Whitney Houston By Whitney Houston: 35th Anniversary Edition (Vinyl Box Set)

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Whitney Houston: 35th Anniversary Edition (Vinyl Box Set)

Whitney Houston

Arista 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Whitney Houston died at the age of 48 in 2012. She was one of the most successful pop artists of all time, selling in excess of two-hundred million albums.

Her first album was one of the most successful debuts in music history selling 20 million copies, topping the Billboard Magazine Charts for 14 weeks, and spawning three number one singles.

In celebration of the 35 anniversary of that first self-titled album, Whitney Houston; it has been re-issued in its original vinyl format as a two disc box set. The first disc is a remastering of the original album. The second disc is a reissue of the Japan issue Whitney Dancin’ Special, which is a collection of six extended dance tracks. Also included is a hard cover booklet. In addition everything has been issued on 180 gram peaches and marbles vinyl.

The music was remastered from the original tapes. When the records are played on a superior system, the sound is clear and brings out the various textures and depth of the music.

Hits “Saving All My Love For You,” “Greatest Love Of All,” and “How Will I Know” are still well-know pop creations and were perfect vehicles for one of the best voices of her generation as she just soars. They remain memorable over three decades after their initial release.

There were three duets that hold up well. The best is “Hold Me” with Teddy Pendergrass. His soulful voice is a nice counterpoint to Houston’s. Other songs such as “You Give Good Love,” “Thinking Of You,” and “All At Once” may not rise to the level of her big hits but they are still very good.

The Whitney Dancin’ Special disc is more dated. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love,” “Someone,” and “Thinking About You” are extended with repetitive instrumentals that were perfect for the disco dance floor of the mid 1980’s.

Whitney Houston: 35th Anniversary Edition is not for the casual fan or someone looking for an introduction to her music. Rather it is aimed at her fan base and in that regard it succeeds admirably.

Rating: ****

 

Go, Just Do It By Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne

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Go, Just Do It

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne

Stony Plain 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Blues can be filled with angst; they can tell stories of love, loss, death, and pain. Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne’ travels in a different direction as his blues entertain and even make you smile.

Now in his mid-70’s, Wayne remains on of the leading practitioners of the Boogie Woogie style of piano playing. While his style may spill over into jazz at times; he is at heart a master of contemporary blues. His new album, Go. Just Do It, rolls through 10 new original tunes and 3 covers, including Percy Mayfield and J.J. Cale songs.

Wayne’s music is simple at it’s core. He provides basic melodies and vocals. He then builds his sound around it. The title song adds brass and then complementary vocals by Dawn “Tyler” Watson. This is Wayne at his best as the more elements he adds; the more impact his music presents.

Kenny Wayne is a veteran who capitalizes on his strengths. Songs such as “Motor Mouth Woman,” “You Did A Number On Me,” and “Let The Rock Roll” are all examples of his just having a good time playing his music. He even bends Mayfield’s “I Don’t Want To Be The President” and “You’re In For A Big Surprise” to his style.

Wayne has established a nice niche for himself. He does not re-invent himself with Go, Just Do It, but continues to do what he does well.

Rating: B

Rebel Moon Blues By Sass Jordan

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Rebel Moon Blues

Sass Jordan

Stony Plain 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Sass Jordan is now over 30 years into her career. Well known in Canada as one of the hosts of Canadian Idol; she has also been nominated for multiple Canadian Juno Awards for Best Vocalist. While known primarily as a gritty rock vocalist, she has made a career turn by issuing an album of straight ahead blues.

Rebel Moon Blues is primarily an album of covers with only one self-penned song. She draws from the likes of classic blues artists Willie Dixon and Elmore James and modern day rock/bluesmen Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher.

I always find it interesting to hear a woman’s interpretation of male-produced blues songs. She has a voice made for the blues as her starring role as Janis Joplin in the off Broadway play would suggest. She grinds her way through a stripped-down versions of “My Babe” and “One Way Out.”

She is on familiar ground with the more modern days “Still Got The Blues” and Leon Russell’s “Palace Of The King.” In addition to her voice, the slide guitar of Chris Caddell lends an authenticity to the music.

“The Key” is the only original composition and it is one that has a full sound complete with a brass section. Bordering on rock, it has a high energy throughout.

