Our Country: Americana Act II (CD) By Ray Davies

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Our Country: Americana Act II

Ray Davies

Sony Legacy 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

If Ray Davies had only written one song, he would still have made a mark on the history of rock music. His 1964 classic, “You Really Got Me,” with his band The Kinks and the opening chords played by his brother Dave, helped establish the foundations of hard rock. The Kinks remained active until 1996 and were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990.

He began his solo career in 1985 and his newest release is his sixth studio album. Our Country: Americana Act II is the follow-up to his 2017 release. It continues his reflections about his American experiences.

Our Country: Americana Act II is a concept album similar to his early 1970 releases. The album contains narration, which can be both positive and negative. They are interesting the first couple of listens but become repetitive with additional exposure.

The music has a flow and when taken together is better than the individual parts. The songs are not the gritty rock of the early Kinks but has a laid back style to it. It is Ray Davies the story teller rather than Ray Davies the rock musician.

He has had a long and sometimes tempestuous relationship with America but ultimately the country formed a part of who he is as a person and musician. That songs such as “Back In The Day,” “The Take,” “Louisiana Sky,” “The Big Weird,” and “Tony and Bob” are able to chronicle his journey musically is extraordinary.

Ray Davies is now one of the grand old men of sixties rock and roll. Old Country: Americana Act II is a reflective album of a person looking back. It is ultimately an album of soothing and reflective music.

Rating: ***

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Lock Up The Liquor (CD) By The Little Red Rooster Blues Band

Lock Up The Liquor

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band

Little Red Rooster Label

Review by David Bowling

 

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band may not be a household name. but for three decades they have been touring relentlessly and producing first-rate blues. Now, in celebration of their 30th anniversary, they have released an album of 15 original songs titled Lock Up The Liquor.

They are a talented bar band who have made good. As such, they have a sense of humor and an easy going approach to their music that are important for any band who has spent years playing in front of small crowds in smoky filled rooms.

Guitarist/vocalist Kevin McCann, harp player Dave Holtzman, bassist Jeff Michael. and drummer Ben Holden have learned their craft well. Their music ranges from dance tunes to emotional ballads. “Thrift Store Rubbers” exemplifies their sense of humor and “Cotton Mouth” is a tribute to James Cotton.

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band have issued an album of entertaining blues. So grab your favorite brew, put your legs up, and enjoy.

Rating: ***1/2

The Best Of Johnny Rivers (CD) By Johnny Rivers

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The Best Of Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers

Capital 1990

Review by David Bowling

 

Johnny Rivers rose to fame as the house band/artist at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go Club in Los Angeles during the mid 1960’s. During the next 15 years he would sell 30 million records, place nearly two-dozen songs on the Billboard Top 100, and establish his own record label.

River’s albums were better than the norm for his era, but it was his single releases that set him apart. His ballads and up-tempo pop songs were perfect confections for AM radio play. His songs have been re-released in a number of forms but the best introduction to his music is the 1990 release The Best Of Johnny Rivers. It gathers together most of his hit singles to create a picture of mid-1960’s-to early 1970’s pop music. He may not have changed the course of American music but he made it a lot more enjoyable.

His early releases were mostly covers. Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and “Maybelline” are re-imagined as pop tunes with a thumping bass section. Harold Dorman’s 1960 hit “Mountain Of Love” follow the same formula.

It was his own songs, however, that solidified his career. “Secret Agent Man” from the TV series and “Seventh Son” are perfect light weight sixties radio fare.

Despite the energy of his up-tempo material, it was his ballads that were his most popular songs. “Baby I Need Your Lovin.'” “Summer Rain,” “The Tracks Of My Tears,” and the number one “Poor Side Of Town” remain good listens a half-century after their release.

The final two hits of his career were rockers. Covers of Huey Lewis’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia” and Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” brought some life to these often covered classics.

Johnny Rivers has been playing the oldies circuit for year and is mostly remembered by the generation that matured in the 1960’s and 1970’s. His music remains his lasting legacy and when the best of his recordings are gathered together, it remains a memorable listening experience.

Rating: ****

 

 

 

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (CD) By The Beach Boys

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The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Capital 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

There has been a recent deluge of albums of previously released material with newly added backing by orchestra’s. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Oasis, Pete Townshend, George Michael, and many more have had their music re-released and re-imagined with orchestral backing. The Beach Boys are the latest to have their material undergo this transformation.

