Thursday

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (NEW RELEASES) By Michael McDowell


I HEAR YOU TALKIN': Veteran Chicago jazz vocalist Solitaire Miles tackles the Western Swing genre successfully in her all new collection, Susie Blue And The Lonesome Fellas. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below (Click on above image to enlarge).

CDs AND VINYL - NEW RELEASES
(REVIEWS ARE POSTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY ARTIST)


HOT BEAT STEW - 
The Doughboys (RAM) 

 In his March 1802 poem, My Heart Leaps Up, Cockermouth, Cumberland romanticist William Wordsworth observed that, “The child is father to the man”. One hundred and sixty-six years later, Blood, Sweat and Tears took a cue from Wordsworth when they titled their 1968 debut album, Child Is Father To The Man. In turn, the Beach Boys made reference to Wordsworth’s maxim in the title track of their landmark 1971 album, Surf’s Up.

Most recently, first generation garage rock pioneers, the Doughboys have taken Wordsworth’s, the Beach Boys’ and Blood, Sweat and Tears’ proclamation a bit further, in that they have assimilated into their repertoire select attributes of those whom they have inspired.

Duly blessed with longevity, the Doughboys have persevered for nearly a half century, with three-fourths of their original line up intact. Interestingly enough, in recent years, the band has followed Wordsworth’s initiative to an extent by taking it upon themselves to produce original material with an increasing deference to the precepts of second generation garage rock.

In other words, while many of first generation garage rockers were influenced by an inspiring mix of rock and roll, country, rhythm and blues and other genres, the second generation garage rockers did not have such healthy diversity readily at their disposal (largely as a result of the protracted aesthetic slump in which the mainstream found itself at the time that their collective muse began to bear fruit). As such, they often turned to the first generation garage rockers directly as role models, with their respective approaches often tempered invariably by whatever presented itself from the mainstream.

As a result of this seeming paradox, the Doughboys often find themselves in aesthetic solidarity with the likes of the Chesterfield Kings, the Unclaimed and the Dream Syndicate, each of whom did not let personal purist preferences deter them from the greater good of their respective mission statements. In this latest release, the Doughboys follow suit with a collection of mostly originals (plus a cover of the Miracles’ 1967 breakout track from their Make It Happen album, The Tears Of A Clown) that at once celebrate the best of both worlds.

To wit, guitarist Gar Francis and front man Myke Scavone’s Be My Baby and Biding My Time are variations on the familiar Chicago blues template, as seen through the perspective of the earliest works by the Rolling Stones, Cyril Davies, the Pretty Things and others. Conversely, the relatively more straightforward immediate post-London era Rolling Stones delivery found in Shake It Loose stands in uncharacteristic contrast to the eloquent and acoustic Terry Knight and the Pack/Patrick Campbell-Lyons’ Nirvana-inspired acoustic romp, SoHo Girl.

Generally the most psychedelically inclined of the band, drummer Richard X. Heyman maintains somewhat of a purist perspective with the basic mid-tempo 4/4 template of You Don’t Even Know It; following suit accordingly with the Remains-like Until Now, and the Love/Unrelated Segments hybrid that is Kamikaze. Yet in execution, Heyman and his colleagues (which also include founding bassist Mike Caruso) definitely stand in solidarity with the second generation approach, which is readily apparent in his all purpose uptempo rocker, Long Way Down.

Irrespective of methodology, the resultant Hot Beat Stew adds yet another triumph to the Doughboys’ impeccable recorded legacy. Indeed, while the template remains familiar, the variations undertaken herein are nonetheless certain to make the faithful Crave the results.

PERSUADED - Groovy U.N.C.L.E.
(Trouserphonic)

Throughout the past four decades, Blitz Magazine has afforded much press to aspiring bands and solo artists who draw the bulk of their inspiration from the works of rock and roll’s pioneers, including the vaunted canon of first generation garage rock legends whose legacies have duly been well chronicled in this publication.