It is always interesting to see an artist make a stylistic turn so late into a career. She may not re-invent the blues but she does re-invent herself. It all adds up to an album of good and in many places, transformative music.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Waitin’ For Payday By Sid Whelan

Waitin’ For Payday

Sid Whelan

Presio Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Sid Whelan continues to evolve as a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. He learned his craft from the likes of Steve Earle, Woody Mann, and Howard Morgan. As a solo artist he began with the blues and then added horns to the mix, which gave some of the songs a funky feel. Now he includes a few African rhythms. The one constant, however, has been his guitar work, which always has a bluesy feel and provides a center for his music.

His newest album, Waitin’ For Payday, was released near the beginning of March. It consists of eight original songs. On board is his regular band, plus a small horn section. He also uses a number of guest vocalists.

Many times it is a slow song that can define a blues artist and especially a guitarist. “Midnight In The Country” is a classic of this style. The clarity and precision of his guitar work drives the song and makes room for his vocals. “Love Me Right” features vocalist Ariel Guidry, who provides a nice counter point to his guitar runs.

There has always been a connection between the blues and African rhythms. “Legba Ain’t No Devil” is his foray into incorporating some of these rhythms into his music. It provides a nice change from his regular approach.

Be it straight blues or some experimentation, he is sure to please any fan of the blues.

Rating: ***

 

Tryin’ To Get To You By The Nighthawks

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Tryin’ To Get To You

The Nighthawks

Eller Soul Records 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Some things may change but The Nighthawks just keep rolling along. Now approaching the 50th anniversary of their formation, they have released their 31st album.

The band now consists of original member, harpist, and vocalist Mark Wenner, drummer Mark Stutso, plus new additions guitarist Dab Hovey, and bassist Paul Pisciotta. Despite the changes in personnel, their well-known harmonies and creative melodies remain intact.

The band has always fused blues and rock into a tasty mix. They continue that tradition by selecting a number of cover songs, plus several original compositions.

Charlie Singleton’s rocking title track and T Bone Walker’s “I Know Your Wig Is Gone” emerge as creative blues hybrid songs. The Lamont Don’t Dozier/Brian Holland “Chairman Of The Board is given a soulful bluesy treatment.

Original compositions such as “Baby It’s Time,” “Somethin’s Cookin,'” and “The Cheap Stuff” reflect the best of the Nighthawks past and present.

Tryin’ To Get To You is another brick in the wall of the Nighthawks ongoing legacy. Essential for anyone who appreciates the blues or just good music.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Church House Blues By Crystal Shawanda

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Church House Blues

Crystal Shawanda

Truth 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Crystal Shawanda is one of those artists where it all comes time to the voice. As a number of musicians are masters of their instruments (guitar, harmonica, sax, etc.), so Crystal Shawanda is a master of her vocal instrument. It is a powerful force that can growl or purr as the song calls for. Her voice is a formidable force and made for the blues.

While she began her career as a country singer; she has found a home in the blues. Her newest release, Church House Blues, helps her cement that career choice.

The second track, “Evil Memory,” is emblematic of her style and approach. Her voice just explodes without overwhelming the lyrics. It is a rare song where the vocalist gives an all out effort. “Bigger Than The Blues” is a little smoother. She co-wrote the song with guitarist Dewayne Strobel, whose subtle work presents a nice counter point.

The ten tracks cover slow blues “When It Comes To Love,” energetic blues/rock “Church House Blues,” and the pop leanings of “Hey Love.”

Church House Blues is an album that takes its place among the better blues release of the year. It is an album of excellent and unforgettable blues.

Rating: ***1/2

Traveling Man By Watermelon Slim

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Traveling Man

Watermelon Slim

Northern Blues 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

William P Homan’s III is a college graduate, Vietnam veteran, former farmer who grew watermelons (hence his nick name), and now a well-known and award winning bluesman. Traveling Man is his 12th album release since 2003.

The blues at its best is a personal and emotional journey. While studio albums can be brilliant, it is live albums that demonstrate the heart and soul of a blues artist.

Traveling Man is a two-disc release recorded in 2016 at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City and The Depot in Norman, Oklahoma. They are a combination of original and classic blues tunes centered around Watermelon Slim’s guitar, harmonica, and vocals. It all adds up to a definitive release in his long career.

