Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live In NYC (CD) By Jaco Pastorius

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Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live In NYC, The Complete 1982 Jazz Alive Recordings

Jaco Pastorius

Resonance 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Jaco Pastorius, 1951-1987, was one of the more influential bass players of the last half of the 20th century.  His fusion of Latin funk with jazz, his use and development of harmonics, and his innovations with a fretless electric bass set him apart from his contemporaries and influenced a generation of bass players who followed him.

He worked as a side man; check out his work on Joni Mitchell’s four jazz oriented albums, 1976-1980, a member of Weather Report, 1976-1981, and as the leader of his own group.

He recorded his second solo album in 1980 titled Word Of Mouth. On June 27, 1982, he brought his Word Of Mouth band, harmonica player Toots Thielmanns, and a bevy of brass players for the concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. Parts of the concert were broadcast on radio but now 30 years later the entire performance is being released.

Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live In NYC, The Complete 1982 NPR Jazz Alive Recordings is over two hours of Pastorius at his innovative and ground-breaking best. The 2-CD edition includes a 100 page book and 19 essays and interviews. The sound has been remastered and has a wonderful clarity.

His live performance finds him in a rare big band setting. Listening to songs such as “Sophisticated Lady” and “I Shot The Sheriff” take on new textures when a bass is the lead instrument. The 14 minute extravaganza “Bass And Drum Improvisation” is the holy grail for just about any bass player.  When Thielmann’s harmonica is added to the mix, it adds a unique counterpoint to his bass.

Jaco’s studio albums are a treat but this live album is an exploration of his musical vision. The live setting and his spontaneous improvisations are a perfect setting to appreciate just how innovative a musician he was and this album captures him at the height of his power. Truth, Liberty, & Soul: Live In NYC is a must for jazz aficionado’s and particularly bass players.

 

Ratings: ****

Beneath The Blood Moon (CD) By Jason And The Resonants

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Beneath The Blood Moon

Jim Roberts and The Resonants

Jim Roberts and The Resonants

Review by David Bowling

 

Jim Roberts has had two distinct periods to his music career, divided by 16 years as a police officer and raising a family. Before leaving the music scene he opened for such acts as Ricky Nelson, Della Reese, and Danny O’Keefe. He even made a television appearance on the Mike Douglas Show during the 1980’s.

Today he is firmly entrenched in the blues, who backed by his band The Resonants, has just released his new album Beneath The Blood Moon. He is an excellent slide guitar player but it is his expertise with a three-string cigar box guitar that defines his sound. It gives his sound a more primitive feel, which is an important part of his approach to the blues.

Roberts music is direct and hard-hitting. Songs such as “Dog Done Bit My Baby,” “Gold Train Fever,” “Dark Down The Delta,” and “The Hell Hounds Due” are all energetic excursions in the realm of the blues with some stops in Americana and roots rock.

Jim Roberts has re-invented himself as a first class bluesman. If you like your blues direct and at times raw, then Beneath The Blood Moon is an album for you.

Rating: ***

Novum (CD) By Procol Harum

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Novum

Procol Harum

Eagle Rock Entertainment 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

“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.

 

Rating: ***

Ironbark (CD) By The Waifs

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Ironbark

The Waifs

Compass Records 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

Folk music is alive and well down-under. Little known in the United States, The Waifs are folk music icons in their home country of Australia, having plied their trade for the past quarter-century.

Donna Simpson, Vikki Thorn, and Josh Cunningham, with supporting musicians David MacDonald and Ben Franz, gathered at Cunningham’s home and recorded a live, mostly acoustic set of original songs. The result was their new album Ironbark, which is a two-CD, 25 song set.

Thorn, Cunningham, and Simpson have voices that are made for harmonizing together, whether in two’s or three’s. They also rotate the lead vocals, many times on the same song, and also have the capacity for providing dual lead vocals as well similar to the Everly Brothers style.

They write all their own material, which are story songs in the folk tradition. Instrumentation is kept mostly to a minimum in order to keep the focus on the words and voices.

Tracks such as “Ironbark,” “Song For Jacqueline,” “Higher Ground,” and “I Won’t Go Down” represent their approach. The stories are reflective while the music washes over you. It is music for the mind and soul rather than the dance floor.

Ironbark is a folk album in the traditional sense. The Waifs have put together an album of tales that is well-worth exploring.

 

Rating: ****

No Time Like Now By Strongman

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No Time Like Now

Steve Strongman

Sonic Unyon 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***

Action Painting (CD) By The Creation

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Action Painting

The Creation

Numero Label 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

 

Rating: ***

 

Meeting My Shadow (CD) By Vanessa Collier

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Meeting My Shadow

Vanessa Collier

Ruf Records 2014

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

 

Rating: ***1/2

Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band (CD) Standing On Faith

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Standing On Faith

Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band

CD Baby 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

Joy Comes Back (CD) By Ruthie Foster

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Joy Comes back

Ruthie Foster

Blue Corn Music 2017

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco By Chuck Berry

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Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco

Chuck Berry

Mercury Records 1967

Review by David Bowling

 

Chuck Berry recently passed away bringing an end to the career of one of rock and roll’s legendary musicians. Berry was one of the originators of the rock and roll guitar sound. Beginning in 1955 with his hit single “Maybelline,” and followed by the likes of “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Johnny B Goode,” Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Back In The USA; he not only changed the face of American music but American culture as well.”

His singles remain the core of his legacy. His studio albums were many times cobbled together with a few brilliant singles and a number of covers. Many of his live albums were lackadaisical affairs, which reflected his concerts as time passed. He did not travel with his own group but would use local bands to back him, which reduced the quality of his performances significantly.

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, may be the best live recording of his career. His backing band was The Steve Miller Blues Band before they became famous. They were an excellent blues band who was able to push Berry and he responded.

The original album was also well thought out. It was meant to be a blues/rock album and in that regard it succeeded. Reissues of the album include such songs as “Reelin’ And Rockin,’” “Good Morning Little School Girl,” and “My Ding-A-Ling,” all of which weaken the release. What was originally issued are basically blues songs, which make it one of the more unique and enjoyable Chuck Berry albums.

Beginning with a medley of “Rockin’ At The Fillmore” and “Everyday I Have The Blues;” he romps through “Driftin’ Blues,” “”Hoochi Coochi Man,” “”Flying Home,” and “Wee Baby Blues.” After years of listening to his impeccable singles, these blues songs present a rougher sound, which is a good way to dig deeper into his legacy.

Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco finds a forty year old Chuck Berry sweating and working hard. It is a good way to remember and appreciate him a half-century later.

 

Rating: ****