Thursday

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



STRINGS ATTACHED: Veteran Southern California band BERLIN has returned with symphonic remakes of the highlights of their classic catalog in their all new Strings Attached album.  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look at this ambitious new release below (Click on above image to enlarge).

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

AFRIKA LOVE -
The Alchemy Sound Project
(Artists Recording Collective)

Country music and jazz are each at a crossroads.

In both cases, the inevitable rate of attrition via death has taken almost all of the beloved pioneers of each genre. As such, the torches have been passed out of necessity to a generation of eager aspirants.

However, with respect to country, there are many among the hardcore faithful who will contend that the current keepers of the flame have not run with it accordingly. As such, the likes of such pre-New Traditionalist mavericks as Alabama, Janie Fricke, Gene Watson and Jeannie Seely have risen to the occasion in order to keep the genre from imploding. To their considerable credit, all remain up to the challenge.

With respect to jazz, the inevitable transition seems to find the genre in relatively more capable hands. While the current century alone has seen the passing of such giants as Dave Brubeck, Gary Burton, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Short, Chick Corea, Alice Coltrane and Manhattan Transfer's Tim Hauser, their successors have nonetheless assumed their responsibilities in matter of fact manner; sustaining the vision and earning the appropriate accolades without actively soliciting the fanfare. 

One such group of successors is the five piece ensemble, the Alchemy Sound Project. Formed in 2014 (two years after its principals met at a seminar in Los Angeles), the Alchemy Sound Project herein reiterates their original mission statement decisively.

A key component of that mission statement is to seek out, champion and sustain the common ground between the vaunted verse, chorus and bridge template and the genre's innate propensity towards improvisation. With Afrika Love, they have succeeded on all counts.

To wit, the album's opener, The Fountain (composed by bassist David Arend) at once draws in the observer by virtue of its seemingly decisive structure. Therein, snippets of the inspiration of everyone from Sergio Mendes to Sun Ra can be heard, albeit with a tension that belies the listener's initial impression. 

In turn, trumpeter Samantha Boshnack jumps right off of the proverbial bridge straight out of the gate with her The Cadillac Of Mountains, taking on a free fall versus parachuted bit of interplay before Salim Washington cushions the landing with a bass clarinet interlude that sets the stage for the piece's intended overview of the grandeur of nature. The quintet's reed specialist, Erica Lindsay brings the point home for the finale with Kesji, her salute to a colleague whose well lived journey recently ended at the age of 107.

Kudos must also go to Washington and pianist Sumi Tonooka for the title track and Dark Blue Residue, respectively. With regards to the latter, snippets of pre-Brew Miles Davis, Prestige-era John Coltrane and the aforementioned Dave Brubeck's trademark time signature fluctuations abound before bringing the piece to a seemingly unresolved conclusion.

In fact, each of the five selections herein follow suit in making basic statements and soaring as needed, but ultimately not drawing the line, thereby enabling the observer to envision their own ending (or beginning) as the inspiration moves them. To be certain, such is the essence of the art itself, which proves to be in reassuringly capable hands here. Job well done.

STRINGS ATTACHED -
Berlin (August Day)

It was one of those all too rare attention getting, thinking outside of the box moments.

One of rock and roll's last collective gasps of consequence came during the early 1980s. True to form, Southern California led the charge. The area boasted an abundance of richly diverse talent, from the Blasters, Black Flag and the Unclaimed to the Dream Syndicate, the Heaters and the Last. 

In turn, radio was sympathetic in a manner that had not been heard in more than a decade. From KTNQ-AM's support of key releases by the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Robert Gordon and KRLA's steadfast championing of current singles by such beloved pioneers as Chubby Checker, the Everly Brothers and Fats Domino to Pasadena's KROQ-FM embracing of it all with just the right amount of attitude, there was plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Rounding out the movement from the southern end of Los Angeles County and carrying it southward into neighboring Orange County was Long Beach's KNAC-FM. With studios in a high rise building in the downtown area (just a short walk from the venerable Buffums Department Store), KNAC and its personable team of quick thinkers (including Program Director Jimmy "The Saint" Christopher and such charismatic on air personalities as Norm McBride and Sylvia Aimerito) brought the area the best that the movement had to offer from a global perspective (Ramones, Clash, Buzzcocks, Dave Edmunds, New Order, etc.), as well as those who were making a decisive impact at home. 

During that era, one of KNAC-FM's most endearing (or disconcerting, depending upon one's perspective) practices was to confound expectations. One such endeavor continues to stand out nearly four decades after the fact as one of the station's finest moments in that respect.