He is a modern day connector to the blues of the Southern Delta. He can be both raw and smooth as a song calls for, but he is always authentic and engaged.

Traveling Man is one of the better blues albums of the year so far. It is well-worth a listen and is a release to be appreciated.

Rating: ****

Sayin’ Something By David Clayton-Thomas

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Say Somethin’

David Clayton-Thomas

Linus Entertainment 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

David Clayton-Thomas rose to prominence during the late 1960’s for his tenue as the lead singer with Blood, Sweat, & Tears, beginning with their second album. That album, with hit singles such as “You Made Me So Very Happy,” “And When I Die,” and “Spinning Wheel” sold in excess of ten-million copies and became one of the most successful commercial albums of the era.

Since leaving Blood, Sweat, & Tears, he has issued over a dozen well-received pop/rock albums. His latest release is Say Somethin’ and his lyrics have a lot to say.

His music continues to be catchy and melodic and remains rooted in pop and rock. It does not have the brassy energy of Blood, Sweat & Tears; rather it is a lot smoother and keeps the focus on his voice.

The new ingredient are some of the lyrics. Thomas wrote the words to the ten songs, while keyboardist Lou Pomanti and guitarist Eric St. Laurent provide the music. In places, Thomas’ lyrics are more socially active or philosophical than in the past. They add a little more bite to the album than past releases and give meaning to the album’s title.

Issues that are scrutinized in his songs are the current justice system, climate, justice, and the proliferation of gun violence. The current president is also taken to task. He travels in a difference direction with a nostalgic and gospel oriented “Dear Mr. Obama.”

Sayin’ Something is Clayton-Thomas’ grand political statement and depending on whether you agree with his musings will determine your approach to the music. It is an album that will either inspire or anger, which may have been his intent.

Rating: ***

Prove It On Me By Rory Block

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Prove It On Me

Rory Block

Stony Plain 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Rory Block is one of the best, and possibly the premier, blues woman working today. In a career that has spanned close to a half-century and 36 albums, she has modernized traditional blues and made it accessible to two generations of fans.

Several years ago, she completed her six album Mentor Series, in which she recorded songs by early bluesmen, whom she met as a young musician, and who influenced her career. Two years ago, she began her Women Of Blues series with an album of Bessie Smith covers.

Prove It On Me is the second release in her new series. Rather than focus on just one musician, she modernizes songs by a number of women, both well-known and somewhat obscure.

He ability to update a traditional blues song are on full display with Ma Rainey’s “Prove It On Me” and Memphis Minnie’s “In My Girlish Days.” Both maintain their original gritty nature, while benefitting from a smoothness and guitar lines that were not available eight decades ago.

Helen Hume’s’ “He May Be Your Man” is a classic blues song of loss, while Madlyn Davis’ “It’s Red Hot” is an entertaining sexual romp. Arizona Dranes was a blind gospel singer and her “I Shall Wear A Crown” probably undergoes the greatest make-over as it moves into a blues groove that enhance the song’s meaning.

Through it all, her voice, which is a superb blues instrument and her guitar work form the foundation of her music. Like many of world’s best guitarists, she has a unique style that is her signature and recognizable. The notes flow from one to the other but also have an individual clarity. She also is an adept slide guitarist and harp player.

Prove It On Me continues Block’s string of bringing blues music of the past into the 21st century. It is another exceptional effort that shows her passion for her craft and its history and as she presents the blues in a modern form.

Rating: ****

Lighter Side Of The Blues By Val Starr & The Blues Rocket

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Lighter Side Of The Blues

Val Starr & The Blues Rocket

Sandwich Factory Records 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Val Starr travels a different path for her fifth album release than most blue men or blues women. She presents the blues in a positive and upbeat lyrical style.

Lighter Side Of The Blues is an album of solid music backed by her veteran band, The Blues Rockets. She has developed into a solid songwriter and the 12 original tracks combine melody and words into a creative mix. The one cover is a re-imagining of Luhrer Dixon’s “Big Boss Man,” complete with added new lyrics

Her songs meander in a number of directions and style but always remained centered in the blues. There is rock and roll, there are some slow ballads, there is a little soul, and of course some traditional blues. Through it all the lyrics translate her thoughts and emotions.

Val Starr may not completely re-invent the blues when but she does make it more pleasurable and in this case it is enough.

Rating: ***