But in the majority of those cases, the best of intentions have often fallen short of expectations. For all of their enthusiasm, a number of the bands and solo artists who have endeavored to build their own legacies on such inspirations have often missed the mark. More often than not, the disconnect has stemmed from a basic oversight of the subtleties that made those inspirations the visionaries that they were and are. Or in the vernacular of stage and screen, the aspirants often fail to properly “get in character” before executing the creative process (which for many stemmed in part from a disproportionately elevated preoccupation with such periphery as period apparel). As a result, there has been a great deal of worthwhile music, but that one crucial element in the mission statement has rarely been fulfilled in the process.

All of which makes this most recent offering from Groovy U.N.C.L.E. an anomaly in that respect. Largely the brain child of Medway musician and Offbeats/Kravin’ As veteran Glenn Prangnell, Groovy U.N.C.L.E. has herein produced a collection of originals that more than holds its own alongside the finest first generation garage rock.

To wit, Prangnell and his ever-changing cadre of colleagues not only opt for the analog approach in the studio, but in each case, great care has been taken to present a collection of originals that are both diverse, inspired yet unique, and rich with the often overlooked studio subtleties that have largely been missing in the works of others. For example, with its uncannily perfect otherworldly atmosphere and subtle vocal harmonies, the sublime mid-tempo Should Have Been Mine would have been right at home on either of the first two albums by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Likewise, the frantic Barefoot In The Car Park evokes the best elements of the Creation and the Move, with a slight touch of Northern Soul in execution.

In turn (and in keeping with the basic template of the band’s mission statement), Your Weight In Gold borrows not so subtly from Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger, with vocalist Miss Modus more than ideally suited for the occasion. With her uncanny, spot on execution, Modus' vocal colleague, Suzi Chunk more than does justice to the title track as well, which is offered in both vocal and instrumental versions (with the latter more than doing justice to the fine examples set by the Ventures, Travis Wammack, the Exports and the Marketts).

Not surprisingly, Groovy U.N.C.L.E. has drawn from the best in their quest for perfection, and counts the great E-Types front man and co-founder Bob Wence among their hands on mentors. The results are definitely worth their weight in gold. 


STRANGER'S BLUES - 
Hot Roux (Hi Hat)
 
In their endeavors to sustain their considerable lead within the genre, the various artists and labels collectively operating under the Delta Groove Music banner have been both prolific and consistent in presenting a healthy variety of artists who excel in blues-based rhythm and blues and country rock.

The Southern California-based Hot Roux is one such band. Led by drummer and principal vocalist, Jerry McWorter, the ambitious quartet (which also includes guitarists Tommy Harkenrider and Ed Berghoff, as well as bassist Brent Harding, who plays on seven of this album’s ten tracks) herein presents a collection of primarily original material that gravitates with both mastery and enthusiasm between country rock (Broken Again, which takes its cue in part from Brian Barrett’s Jimmy Got Saved), the traditional twelve-bar romp (Woman Where You Been),  the Blasters (Tick Tock), straight ahead rock (Another Seven Lonely Nights) and Link Wray/Santo and Johnny-inspired swamp rock (the title track).

Through it all, Hot Roux remains faithful to the basic blues template, in keeping with the precepts of the mission statement at large. With their above the herd compositional skills and crisp, inspired execution, the band herein most assuredly has done its part in diminishing the occasional charges of redundancy leveled against the genre in some circles. Indeed, while the band may sing of Stranger’s Blues, theirs is anything but a lone voice in the wilderness.


SUSIE BLUE AND THE LONESOME FELLAS - 
Solitaire Miles (Seraphic)

A true artist never lets such periphery as genre myopia circumvent their creative process. However, it sometimes takes a concerted effort on their part to convince their faithful to follow suit.

To wit, pioneering folk and country rock greats, the Byrds readily cited the impact of such diverse inspirations as Bobby Darin and John Coltrane in their own work. In turn, Coltrane and such fellow visionaries as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk often included a wide variety of standards in their numerous studio sessions. And in his six decade recording career, veteran vocalist Pat Boone has made it a point to record in virtually every musical setting imaginable, from rock and roll and rhythm and blues to Gospel, jazz, country and western, heavy metal and folk.

