Live In 1967 Volume Two By John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

January 23, 2017


This is the follow-up release to Volume one, which was issued a little over a year ago. It may not be as overall strong as that first release but it still does a very credible job in capturing one of John Mayall’s classic line-ups.

Not many albums begin with a fan but back in 1967, a super-fan named Tom Huissen, took his one channel tape recorder to a number of London clubs and recorded Mayal, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie, who would soon leave Mayall and form the original Fleetwood Mac. Over forty years later, Mayall obtained the tapes and two live albums were born.

The music was originally recorded on a one track recorder, so even with modern technology, the sound is only adequate. Green’s guitar dominates the sound with Mayall’s harp a close second. The rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie tend to fade into the background at times. Still, the talent of the band, and particularly Green, manage to shine through.

The 8 minutes plus “So Many Roads” and the instrumental “Greeny” show why Peter Green is considered on the better guitarists of the last half-century. Mayall cranks up his harp on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Your Funeral and My Trail.” The 7 minute “Tears In My Eyes” is a slow blues ballad and remains one of Mayall’s better original compositions.

A very interesting track is “Stormy Monday,” on which Ronnie Jones of Blues Incorporated sits in and provides the vocal.

This incarnation of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers quickly fell apart, which makes these never before issued tracks a historical treasure. The 70 minutes of music, sound aside, is what British blues were all about.

The Definitive Collection By Porter Wagoner

January 23, 2017


Porter Wagoner, (1927-2007), was country when country music was really country. During the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s, he placed dozens of songs on the country charts including two number ones, “A Satisfied Mind” and “Misery Loves Company.” His syndicated television show ran from 1961-1981. During the 1970’s, he was Dolly Parton’s regular duet partner. Even his clothes shouted country music.

Real Gone Music has now released a two disc, 40 song collection, which includes all of his country top 40 hits, titled The Definitive Collection. It comes with a booklet, which contains a nice history of Wagoner and his music.

Be well advised; this is not your modern day slick pop/rock country music. It is classic old-time country with songs of love lost, hard drinking, and painful lessons of life. While the sound has been enhanced through modern technology; the music is from another era and will appeal to fans of the post-Hank Williams time period.

Wagoner always had a smooth delivery that could tell a story. He mainly relies on ballads and they still draw the listener into the world he has created through his music. He rarely wrote his own material but was a master of taking other people’s compositions and making them his own.

Songs such as “Trademark,” “Legend Of The Big Steeple,” “Cold Dark Waters” “The First Mrs. Jones,” and “I Just Came To Smell The Flowers” are a country music history lesson.

Porter Wagoner’s The Definitive Collection will only appeal to hard core country aficionados or fans of Wagoner himself.  If you fall into either of those categories; this collection is not only definitive but is a must.

Pre-Teenage Symphony By Velvet Crush

January 23, 2017


As a born and bred Rhode Islander, I tend to follow musicians and bands from the state. Velvet Crush, from Providence, came into being during the late 1980’s. Bassist/vocalist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck had played together previously and with a succession of guitarists, have been the core members of the band ever since, except for a two year hiatus.

The band was a regular on the indie circuit during the 1990’s and reached its peak with the 1994 release of their second album Teenage Symphonies To God. Now they  have issued an album exploring their roots. Pre-Teen Symphonies contains eight demos from the era and a blazing eight song live performance from 1994.

Six of the eight demo tracks are taken  from the Teenage Symphonies To God project. They present early incarnations of “Blank Pages,” “Hold Me Up,” “Time Wraps Around You,” “This Life is Killing Me,” “Star Trip,” and “Weird Summer.” The problem with demos is that while they are interesting to fans and provide a nice history, the finished tracks are usually superior and readily available.

The core of this release is the eight song live set, which was recorded at the Cabaret Metro in 1995, where they opened for the Jesus and Mary Chain. The sound of the three person core group is enhanced by the addition of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Keene. The set revolves around material from their first two albums. What were just presented as demos now return as finished songs. “Blank Pages,” “Hold Me Up,” “Time Wraps Around You,” and “This Life is Killing Me” explode from the speakers and cements their legacy of a 1990’s Indie favorite.

Pre-Teen Symphonies is essentially two separate albums which form a nice document of the band. The demos are historical, while the live set is essential.

American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings By The Heaters

January 23, 2017


During the late seventies and early eighties, The Heaters were almost the next big thing. They opened for the likes of The Talking Heads, Cheap Trick, and Van Halen. They brought rock and roll energy to their modernized girl group sound. Lead vocalist/sax player Mercy Bermudez, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Maggie Connell, and vocalist/bassist/drummer Missy Connell were a connector between the classic girl group sound of the 1960’s and the female rock bands who would follow them. Unfortunately, their two studio albums could not capture the magic of their live appearances and were commercially unsuccessful.

During 1983-1984, they were back in the studio. Ten tracks were completed but for various reasons the material was never released. In 2007 the band reunited for a concert and several years later began transferring their unreleased material to a digital format. The result is American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings.

In some ways the music has an unfinished feel to it. During the 1980’s their label wanted them to re-record the material and they refused; trying to keep the sound as close as possible to their live performances.

Songs such as “American Dream” and “All I Want To Do” have a stripped down punk music vibe with vocal harmonies on top. “I Want To Love Again” even has a Shangi-las vibe. It is the fusion of two distinct types of music from different eras that makes their sound so unique.

Time moves on and there are some dated aspects to the album and the music. It was a tough sell in the 1980’s when musical tastes were moving in a number of directions and making the girl vocal group sound antiquated. Today there is more a niche for this thirty year old music.

American Dream: The Portastudio Recordings is a nice glimpse into the past with a band that traveled in an unusual direction as they paved a way for women to explore the rock and roll idiom.

