April 25, 2016
Johnny Rawls learned his craft as O.V. Wright’s band leader until his death in 1980. He then continued to lead the Ace Of Spades band for the next 13 years as they backed many of the leading blues artists of the day including B.B. King, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, and Johnny Taylor. In 1996, he released his first solo album Here We Go. Now 12 Blues Music Award nominations later, he will issue his latest album, Tiger In A Cage, on February 19th.
Rawls has one of those wonderfully soulful voices that is able to convey passion and emotion in a released manner.
His new album consists of three covers and nine original compositions. The Rolling Stones “Beast Of Burdon,” Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party” and Jackie Wilson’s classic “Your Love Is Lifting Me (Higher And Higher)” are all transformed into his laid back and bluesy style.
His own compositions; “Born To The Blues,” “Every Woman Needs A Working Man,” “Southern Honey,” and “I Would be Nothing” continue his string of old-school party type music releases.
Johnny Rawls has carved out a nice niche for himself. His latest release, Tiger In A Cage, is a nice addition to his sweet soul and blues legacy.
April 25, 2016
Paul Burch has been producing modern day roots music for several decades. He has now, for his tenth release, traveled in a very different and creative direction.
He has assumed the persona of legendary musician Jimmie Rodgers and created a musical autobiography of his life. The twenty tracks are a history of Rodgers life as told and sung by Burch. I don’t know if he is the first artist to create a thematic album of this type, but he has put together a tremendously original one.
Through Burch’s melodies and words, one is able to experience and imagine the life of Rodgers; from his childhood in Meridian, Mississippi, to his death in the Taft Hotel in New York City in 1933 at the age of 35.
Rodgers recording life was very short due to the effects of tuberculosis but he made the most of his time. He approached the trails and tribulations of everyday life from a different perspective than the bluesmen of the day. He moved country music out of the smoke filled southern honky tonks toward the mainstream. Burch captures the flavor of that journey though such songs as “Poor Don’t Vote,” “Sign Of Distress,” “Ain’t That Water Lucky,” “Fast Fuse Blues,” “Sorry I Can’t Stay,” and the album ending “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.”
The music is good and the concept excellent. Rogers is one of the more honored American musicians of the 20th century. A member of both the Country and Rock And Roll Hall Of Fames; his songs have been covered thousand of times and dozens of the elite artists in country music have issued tribute albums but none like Meridian Rising.
April 21, 2016
Barry McGuire was an old folkie who was a friend of the Mamas and Papas and helped them get a record deal with the Dunhill label, which got him a mention in their hit song “Creeque Alley.” He was also the lead singer of the New Christy Minstrels and provided the vocal for their hit “Green Green.”
His main claim to fame was his only big solo hit “Eve Of Destruction,” which spent the week of September 25, 1965, as the number one song in the United States.
It was one of the scathing protest songs of its era. Written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, it summed up all that was wrong with the world in just about three minutes. It was banned by a number of radio stations but that did not stop its rise to the top of the charts.
McGuire would never have another big hit and today “Eve Of Destruction” sounds dated but for a week in 1965, it was the most important song in the USA.
April 11, 2016
King Curtis was one of the premier rhythm & blues saxophone players of the 1960’s and very early 1970’s. Recording as a session musician and leading Aretha Franklin’s backing band The Kingpins, he still found time to record nearly two dozen solo albums, 1959-1971. He arrived home August 13, 1971, from a recording session and asked two drug dealers to leave the steps in front of his apartment. An hour later he was pronounced dead at a local hospital at the age of 37.
His two stints with the Atlantic label subsidiary Atco form the meat and potatoes of his career. Real Gone Music has now released both sides of his 33 singles recorded for the label. The 66 tracks are spread over three discs and form one of the better catalogues of instrumental soul and rhythm & blues music on the planet.
The sound has been remixed from the original masters and is about as clear as it can get. There is a booklet that includes a history of Curtis’ music and information about each single.
Curtis was a master at covering other people’s material and was able to change many of the hits of the day to his style. He transforms such diverse tracks as “Whole Lotta Love,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the Grammy winning “Games People Play,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Ode To Billie Joe,” “The Christmas Song,” and “For What It’s Worth” into personal statements. While they were considered soul or rhythm & blues releases, they also appeared on the jazz, adult contemporary, and pop charts.
The Kingpins were an ever-revolving list of musicians. Being a saxophonist he needed a tight unit to lay down a foundation and a basic melody. He then soared over the mix, many times improvising as he went along. His Live At The Fillmore West,” which adds the Memphis Horns to the mix, should be required listening for anyone interested in the history of American music.
The Complete Atco Singles finds a master of his instrument plying his craft. He released several hundred tracks for the Atco label and these singles are mostly the cream of the crop.
April 11, 2016
From You Tube, sometimes big things grow. During 2007 Sam Coulson placed a number of videos of himself playing the guitar on You Tube. Several years later he was invited to be an instructor for the Great Guitar Escape. This all led to his becoming the lead guitarist for Asia in 2013. He can be heard on the album Gravitas and has toured with the band for the last several years.
Now, in his spare time, he has released his first solo album Electric Classical. As the title suggests, it is an album of classical music interpreted by guitar.
In some ways he is more comfortable as a classical musician than a rock guitarist. He has a preciseness about him and each note tends to be clear. Songs such as “Ave Maria,” “Romance,” “Moonlight Sonata Blues” and ” BMV 1007 Prelude” benefit from his approach.
Electric Classical is an oblique approach to classical music by an up and coming guitarist. If want a guitar album that is a little different, then you may want to give this one a spin.
April 11, 2016
Uriah Heep has released a new album that is not really new. During 2001, the 1986-2007 Classic line-up realized they had been playing a number of songs for years that had evolved from the original studio recordings. They recorded and re-imagined 27 of those songs and released them under the title Remasters: The Official Anthology. The collection made a second appearance in 2004 as Uriah Heep’s Gold: Looking Back 1970-2001. Now the tracks have been resurrected a third time as Totally Driven.
It is an important release in the band’s near 50 year history. Many of the songs have evolved and this release serves as a update of the band’s progress. If you are a fan of the group and have not heard these interpretations, then this is an essential release. If you are just a fan of hard rock, then have at it at Uriah Heep has been producing their brand since 1969.
Founding member and lead guitarist Mike Box, vocalist Bernie Shaw, bassist Trevor Bolder, drummer Les Kerslake, and keyboardist Phil Lanzon were the longest incarnation of the band spending 19 years together honing the songs that comprise this album. Songs such as “Blind Eye,” “Sunrise,” “Sweet Freedom,” and “Lady In Black” reveal new textures and rhythms. Yes it would have been nice to have “The Wizard,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Weep In Silence,” and a few others included but their catalogue of music is so large that there had to be omissions.
Uriah Heep is still out on the road and in the studio. It has been 15 years since they last re-interpreted their songs. Hopefully they will get around to another update but until then, this one will do.
April 3, 2016
The Beatles returned to the top of the American Charts for the ninth time on September 4, 1965, for the first of three weeks.
“Help” was the title song of their second film and had a quick journey to the top. It entered the charts at number 41 on August 7, and four weeks later it arrived at number one.
John Lennon once stated that “Help” and “Strawberry Fields” were his favorite songs.