When releasing material in this manner, there is a tension between the commercial and creative. Most major artists have had their songs released in many ways and configurations and an orchestra added to the original recordings is another way for music company’s and the copy right holders to make some extra income. On the other hand, doing the best creative job possible adds to the commercial appeal.

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is the latest in the orchestral backing sweepstakes. It is a mixed affair with pros and cons.

One of the positives is the sound. While many of the songs were recorded with the technology of about 50 years ago; Brian Wilson was a genius in the studio and his recordings are impeccable. The sound is crystal clear and the vocals are up front, which puts the emphasis on the harmonies.

The ballads seem to work better than the faster songs. “The Warmth Of The Sun,” “In My Room,” “God Only Knows,” and the album’s best track, “Disney Girls,” are excellent as the new backing add new textures and dimensions to the sound. More rockish tracks such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and a ramped up version of “Darlin'” are less successful as the fusion is more difficult.

Anything interesting by The Beach Boys is worth a listen but The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is not essential. The major problem is songs like “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Fun Fun Fun” are 1960’s pop perfection and sometimes that is enough.

Rating: ***

Just Waitin’ (CD) By The Steve Krase Band

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Just Waitin’

Steve Krase Band

Connor Ray Music 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

The harmonica is such a simple instrument. Just about anyone can get sounds from the it, but to play the harmonica well, takes years, and sometimes decades, of practice. Very few musicians gain elite status, which brings us to Steve Krase.

Krase is basically a bluesman and a harmonica player extraordinaire, who has expanded his vision and sound on his new album Just Waitin.’ His selection of material forces him outside his comfort zone as covers of Hank Williams, The Beverly Hillbillies, plus classics from Howlin’ Wolf and Walter Price populate the album.

He uses a basic backing band of guitarist David Carter, bassist Rick Romano, and drummer Tamara Williams. There maybe an accordion here and some extra percussion there, but overall the sound is stripped down and provides a solid foundation for his vocals and harp excisions.

One of the best and quirkiest tracks is his cover of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett.” The accordion gives it a Zydeco feel but the rest of the band connects it to the blues.

“My Baby Walked Out On Me,” “All In The Mood,” and “Nobody Loves Me” are classic blues songs with an edge. At times the band can rock, which provides a nice fusion of styles and sounds.

Krase is one of those veterans who populate the modern blues scene. He is constantly on the road plying his trade. Just Waiting’ is an album that deserves to bring him some mass commercial appeal. An excellent blues album, especially for anyone who appreciates the harmonica.

Rating: ***1/2

In The Boys’ Club (CD) By Kat Riggins

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In The Boys’ Club

Kat Riggins

Bluespik Media Group 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Sometimes the best things come on small packages. So it is with the dominative Kat Riggins and her new album In The Boys’ Club.

Riggins may be small in stature but more than makes up for it with her big, powerful voice. Add in her ability as a song writer and you have one of the bigger blues talents working today.

Her albums always have an edge and sass to them. She is a woman blues singer in a field where most of her contemporaries are male. As such, she brings a female perspective to her music. That perspective is on display in the title song, “A Girl In The Boys’ Club.” “Uh oh fellas, there’s a girl in in the boys’ club,” just about sums up her attitude and approach to the blues.

She is a southern blues singer and has a gritty nature to her voice. While there may be some modern elements to her music, she is at heart a traditional blues singer. “Kitty Won’t Scratch,” “Don’t Throw Me Away,” and “Cheat Or Lose” may have a backing band but there is an elemental quality to them that connects them to the Southern Delta, the cradle of the blues.

Riggins is now well into her career and she has settled nicely into her role as a female voice of the blues. In The Boys’ House an excellent album for any aficionado of the blues.

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

Blind Spot (CD) By The Lucky Losers

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Blind Spot

The Lucky Losers

Dirty Cat Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, professionally known as The Lucky Losers, have just issued their latest album titled Blind Spot.

The album features 11 original compositions that explore various facets of their life’s journey. Whether its the subject of love, the lack of morals and ethics around them, or simply getting through life; their vocal duet approach presents the songs with passion and finesse.