Blues Heart Attack By The Jeremiah Johnson Band

January 23, 2017


Jeremiah Johnson is a blue collar modern day American bluesman, who been leaning and plying his trade since picking up a guitar at the age of six. Named after the character in the 1972 western film of the same name starring Robert Redford, he has just released his new album titled Blues Heart Attack.

Guitarist/vocalist Johnson and his core band of bassist Jeff Girardier and drummer Benet Schaeffer, get to the heart of the blues with an energetic and well-honed approach. Fusing rock rhythms into his basic blues; songs such as “Everybody Party,” “Flat Line,” “Southern Drawl,” and “Get It In The Middle” are all wonderful blasts of blues power.

The music of the Jeremiah Johnson Band  is perfect for a smoky bar late at night or at home with your favorite beverage in hand. And don’t forget to turn it up loud.

Live At The NEC By Deep Purple

January 10, 2017


Deep Purple founding member Jon Lord announced his retirement from the band in 2002. He had other projects in mind after nearly 35 years with the group and he was feeling his age. He would pass away in 2012. The baton was officially passed on September 14, 20012, when Deep Purple took the stage at the NEC in Birmingham, England. New keyboardist Don Airey played with the band for the first half of the show and was then joined on stage by Lord for the second half.

This seminal concert by Deep Purple has only been available as part of the massive and pricey box set Around The World Live. Now the 109 minute performance has been issued as a stand-alone DVD.  The video is clear and the sound crisp as it presents the modern day version of Deep Purple at its best.

Given the historic nature of the concert, the set list is made-up of their well-known songs. “Fireball,” “Woman From Tokyo,” “Space Truckin,’” “Speed King,” Smoke On The Water,” ”Hush” “Black Night,” and “Highway Star” are a trip through the first two decades of their career.

The transition occurs with Airey’s keyboard solo at the conclusion of “Speed King,” when Lord comes on stage to join him as they move into “Perfect Strangers. “ Whether Airey, Lord, or both; the music is straightforward. At this point in their existence, they take few chances but give the fans what they want with passion and energy.

The concert provides a dividing line in the career of Deep Purple. The music would remain the same but Lord’s absence took a major presence out of the mix. Live At The NEC is a historic concert for the band in that it both a farewell and a look toward the future.

Mid-Century Modern By Al Basille

January 10, 2017


Al Basile is one of the more interesting blues artists working today. His use of the cornet as a central instrument and at time replacing his vocals, is unique.

His new album, Mid-Century Modern, is produced by fellow Rhode Islander and bluesman extraordinaire Duke Robillard. It focus’ more on the brass than many of his past releases, which allows him room to stretch out on the cornet.

He has always been a talented composer and here he takes the music back in time to when brass was king. The lyrics move from introspective to humorous. It all adds up to another strong effort by Basille.

No Glass Shoes By The Ally Venable Band

January 10, 2017


So what were you doing when you were 17 years old? Or if you are younger than 17, what are your plans?

Houston based, 17 year old Ally Venable is a Blues guitarist/vocalist who fronts her own band and has just released her first album titled No Glass Shoes.

Venable plays an aggressive form of modern day electric blues. She wrote 6 of the 8 tracks, which give her room to improvise and stretch out a bit. As a vocalist, she is mature beyond her years and has a powerful voice that is made for a traditional blues sound.

In some ways, she is a work in progress but if No Glass Shoes is any indication, she shows a lot of promise.


Whirlwind By Rebecka Larsdotter

January 10, 2017


Rebecka Larsdotter was born in Sweden, currently lives in New York, and has released her latest album on the Norwegian based Losen Record Label.

Whirlwind is a change of direction for Larsdotter. Her previous release, Feathers And Concrete, was a funk-driven fusion album. Now she has a smoother and brighter sound as she explores the connections between jazz and folk music.

and here there are a number of originals sung in English. “Hmm,” “If The Wind Will Allow,” and “Zane’s Tune” are all thoughtful and easy-flowing pieces. The album closer is a distinctive rendition of the old Johnny Mercer classic “My Shining Hour.”

Rebecka Larsdotter has produced a shiny and optimistic album of music. Just right for a breezy summer afternoon.

Focus 8.5/Beyond The Horizon By Focus

January 10, 2017


Focus is a Dutch band formed in 1969 by vocalist/keyboardist/flute player Thijs Van Leer and featuring guitarist extraordinaire Jan Akkerman. They are a progressive rock band that takes the road less traveled by making use of odd rhythms and the use Van Leer’s flute as a Dominant instrument.

They gained their greatest commercial success and fame during the first half of the 1970’s. The band disbanded in 1978 but a number of reunions led to their reformation during 2002. Focus 8, released in 2002, was the first release of this new phase of their career. Three more studio albums have followed but their new release, Focus 8.5, was recorded between their eighth and ninth studio albums, hence the 8.5 title.

During the 2005, Focus was touring in South America and all the tracks were recorded between concerts. Even though the tracks have lain dormant for over a decade, they are not throw-a-ways. All are original composition by the band members and producer/musician Marvio Ciribelli.

It is the South American connection that defines the album and music. They make use of a number of local musicians who fuse traditional Latin rhythms with their progressive rock sound. This is particularly true for drummer Marcio Bahia who joins band member Pierre Van Der Kinden to create a depth of layers to the percussion. It all adds up to a very different, yet satisfying, progressive rock album.

“Focus Zero,” at over ten minutes, takes a classic approach with dashes of improvisation layered over the melody and rhythm section. “Surrexit Christus” and “Millennium,” with two drummers, explore a number of rhythms. “Rock 5” is a rhythmic orchestral piece. “Talking Rhythms” is only drummers Van Der Linden and Bahia going at it.

If you are a fan of Focus, this will be a treat. If you have not been exposed to their sound, this album will be an adventure.