At the close of each year in the early 1980s, KNAC would count down its list of the best new releases of the year that had just ended. Not surprisingly, those listings reflected many of the tracks that held center stage on KNAC's playlist throughout that year. 

But during one such memorable year, the countdown had the faithful scratching their heads in bewilderment. For atop the list that year was not one of KNAC's most featured favorites, but a Geffen label single by the Orange County band, Berlin.

It wasn't that Berlin's inventive, synth-driven original material was not in solidarity with KNAC's richly diverse standard fare. Quite the contrary. But for whatever reason, the ambitious group had been afforded relatively minimal attention by the station throughout that year. 

Nonetheless, that out of left field move proved to be beneficial for station and artist alike. KNAC continued its solid run until the movement at large sadly began to implode by mid-decade. 

Meanwhile, Berlin did a bit of their own thinking outside of the box and went on to enjoy the rarified position of mainstream acceptance without artistic compromise. Singles such as Sex (I'm A...), No More Words and Take My Breath Away heightened their profile exponentially. Yet despite those successes, the band opted to embark upon a protracted sabbatical in 1987.

And now, the third decade of the twenty-first century finds Berlin persevering around the core line up of lead vocalist Terri Kathleen Nunn, bassist John Crawford and keyboard man David Diamond. And in perhaps a continuation of their earlier thinking outside of the box perspective, Berlin has returned with a fresh take on many of their tried and true catalog highlights.

Collaborations between established rock bands and orchestras is not a new concept. The Kingston Trio met that challenge head on in 1962 with the release of their groundbreaking Something Special album for Capitol. Duly inspired, Deep Purple bid farewell to their successful affiliation with the Tetragrammaton label in 1969 via the release of Concerto For Group And Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

More recently, the catalogs of the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley were each subjected to such reinterpretation, with gratifying results in both cases. In turn, while the collaboration at hand is not without precedent, it does indeed reiterate the band's steadfast resolve to not let their work be subject to limitations, listener-imposed or otherwise.

Strings Attached finds Nunn still blessed with the considerable vocal prowess that became her trademark. And in spite of the possibility of familiarity breeding passivity, she nonetheless soars herein with the command of a reed instrument rendering a captivating solo amidst lavish orchestral backing. The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and The Slovanian Symphonic Film Orchestra respond in kind; executing the arrangements sublimely and going off the charts only slightly and only in the most opportune moments. And every familiar landmark, from No More Words to Masquerade benefits exponentially in the process.

Although Nunn has done occasional solo live performances in recent months (as circumstances have permitted), Berlin plans to return to the studio in 2021 to work on new material. Meanwhile, in the words of a classic track from the band's Pleasure Victim album for Enigma, Strings Attached (which is also available in a deluxe four CD edition box set) should more than suffice in sustaining a World Of Smiles among the faithful.

LULLABIES -
Dave Brubeck (Verve)

Sometimes a bit of internal tension is good for the creative juices.

To wit, as one of its many blessings, the Dave Brubeck Trio, which recorded prolifically for Fantasy in the early 1950s, launched the career of gifted vibraphonist Cal Tjader. However, the Manila native was too commanding of a presence to function in an autocratic ensemble for an extended period, and went on to launch his own productive solo career.

In due course, the group became the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Upon signing with Columbia in 1954, the early line up of the ambitious quartet pretty much became the standard bearers for jazz with respect to serving as ambassadors for the genre to the masses. With its namesake virtuoso pianist and principal visionary accompanied from the onset by saxophonist Paul Desmond, the group eventually solidified with bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello.

Brubeck and Desmond met while serving in the military during World War II, and formed a musical partnership and enduring friendship on the spot. But along with those lofty accolades afforded them down the road came privileges and responsibilities that became a constant source of concern for the Quartet.

While they were with Columbia, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was thrust into the spotlight in ways which tended to divert their focus. As musical visionaries, they were perhaps most in solidarity in terms of mission statement with the classic John Coltrane Quartet (John Coltrane - saxophone; McCoy Tyner - piano, Jimmy Garrison - bass, Elvin Jones - drums) in that both groups stretched their respective boundaries to the limit, while maintaining a healthy respect for standards. To that effect, the Brubeck and Coltrane ensembles each titled an album after the Richard Rogers composition, My Favorite Things.

Commensurate with their prioritization of the academic approach to their art, Coltrane and his colleagues managed to maintain a productive working relationship, particularly during the early years of their affiliation with the Impulse label.

