Novum By Procol Harum

November 14, 2017

“We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor, I was feeling kinda seasick, but the crowd call out for more.” So begins “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” in 1967, which propelled Procol Harum into the rock and roll limelight. They will now release their 13th studio album Novum in celebration of their 50th anniversary.

Procol Harum, beginning with their self-titled debut album in 1967, issued a series of albums including Shine On Brightly, A Salty Dog, and Live In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which combined elements of classical music with what would be shortly recognized as progressive music.

While musicians such as Robin Trower, Keith Reid, and Matthew Fisher have passed through the band, the one constant has been vocalist/songwriter/pianist Gary Brooker. The band now includes long term members Geoff Whiteman, Matt Pegg, and Geoff Dunn, plus lyricist Pete Brown of Cream fame.

They have wisely chosen not to re-invent themselves or their sound on their new release. In many ways the music is less complex but more melodic than in the past. Their ability to create a sound that allows the listener to just drift in the music remains intact.

Brooker’s voice shows some wear after 50 years but he is still capable of providing a smooth listening experience and he has wisely surrounded himself with a group of veteran musicians who have coalesced into a tight band. Brown adds some new dimensions and sophistication to the lyrics, which is welcome. His presence puts the emphasis more on the lyrics than the music, which is a new direction for the band.

Novum shows that Procol Harum is still relevant as a band after a half-century on the road and in the studio. It is at its foundation, an album of solid rock and roll.


No Time Like Now By Strongman

November 14, 2017

Steve Strongman is a guitar player who just attacks the blues. He is able to bend the strings in a way that creates a sound that is unique to him.

He has just released a new album titled No Time Like Now. It consists of nine original tunes written with producer/bass player Rob Szabo and the classic rocker “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” composed by fellow Canadian Randy Bachman, who guests on the track.

Strongman is able to fuse the blues and rock so that it emerges as an energetic concoction that washes over the listener.

Steve Strongman has produced a solid album of modern day electric blues. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Action Painting By The Creation

November 14, 2017

All right, boys and girls, it time to climb into the way back machine for a journey in time to the mid-1960’s English psychedelic music world.

For every English band that made it, there were hundreds who quickly disappeared and dozens more who shined brightly for a brief moment or two, and then were gone. Bands such as The Action, The Attack, The Sorrows, and Tomorrow fueled elements of the American Psychedelic movement and British rock, released a few tunes, but ultimately could not evolve with the changing music scene.

The Creation was one of the leading proponents of this British pych/rock movement. They existed from 1964-1068. They had one Top 40 hit in their home country and every once on awhile one of their songs appears on a compilation album of the era. Many people remember them for their last lead guitarist, Ronnie Wood, who would go on to fame and fortune with the Rolling Stones.

The Creation is one of those bands that represent a period in time. They had a raw energy that encapsulated the psychedelic era. Their entire recorded catalogue, plus four tracks from the pre-Creation Mark Four Band, has now been released as a two CD compilation titled Action Painting. The sound has been remastered and there is an 80 page booklet devoted to the band.

They had elements of the Who in their approach but without the power of their straight rock and roll. “Painter Man” was their only hit but it represents their style and sometimes odd approach as they use a violin bow to play the guitar. The new stereo mix adds depth to the song. They covered such tunes of the day as “Cool Jerk,” “Hey Joe,” and “Like A Rolling Stone” which are all journeys through the lives of struggling bands.

Action Paining is a must listen for anyone interested in the history of the psychedelic era. They represent a short but important stop in the evolution of British rock and roll.

Meeting My Shadow By Vanessa Collier

November 14, 2017

I always have a soft spot for saxophone players and Vanessa Collier is an evolving force on the instrument. She studied at Boston’s Berklee College Of Music and was further schooled on the road with the likes of Annie Lennox and Willie Nelson. She has just released her second album titles Me And My Shadow.

In addition to being a talented saxophone player, she is also a vocalist and an adept songwriter who penned eight the album’s eleven tracks.