Chicago, Illinois-based vocalist Solitaire Miles has apparently encountered a bit of resistance within her own circle of observers in light of this most recent project. Long established as a world class interpreter of material by such stalwarts of jazz as Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey, Miles herein has taken the not so giant step of embracing Western Swing, tempered slightly by the occasional deference to classic middle of the road.

Indeed, such a step is logical, if not inevitable. The best loved pioneers of Western Swing, such as James Robert “Bob” Wills, Donnell Clyde “Spade” Cooley, Milton Brown and his Brownies and Sollie “Tex” Williams had much in common in both ability and execution with their jazz counterparts, with all concerned making a concerted effort on a consistent basis to keep the often incongruous components of heart and technique front and center in their respective mission statements.

As such, it is no surprise that Miles’ initial venture into her Susie Blue And The Lonesome Fellas persona finds her both completely at ease with and in complete command of the genre. Herein, she successfully delivers faithful yet personable takes on Cooley’s Crazy Cause I Love You (which in and of itself owes much to the often covered Wills/Cooley classic, Miss Molly) and You Can’t Break My Heart, as well as Wills’ I Hear You Talkin’ and Hang Your Head In Shame.

Floyd Tillman’s Columbia label single, I Gotta Have My Baby Back (which was subsequently covered by label mate Ray Price) follows suit here in its trademark dichotomy of misery rendered genially, as does the great Cindy Walker’s Me And The Man In The Moon. And to further emphasize the attributes of diversity, Miles takes on both the dreamscape prototype of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s I’m A Fool To Care (later reinterpreted by Joseph “Joe Barry” Barrios) and the high drama of Vaughn Monroe’s Ghost Riders In The Sky (albeit via the like minded interpretation of Katherine LaVerne “Kay Starr” Starks) with equally successful results.

With most capable support from such sympathetic musicians as Patricia Barber sidemen Neal Alger (guitar) and Larry Kohut (bass), as well as Jump ’N The Saddle slide guitarist T.C. Furlong, Miles has herein taken a most necessary and welcome step of bridge building. Given its relatively short span, it will hopefully be a brief matter of time before the last of the holdouts follow the lead of the like minded Patti Page (not to mention the Flamingos) and Cross Over The Bridge.



LET IT RAIN -
Deb Ryder (Bejeb Music)

Citing as key inspirations such standard bearers of the idiom as Joe Turner, Jamesetta “Etta James” Hawkins, Henry Saint Clair “Taj Mahal” Fredericks and Canned Heat’s Bob Hite (amongst others), vocalist, songwriter and Illinois native Deb Ryder herein has delivered a collection of eleven duly motivated originals that successfully tread the fine line between familiarity and foresight.

To that effect, in terms of delivery, Ryder falls somewhere between Lillian Briggs, Koko Taylor and Big Mama Thornton. Such a determined approach to execution serves her well throughout the set’s more aggressive material, highlighted by That’s Just How It Is, the Gospel-flavored Cry Another Tear and the spiritually encouraging (albeit peripherally) Guilty As Sin.


Conversely, the occasional foray into balladry (Kiss And Dream) manages to sustain the momentum quite well via an elevated sense of atmosphere, highlighted considerably by keyboardsman Mike Finnigan’s Bill Evans-inspired fills.

To their credit, Ryder’s backing band would seem to be equally at home at a Jimmy Smith, Georgie Fame, Joe Liggins or Joey DeFrancesco session. Indeed, their penchant for taking the charts to the limit does much to sidestep the potentially confining parameters of the twelve-bar blues template.

In turn, Ryder’s horn section, Lee Thornburg (trumpet, trombone) and saxophonist Lon Price add engaging, early Atlantic Records-styled flourishes to Can’t Go Back Again and the jump shouter, Money Monsoon. Likewise, Thornburg and Price are particularly effective in contributing to the highly reflective mood in the aforementioned Kiss And Dream.

To her considerable credit, Ryder has made a concerted effort throughout the proceedings (which were produced by her bassist husband, Ric Ryder) to chart her own course; keeping nods and deferences to as much of a minimum as possible. While such noble aspirations can be an exercise in futility in light of the often trod territory in which she ventures, Ryder has nonetheless very much successfully straddled the fine line between the new direction and blues roots to which she aspires. And with Let It Rain, Ryder can successfully follow the advice that she offers in Hold Your Lamp High.