Conversely, Brubeck and Desmond harbored somewhat differing perspectives on their new found acclaim. Their increased level of notoriety meant an endless stream of personal appearances in theatres, on college campuses and in various venues around the world. In the process, the mainstream media fueled the fire in part by depicting them as freewheeling, fun loving artists who savored an endless stream of parties, festivities and celebrations as they journeyed from city to city. 

By most accounts, saxophonist Paul Desmond could not have been happier with that arrangement. A genial and outgoing individual, Desmond nonetheless relished the various perks and bonuses that came with being a key figure in what was then informally known as the jet set. Thankfully, Desmond's art never suffered as a result.

However, those diversions did serve to put his long standing working relationship with Brubeck in a new light. A devoted husband and father, Brubeck cherished what few respites the Quartet had from their relentless recording and personal appearance schedule. As such, the occasional visits from Desmond to the Brubeck home during those brief sabbaticals from touring did give the Concord, California native pause for concern, as their beloved "Uncle Paul" enthralled Brubeck's children with his "tales from the road". 

Despite the Quartet's ongoing success, Brubeck eventually came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of all concerned for him to direct his primary attention towards composition. As such, the Quartet went their separate ways in 1967. Desmond persevered for a season as a solo artist with A&M and CTI, and reunited with Brubeck for a series of twenty-fifth anniversary shows in 1976. Tragically, Desmond succumbed to lung cancer in May 1977 at age 52.

For Brubeck, the dissolution of the Quartet ultimately enabled him to pursue a variety of additional options that he had harbored from the onset, including working with his sons and recording as a solo pianist. While he continued to tour with a constantly changing line up of quartets until his passing in December 2012 at age 91, Brubeck began to direct much of his studio attention in his later years to solo keyboard work.

Brubeck's family continued to grow throughout those years via the addition of grandchildren. Yet the increasing high demand for personal appearances kept him on the road much of that time. Among the highlights was a moving appearance at the Detroit Jazz Festival just days after the disastrous Katrina flood in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the conclusion of his own set, Brubeck volunteered to sit in on keyboards with a New Orleans ensemble whose pianist had perished in the flood. Brubeck then presented the band with a generous personal check to assist them through that difficult transition. 

Meanwhile, the experience of having worked with his sons and the prospect of being a grandfather inspired Brubeck to create for them an enduring musical legacy.

To be certain, Lullabies celebrates the best of both of Brubeck's worlds. And it is with this album that Verve Records has blessed us with what is sadly his final new release.

Recorded at Unity Gain Studios in Fort Myers, Florida over a three day period in March 2010, the resultant self-produced Lullabies album finds Brubeck in his element even more so than in earlier such solo outings. Therein, Brubeck draws from a rich variety of familiar fare, from Brahms Lullaby, Judy Garland's Over The Rainbow and George Gershwin's Summertime to the Fred Waring / Little Willie John classic Sleep, the Kingston Trio's All Through The Night and such duly inspired originals as Going To Sleep, Lullaby For Iola (his wife of seventy years), Briar Bush and Koto Song.

"In my own childhood, I recall gatherings where my parents and friends would have a potluck dinner and hire a band for dancing", Brubeck recalled in February 2011, as chronicled in the accompanying essay.

"I remember being put to bed in a room with all the other children. Lying there in the dark, I heard for the first time some of the popular songs of my parents' generation. The crowd upstairs would call out for their favorites and sometimes sing along. This spontaneous joy of music made a deep impression on me".

Duly inspired with this farewell album, Brubeck has created a magnificent and fitting finale for one of the most extraordinary careers in all of music. In the words of one of his many triumphs with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Lullabies is reason for his legion of devotees to Jump For Joy.

HOT PINK -
Frijid Pink (Dynasty)

One of the key components of great songwriting is a strong verse, chorus and bridge template.

Of course that template is not a one size fits all component. Indeed, some classics have managed to make their mark with one or more of those three ingredients missing. Among the more celebrated examples would be Johnny Cash's I Walk The Line (no bridge, save for a brief instrumental interlude at the key change) and the Beach Boys' You're Welcome (chorus only). 

In turn, there are some artists who have stated their respective cases by employing a mixed media approach in their work. In the process, the songwriting is augmented by other elements that serve to round out the presentation. 

Among the first to take that quantum leap was experimental filmmaker and Christchurch native, Leonard Charles Huia "Len" Lye. Lye's film shorts of the 1930s would draw from such established sources as Red Nichols' version of Don Azpiazu's The Peanut Vendor and Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli's The Lambeth Walk to provide accompaniment for his groundbreaking visual improvisations.

