple and today is somewhere between dated and quant. Still, for one week during the summer of 1965 it ruled the music world in the United States.