Thursday

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


JAM UP: With his latest Delta Groove Music release, Gotta Bring It On Home To You, former Elvin Bishop sideman, vocalist, saxophonist and composer. Terry Hanck has created an instant classic with spirited covers of essential tracks by Tommy Ridgley, Ronnie Milsap and Bobby Bland, along with several duly-inspired originals. 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)

 EVERYTHING'S GROOVY -
The Cherry Drops (MuSick Recordings)

One attribute that is unique amongst the various generations of garage rock exponents is the fact that many of the current, fifth generation practitioners have no first hand experience of the work of their first generation inspirations. As such, the impact of the first generation garage rockers’ respective legacies on them is based solely on their rich bodies of work, rather than any personal participation on the part of the fifth generation observers.

With no preset expectations in that respect to impact their perspective, these artists then persevere with an art for art’s sake perspective. That of course means that anything goes, including the assimilation of seemingly incongruous sub-genres into a single piece of original work. It is a practice that gives many a purist fits, to be certain. But it is nonetheless a great opportunity to further the creative process.

The Southern California-based Cherry Drops are one such band of fifth generation garage rockers, whose original material not only draws from the best of garage rock, but from surf, easy listening, glam rock and punk/new wave, as well. Led by their ambitious front man, Vern Shank and Joshua Cobb, the Cherry Drops herein make their recording debut with a collection of originals and duly inspired covers that suggest great promise for the movement at large.

In terms of the former, the Cherry Drops assert themselves most decisively by taking on one of first generation garage rock’s definitive masterpieces, the Syndicate Of Sound’s 1966 monster classic, Little Girl (Bell 640). Not only do the Cherry Drops nail all of its most endearing attributes (including the Larry Ray/Jim Sawyers unique guitar fills and John Duckworth’s masterful percussion turnaround during the instrumental break), but their addition of sympathetic vocal harmonies at key points underscores how well the band understands the subtle nuances of the material. That they then turn their attention in terms of outside material to faithful renditions of the likes of the Raspberries’ I Wanna Be With You (Capitol 3473) and the Sweet’s Wig-Wam Bam (Bell 45,408) merely underscores the advantages of being unencumbered with cultural periphery.

But it is with their original material that the Cherry Drops ultimately soar. To wit, the opener, Pop, Pop (’Til You Drop) belies the cliché overtures of the title with a second generation garage rock and surf rock take on a playful and universal theme. In turn, the decidedly second generation garage rock inspired Outta Sight draws from the party atmosphere of Dean Martin’s Let The Good Times In (Reprise 0538), tempered with a mix of early Imperial-era Johnny Rivers, the Plimsouls and Elvis Costello And The Attractions’ Pump It Up (Radar ADA10).

Conversely, the drama-heavy Love Is A Groovy Thing states its case with the subtle invocation of minors, as well as a judicious helping of horns, echo and reverb. Likewise, the sublime Melvin’s On The Make takes its cue from Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness (Tamla 54087) and filters it through a variation of the adult child dichotomy that continues to work so well for Relient K and the Barenaked Ladies.

All of which makes for a very diverse and entertaining mix. While a title such as Everything’s Groovy may suggest a limiting adherence to period peripherals, the results nonetheless speak for themselves and in fact reiterate the validity of their mission statement. To be certain, the results are as satisfying as the closer (Cherry, Lemon And Marmalade Pie) would suggest
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GOTTA BRING IT ON HOME TO YOU - 
The Terry Hanck Band (Delta Groove Music)
 
On this latest release, the Florida-based vocalist, saxophonist, composer and former Elvin Bishop side man, Terry Hanck gives credence to the notion that the modern day protagonist of all things musically essential may not necessarily be perpetuating an exercise in futility.

Herein, the genial Hanck combines faithful and passionately executed covers of vaunted classics by Tommy Ridgley, Bobby Bland and B.B. King with duly inspired original material that in turn reflects the inspiration of such like minded visionaries as Dave Bartholomew, Huey “Piano” Smith, Nappy Brown, Autry “Junior Walker” DeWalt and Ronnie Love.

To wit, Gotta Bring It On Home To You opens with Hanck’s take on Bishop’s Right Now Is The Hour, which supersedes earlier attempts by the composer by virtue of its relentlessly optimistic, Junior Walker-flavored delivery; complete with an irresistible Hank Ballard and the Midnighters-like vamp at the fade. Hanck more than brings the point home with his savvy interpretation of Ronnie Milsap’s (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me, which reiterates the solidarity of country and rhythm and blues that characterized such Milsap staples as Stranger In My House, Where Do The Nights Go and his signature track, Button Off My Shirt, as seen through the unique interpretive eyes of Walker.

In terms of original material, Hanck begins in high gear with Pins And Needles (a saxophone/keyboard romp that would have been right at home on the 1965 MGM label debut album by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). His enthusiasm continues unabated in the instrumental, T’s Groove, which returns to the Junior Walker template and picks up a bit of Richard “Groove” Holmes and Lou Donaldson along the way.

While a solid case can be made for the notion that many of the recent releases in the blues and rhythm and blues fields suffer from a pedestrian atmosphere that belies the innate vitality of the genres, Hanck herein has made a solid case in favor of perseverance, which, in bringing it home, has paid remarkable aesthetic dividends.



MAJESTIC - Kari Jobe
(Sparrow)

Albums such as this one often present a dichotomy of sorts for the individual who approaches it primarily from the perspective of a musicologist and/or music enthusiast. As a worship album, Majestic is by definition a release in which performance and aesthetic merit are (ideally, anyway) of secondary importance.

In that respect, the music enthusiasts may find themselves with cause for concern, especially if their experience with the particulars of a worship service is minimal. In such a setting (which more often than not takes place during a church service, although there are numerous examples of such artists bringing that setting to the concert stage), performance is relegated to secondary status, with the primary emphasis of the mission statement being the glorification of the Lord.

