Blues Heart Attack (CD) By The Jeremiah Johnson Band

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Blues Heart Attack

Jeremiah Johnson Band

Connor Ray Music

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

Live At The NEC (DVD) By Deep Purple

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a1Live At The NEC (DVD)

Deep Purple

Eagle Rock Entertainment 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

Mid-Century Modern (CD) By Al Basille

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Mid-Century Modern

Al Basile

Sweetspot 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

 

No Glass Shoes (CD) By The Ally Venable Band

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No Glass Shoes

Ally Venable Band

Connor Ray Music 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***

 

Whirlwind (CD) By Rebecca Larsdotter

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Whirlwind

Rebecka Larsdotter

Losen Records

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***

 

Focus 8.5/Beyond The Horizon (CD) By Focus & Friends

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Focus 8.5/Beyond The Horizon

Focus & Friends

In And Out Of Focus Records

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

Naked…In Your Face (CD) By Eddie Turner & Trouble Twins

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Naked…In Your Face

Eddie Turner

7-14 Label 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

Eddie Turner may not be a household name but he is an underground guitar legend who has produced good music for nearly 50 years. His career stretches back to the early 1970’s and playing with such groups as Mother Earth, Zephyr, and the Otis Taylor Band. His solo career has seen him fuse the blues with rock and roll with some funk chops thrown in for good measure.

His newest album is also his first live release. Recorded at Calgary’s Blues Can during August of 2015; it finds Turner fronting a basic trio with bassist/vocalist Anna Lisa Hughes and drummer Kelly Kruse in support.

While the album is a vehicle for Turner to show off his guitar virtuosity; bassist Hughes adds some interesting elements including gritty vocals on the albums two cover songs, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Buried Alive In The Blues,” plus her own composition “Mistreated.”

The meat of the album are Turner’s own composition. “So Many Roads,” “Dangerous,” “Rise,” and “Secret” all clock in between eight and 12 minutes, which give Turner plenty of room to improvise as he takes the melodies on a number of twists and turns.

Live is the way Turner should be experienced. Naked…In Your Face is a coming out party for an under appreciated guitar genius and you’re invited.

Rated: ***1/2

Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles (CD) By The Bangles

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Ladies and Gentlemen…The Bangles

The Bangles

Omnivore 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

If you are, or have ever been a fan of the Bangles, then this new release is one for you. Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles gathers rare tracks from their past, including those when they were known as The Bangs, and presents them in a clean remastered form.

The Bangles were and still are a bright, melodic pop and rock band. Formed as The Bangs in 1981 by guitar/vocalist Susanna Hoffs, drummer Debbi Peterson, and guitarist Vickie Peterson; they received their greatest fame during the 1980’s. They produced a number of up-beat radio-friendly pop hits such as “Manic Monday,” “Hazy Shade Of Winter,” “Eternal Flame,” and the number one single of 1987 “Walk Like An Egyptian.”

The material on this release pre-dates their most successful time period. If you want an introduction to the band, any of their greatest hits albums would be preferable to this one, which digs deeply into their formative years.

Their only single release as The Bangs; “Getting Out Of Hand/Call On Me,” plus their early recording “Bitchen Summer/Speedway” find a band learning their craft.

The heart of the release are the five tracks that were originally issued as a self-titled EP in 1981. “The Real World,” “I’m In Line,” “Want You,” “Mary Street,” and “How Is The Air Up There” approach the sound that would produce their best work in a couple of years.

Throw in some early demos, including the old Paul Revere & The Raiders song “Steppin’ Out,” plus a couple of live tracks from 1984, “7 + 7” and “Tell Me” and you have an interesting, if not classic release.

Like many albums that explore the history of an artist, Ladies ad Gentlemen…The Bangles may not be of the quality of their best work but creates a nice time-line to their career, while filling in the gaps in their catalogue of music.

 

Rating: ***

 

 

Complete High Voltage (CD) By Maynard Ferguson

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Complete High Voltage

Maynard Ferguson

Omnivore Recordings 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

This is the fifth Maynard Ferguson reissue by Omnivore Recordings that has crossed my desk in the last six months or so. Each has presented a distinct period of Ferguson’s career and Complete High Voltage is no exception.

Ferguson had just released on of the best albums of his career with 1987’s Body & Soul. Rather than rest on his laurels, he left behind his big band and recorded two albums with a much smaller unit. Now High Voltage I and II have been reissued as a two disc set complete with two bonus tracks.

Outside of his big band context, the focus of the music was squarely on Ferguson, who was one of the more creative trumpet players of the last half of the 20th century. This setting allows him to solo more than in the past, in which he explores the outer edges of the trumpet sound.

If you are a fan of Ferguson, Complete High Voltage is an interesting stop in his career. A lot of good music in one place.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Josh At Midnight (Vinyl Reissue) By Josh White

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Josh At Midnight (Vinyl Reissue)

Josh White

Ramseur Records 2016

Review by David Bowling

 

Josh White, (1914-1969), packed a lot of adventure and music into his 55 years of life. A practitioner of the southern blues who branched out into gospel, country blues, and traditional folk; he was an early black artist whose issued a number of protest songs. A friend of President Franklyn Roosevelt, for whom he gave a command performance at the White House in 1941; he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s. He made a commercial comeback during the 1960’s and his music and style has influenced the generations of folk and blues singers who have followed.

Now Ramseur Records will reissue what may be his finest album on August 19. Josh At Midnight, originally released in 1956, is primarily of album of traditional folk songs from a southern blues perspective.

It is a raw album with roots firmly entrenched in the Delta blues of the first half of the 20th century. Only one microphone was used during the recording session and the only instrument besides White’s guitar is the bass of jazz musician Al Hall. The only other person involved was vocalist Sam Gary. The remastering makes everything have a clarity that is superior to the original vinyl release but it is still primitive by today’s musical standards.

Nine of the 12 tracks are in the public domain, which fits White’s approach well. “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho,” “Jelly Jelly,” “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed,” and “Takin’ Names” are fused into a blues style and sound. White does not perform the songs as much as he attack’s them. There is passion and emotion that combines with harshness.

Josh At Midnight is a resurrection and re-introduction of an important musician who is often forgotten about in the 21st century. The fact that it has been reissued as a vinyl only release adds an authenticity to the listening experience.

 

Rating: ****

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