While she travels into pop and soul; she is at heart a blues artist as her music presents her stories and experiences. She has a wonderful soul-styled voice that compliments her sax sound.

Whether it be her own “Whiskey And Women” and “”Devil’s On The Downslide” or covers of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head I Hear The Music In The Air” and “Deadric Malone’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry;” she presents her music with a combination of simplicity and sophistication.

Vanessa Collins is an artist whose music is well-worth exploring as she continues to progress and evolve.

Standing On Faith By Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band

October 19, 2017

The origin’s of Zydeco music are lost in the mists of time. It ‘s history traces back to combining French Creole music with rhythm & blues and expanding outward from there.

Corey Ledet is one one the leading practitioners of Zydeco music today and he has just released his ninth album Standing On Faith.

Ledet is an accordion player/songwriter/vocalist/band leader who fuses Zydeco rhythms to other musical formats.

The song titled “Intro” is a funky album opener. He quickly moves in a pop direction with the instrumental “Love Never Felt So Good” and the smooth title track. He then adds a little reggae influences with “A Good Day” and finishes his gumbo concoction with the bluesy “Street Light.”

Ledet has developed the capacity to create Zydeco music as it should be. Standing On Faith is a joyous romp through the world of Zydeco music.

Joy Comes Back By Ruthie Foster

October 19, 2017

Ruthie Foster’s voice and ability to interpret songs is a force of nature. Her albums tend to key off of where she is in her life’s journey and the type of material she chooses to cover.

Her new album, Joy Comes Back, was recorded in the midst of a relationship break-up. The material she chooses to explore range from the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the funk of the Staples to an odd but wonderful cover of an old Black Sabbath classic. It all adds up to an emotional album of loss, therapy, recovery, and ultimately joy.

Her sound is more elemental than in the past, which puts the emphasis on her voice. There is a high-tension gospel cover of the old Four Tops ditty “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” She is at heart a blues singer and she takes Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues” out for a ride. She explores Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” as a blues jam. “Forgiven” is a ballad that just lets her voice soar.

Ruthie Foster has received numerous Blues Awards nominations and travelled with the likes of The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi. Hopefully Joy Comes Back will garner her some well-deserved mainstream acclaim.

Two Of A Kind By Bobby Darin And Johnny Mercer

October 2, 2017

Bobby Darin, (1936-1973), packed a lot into his 37 years of life. He was a teen idol who produced such hits as “Splish Slash” and “Queen Of The Hop” that led to his 1990 induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He was an actor who won a Golden Globe Award and he actually married actress Sandra Dee of Grease song fame.

At the height of his commercial appeal, he changed musical directions. He always wanted to be a Sinatra-type singer and recorded “Mack The Knife” from Three Penny Opera. It became one of the most popular singles in music history, topping the Billboard Pop Chart for nine weeks.

In 1961 he joined with orchestra leader/arranger Billy May and recorded the album Two Of A Kind. That album has now been reissued with seven bonus songs.

I find it interesting that this album was picked for reissue. While it is representative of the second part of his career, it just disappears into his catalogue of releases. It is a smooth and pleasant album but probably not among his best works.

He was touring with Johnny Mercer at the time, and the material reflects that relationship. It is an album of standards, highlighted by two Darin/Mercer compositions and four more Mercer songs.

“Ace In The Hole” is an old jazz song from 1909. Darin gives it a more Big Band/pop feel in a swinging version. The lightweight “Who Takes Care Of The Caretakers Daughter” is a pun-fill journey. On the other hand he gets to cute with “My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two.” It is representative of a number of songs that appeared dated over 50 years ago and today fall into the quaint category today.

The seven bonus songs are more of the same except for an interesting take on the Dave Dreyer/Ruby Herman song “Cecelia.”

This reissue of Two Of A Kind” will no doubt please Bobby Darin fans but if you want an introduction to Darin at his best, there a a number og Greatest Hits albums available.