FULL CIRCLE - John Zipperer
(John Zipperer)

Once in a while, a musician comes along for whom every facet of their artistic vision appears to fall into place with seeming effortlessness, including production, repertoire, arrangement, and execution.

Such an artist is the Los Angeles-based John Zipperer, whose mission statement is most assuredly not merely a byproduct of happenstance. Once an actor (The Agency; Maximum Bob) and  stuntman, Zipperer’s choice of career underwent a paradigm shift after having been hit by a passing oil truck on the 285 Freeway in Atlanta, Georgia while changing a tire.

Upon his recuperation, Zipperer relocated to Southern California and gradually reinvented himself as a world class singer, songwriter and charismatic exponent of original material. His highly engaging repertoire obviously draws its creative muse from such like minded greats as late Decca period Rick Nelson, Van Dyke Parks, Eddy Raven, post-RCA Victor Michael Nesmith and Jimmy Buffett. That he defers to such inspiration by depicting himself on the cover in trademark country rock apparel with head bowed and obscured in deference is indicative of the high level of discernment at which he operates.

The resultant Nick Kirgo-produced  Full Circle is the sum total of the aforementioned elements, and then some. Interestingly enough, Zipperer’s voice resonates with a slight hint of timidity and/or understatement borne of circumstance, which nonetheless works to his considerable advantage. To wit, the Jimmy Buffett-flavored opening track, Sailing Away paints a rich and vivid musical portrait for which a bombastic vocal delivery would only serve to obscure the message. It is an invitation to the so-called good life for which Buffett has long been the default champion with respect to America’s east coast. Suffice to say that Sailing Away qualifies its creator for similar accolades regarding the west coast.

The title track follows suit; eliciting a groove not unlike that found in Eddy Raven’s Bayou Boys (Universal UVL-66016). It is as much a testament to resolutions found along Zipperer’s journey as Raven’s track was with regards to his own circumstances. Yet seemingly in the name of diversity, Zipperer abruptly shifts gears to a perspective of endless optimism in Like Being With You; finding the inevitable duality of purpose between Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues (Columbia 4-43242) and Mel McDaniel’s Stand Up (Capitol B-5513) in the process.

From there, Zipperer is pretty much all over the musical map, and the album is all the better for it. Buoyed by some of the most engaging acoustic guitar work in recent memory, Going Downtown takes the basic blues template of such masters of the idiom as Charly Patton and Ishmon Bracey, with Zipperer’s understated vocal again providing an ideal vehicle for the setting. Zipperer brings the approach home with the 6/8 synthesis of the Renaissance minstrel and the American Civil War balladeer in The Ballad Of Micah McDowde, which sets the stage for a rousing finish via the likes of the relentlessly upbeat (combining the flippant persona of Peter Alsop and the like minded optimism of folk rock-era Chubby Checker, by way of the Kingston Trio's Banua) Sing With Me, as well as the acoustic folk/jazz romp Here By Me, the subtle bravado of Cool Breeze, the redemption of the hippie folk ethic in Know Who You Love and the anthemic, Pete Seeger-like, Gospel tinged album closer, To The River.

To his considerable credit, Zipperer includes only one example of cover material in this collection. And while Van Morrison’s mid-1967 Brown Eyed Girl (Bang B-545) might qualify as the one distraction in the massive and otherwise impeccable catalog of the late, great Bert Berns (who produced the Morrison cut and released it on his own Bang label) by virtue of its massive overexposure in the ensuing years since its release, Zipperer herein more than proves his mettle as an artist of considerable discernment by reinventing the track as an acoustic ballad. In the process, he gives it a new life of its own, as did the Wanted in March 1967 with their definitive rendition of Wilson Pickett’s duly overexposed In The Midnight Hour (Detroit Sound 223).

And while the notion of Full Circle may seem a bit premature for an artist at this stage of their career, Zipperer has nonetheless underscored the validity of the point by drawing from his rich repertoire of personal experience and musical inspiration to produce one of the most engaging and essential releases of recent months. A solid contender for best album of the year.