Their music is blues centered but it extends into soul and Americana. Backed by veteran musicians, their approach and sound is a reminder of days past.

The Lucky Losers have spun some new tales to be explored and appreciated. Blind Spot is worth while stop on their continuing journey through the highways and byways of life.

Rating: ***

Live At Lafayette’s Music Room (CD) By Big Star

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Live At Lafayette’s Music Room

Big Star

Omnivore 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Since the death of Alex Chilton, there is been a proliferation of Big Star releases, both solo and as a band.

There has not, however, been many live releases by Big Star. Nine years ago Live At Lafayette’s Music Room was a part of a box set. It now returns as a stand alone and remastered release.

Big Star’s first album had been a commercial failure. Founding member Chris Bell promptly left the group. The three remaining members, guitarist/vocalist Alex Chilton, bassist Andy Hummel, and drummer Jody Stephens considered dissolving but decided to honor several live commitments. Several of those commitments took place in early in 1973, at the Lafayette Room in Memphis.

The 19 tracks set draws on material from their first album and unreleased second. The interesting dynamic is they performed as a trio and so had to compensate for Bell’s absence. It gave the music a different twist as the three musicians had to stretch to create their signature sound.

Another interesting dynamic  is they were the opening act for the soul group Archie Bell & The Drells. The sparse audience was a soul crowd and the reaction to Big Stars set was minimal.

The harmony parts are a stretch at times as there is a voice missing. The lead vocals are fine and the band compensates for the missing guitar parts. They wisely add in covers by the Kinks, Todd Rundgren, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and T. Rex, which are geared to the three of them.

The sound has been remastered but it is what it is. Why this odd and obscure concert was recorded in the first place remains a mystery.

Live At Lafayette’s Music Room is a glimpse into an unusual period of the Big Star Story. It should be a fan pleaser but for an introduction to the band, any of heir early studio albums is superior.

Rating: **1/2

 

The Self-Contained Trilogy (3-CD Set) By Peter Banks

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The Self-Contained Trilogy

Peter Banks

Peter Banks Musical Estate 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Peter Banks, one of the founding members of Yes, has been gone for five years. In recognition of the fifth anniversary of his passing The Peter Banks Musical Estate released two albums. The first, Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky, (reviewed previously), was a jumbled affair, taking songs from various periods of banks career.

The second release is much more cohesive and necessary for any fan of banks. The Self-Contained Trilogy gathers together his three 1990’s solo albums into one set.

Instinct, Self-Contained, and Reduction create a complete picture of his musical thoughts and visions during a particular period of his career. He produced creative progressive rock that tended to float just outside the mainstream.

Peter Banks tended to move from project to project but The Self-Contained Trilogy covers one of the more settled periods of his career. It contains a lot of music worth exploring.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky (CD) By Peter Banks

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Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky

Peter Banks

PBME 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Peter Banks, 1947-2013, was a musical everyman who missed the brass ring early in his career.

During the mid 1960’s, Banks was a part of a number of mostly forgotten bands; The Nighthawks, Devil’s Disciples, and Syn. By the time he migrated to Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, his bandmates were vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Buford, and keyboardist Tony Kaye. It was an easy jump to the formation of Yes. Banks left during the recording of their second album die to creative differences and the rest, as they say, is history, at least for Yes.

Banks would eventually settle into a solo career that produced cutting edge and creative progressive rock, that was just outside the mainstream. While he remained widely respected, large commercial success would elude him.

Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky is a two disc, 30 track release to mark the fifth annivsary of his death. While it is a compilation drawn from his solo career, the song selection is eclectic, bordering on odd at times. The release lacks cohesiveness, which helps regulate it to a niche release, primarily pf interest for fans of Banks.

There are a number of tracks that just feature Banks on guitar. “All Points South,” “Fogbound,” and “No Place Like Home” have a raw feel but demonstrate his style. When he is backed by a band, the music has a more finished feel, “Knights (Reprise)” with Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, and John Wetten and “Knights (Revisited)” with Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood, and Jay Schellen present his musical visions.

Much of the second disc find him playing all the instruments with varying degrees of success.

During his career Banks released a lot of interesting music but continually seemed to be searching. Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky is an album of bits and pieces that that has individual high points but is never consistently satisfying.

Rating: **1/2