In the early days of Gospel music, such aspirations were (perhaps not so unintentionally) often an exercise in futility, given the strong performance capabilities of such genre front runners as the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Statesmen Quartet and Mahalia Jackson. But in its often misguided attempts over the past several decades to expand its impact by deferring to the musical mainstream, the sub-tangent of Gospel music known as worship has achieved its target goal by doing exactly what its mission statement inferred; in the process giving many an observer and/or participant a whole new perspective on the notion of “the sacrifice of praise”.

To that effect, the musicologist and music enthusiast will find that it takes a concerted effort to sustain their interest level commensurate with that which characterizes what they generally seek in a given performance. The inherent detached atmosphere (again, a byproduct of the intended focus) rarely resonates well with the observer whose expectations include sonic, cerebral and emotional gratification.

All of which is an impasse that worship artists often find themselves facing when attempting to translate the experience into a recorded setting. Worship is a blessing that is most effective in its intended capacity when experienced in a live atmosphere, and that prized God/sinner saved by grace connection is often diminished in the second generation template of a recording.

Nonetheless, the prolific singer, songwriter and Waco, Texas native, Kari Brooke Jobe has herein opted for the latter approach. It is apparent that her prerequisite prayers and humility have reaped spiritual dividends, as Majestic does indeed convey (even outside of the live setting) that critical atmosphere of connection commensurate with the setting aside of self and opening up to the leading of the Lord. From invocation (Hands To The Heavens, Breathe On Us) to praise (Always Enough, How Majestic) and ultimately fellowship (Let The Heavens Open), Jobe finds herself serving as an instrument of praise without even the slightest attempt at placating those with differing expectations.

For those who find themselves curious yet presently detached from that perspective, the album’s eighth track, When You Walk In The Room is certain to gain some attention by virtue of its title (although it is not a cover of the Searchers/Jackie DeShannon classic of the same name). Nonetheless, if that particular approach prompts such an observer to further investigation, then hopefully Jobe will be blessed with additional examples of answered prayer.
 
A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF TROUBLE -
Jesse Winchester (Appleseed)

Rare is the artist with an extensive repertoire whose catalog contains an example of absolute, utter perfection. Even rarer still is the artist whose catalog contains more than one representation of that level of triumph.

One such artist was the first generation garage rock great and country rock pioneer, Michael Martin Murphey. As the Lewis half (alongside the legendary Boomer "Clarke" Castleman) of the Lewis And Clarke Expedition, Murphey in 1967 was a part of the sublime and absolutely essential Colgems label single, I Feel Good (I Feel Bad). Featuring some of the most impeccable vocal harmonies ever committed to record and a relentless, upbeat optimism found only in the best of efforts, I Feel Good (I Feel Bad) remains a high watermark of both country rock and first generation garage rock.

As such, Murphey could well have rested on his laurels, even when beginning his long and prolific solo career in the 1970s. However, in October 1987, Murphey again took to the studio to record a solo outing for Warner Brothers that not only stands as one of the finest moments of country music's last collective gasp of consequence (that is, the New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s - early 1990s), but one whose deceptively subtle and sublime groove (not unlike that found in George Hamilton IV's vaunted 1963 Abilene single for RCA Victor) is most assuredly deserving of the absolute, utter perfection distinction.

That 1987 track is Murphey's I'm Gonna Miss You, Girl single (Warner Brothers 28168-A), which was composed by the beloved and enormously respected singer/songwriter and Bossier City, Louisiana native, James Ridout "Jesse" Winchester. No slouch in the studio himself, Winchester (who has recorded prolifically since 1970) recently returned to the studio to complete an all new CD for Appleseed Records, A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble.

True to form, Winchester herein excels in every respect. Produced by Mac McAnally (who also serves as lead guitarist for this project), A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble is a most fitting testimony to Winchester’s unwavering commitment to his muse. A remarkably gifted lyricist, Winchester excels in that respect with such characteristically diverse (and occasionally humorous) fare as Neither Here Nor There, She Makes It Easy Now, A Little Louisiana, Don’t Be Shy, and the reassuring (and characteristically tongue in cheek) Don’t Forget To Boogie. He further drives the latter point home in Ghosts, in which he takes himself to task over the all too familiar challenges of standing one’s ground aesthetically.

To that effect, Winchester has long been an ardent champion of pure rock and roll. Herein, he reiterates the point with faithful and reverent takes on the Del-Vikings’ Whispering Bells and the Clovers / Bobby Vee classic ballad, Devil Or Angel. He drives the point home with a remake of the Cascades’ 1963 signature track, Rhythm Of The Rain.

“I'm honored and flattered to learn that on his last CD, he did a cover of my song, Rhythm Of The Rain", said Cascades co-founder, front man and Rhythm Of The Rain composer, John Claude Gummoe.

“A singer / songwriter whose work was loved and recorded by many.

In the months since the tragic January 2014 passing of label front runner and beloved musical pioneer, Pete Seeger, Appleseed Records busied itself with several ambitious new releases, including a live CD by veteran vocalist Johnny Clegg and an all new collection by folk rock pioneer, Tom Rush. Sadly, A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble will also be Jesse Winchester’s last release, as he succumbed to bladder cancer on 11 April. Recorded primarily while he was in remission from the disease, the album maintains an undercurrent of urgency throughout, tempered by the realization on Winchester’s part that it could well be his swan song. Tragically, it was, making this collection’s most moving closing benediction, the Gospel ballad, Just So Much all the more pertinent.

“R.I.P. Jesse and thank you”, said Gummoe. Indeed, he will most assuredly be missed
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