Then there were those who would dispense with structure altogether. Most notable among them was the Coventry, Warwickshire techno pioneer Delia Ann Derbyshire. Her otherworldly electronic sound bytes (often created from scratch in the BBC studios)  led to her involvement in that capacity with the network's Doctor Who television series in 1963. Monkees lead guitarist Michael Nesmith took a similar step with his "book with a soundtrack" album, The Prison in the late 1970s. And beloved saxophonist and composer John Coltrane achieved extraordinarily lofty aesthetic audio goals with his intricately crafted masterpieces for Atlantic and Impulse. 

Most recently, the Catholic Girls have enjoyed renewed acclaim with the release of their 2CD anthology, Rock And Roll School For Girls. Much of the material therein reflects the band's mission statement of completing the presentation by diverting the focus from verse, chorus and bridge and instead juxtaposing sound and vision (be it through video or the live concert setting) to produce their desired results.

It is that latter approach that has likewise characterized much of the work of the veteran suburban Detroit band, Frijid Pink over the years. Their acclaimed 1968 - 1971 releases for Parrot Records (including Lost SonGod Gave Me You and the utterly stupendous Tell Me Why) most assuredly delivered the verse, chorus and bridge with a decisive one-two punch. But by the time the band signed with MGM's affiliate Lion label in 1972, there were signs in place that their new material (such as Earth Omen and Rainbow Rider) began to give precedence to sound over structure. As such, that phase of their work was best appreciated in a live setting. 

With drummer Rick Stevers as the lone active member from the band's earlier incarnation as the Detroit Vibrations (whose 1967 I'm The Man / She's A Winner single for Detroit Sound is most assuredly on par with the label's other releases by the Little Sisters and first generation garage rock greats, the Wanted), Frijid Pink has nonetheless managed to sustain their revised mission statement well into the twenty-first century. Their Made In Detroit and On The Edge albums for Dynasty Records carried on the approach developed during their affiliation with Lion. In the process, both projects were celebrated by Blitz Magazine as being among the Best Album Releases of the decade of the 2010s. 

Interestingly enough, with Hot Pink, it appears as though Frijid Pink has nonetheless begun to come full circle.

In part a showcase for the band's forthcoming full length album, this four track CD demonstrates a marked and encouraging return to form in terms of the foundational template. Recorded in the closing weeks of 2020, Hot Pink is in some respects a healthy bit of introspection in preparation for the next step.

To that effect, Till The End Of The Night tells the tale of the veteran road warrior in a manner not unlike that articulated under similar circumstances by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. However, Frijid Pink does so with a much more significant degree of accessibility, as well as with that most crucial element of universal appeal.

In turn, In Your Arms Tonight brings the bombast / sense of urgency hybrid back to life. While that particular attribute of the genre was nearly neutered through overkill a half century ago via such bands as Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash, its relative lack of presence in the ensuing years enabled its return here to generate a subtle yet sustainable reaction of both familiarity and gratification. 

Understandably self-assured by their successful execution of that unlikely methodology of returning to form, Frijid Pink takes it a step further with Sing by drawing from one of the genre's most divisive elements during its heyday and unabashedly embracing it here. To be certain, the half-speed execution of numbers for which the basic uptempo boogie chart would have sufficed was a practice that was frequently invoked by detractors of the genre, who (among other things) cited it as anathema to the essence of rock and roll itself. 

It is to Frijid Pink's considerable credit that in Sing, they were able to not only meet that challenge head on (complete with a solid, high drama bridge), but assuage any such concerns in the process. Happily, the band drives the point home sublimely with the all purpose and all encompassing On My Way.

On Hot Pink, Rick Stevers is joined by guitarists Ricky Houke and Rick Zeithaml, keyboard and harmonica man Chuck Mangus and bassist Brent Austin. This line up of Frijid Pink has persevered longer than did any other incarnation of the band, suggesting (among other things) that they are most assuredly on the right track. And if Hot Pink is any indication, their future is one that (in the words of a key cut from their earlier Earth Omen album) will see them continue to fulfill and expand upon their Eternal Dream.

BRIGHT SHINING STARS -
Danielle Miraglia (Vizztone)

Once in a great while, a song comes along that cuts to the heart to such a significant degree that those who are impacted by it as such often find themselves no longer able to listen to it, despite having initially embraced it for such attributes.

Bob Dylan has been rightly hailed for more than a half century for his songwriting acumen, which has been evidenced in no small part by the wealth of covers of his material by everyone from the Turtles, the Byrds and the Vacels to Johnny Cash, Peter Antell and Stevie Wonder. But no Dylan composition has ever articulated those attributes such in excruciating detail as did his You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go from his acclaimed 1974 Blood On The Tracks album.

As evidence of how interpreters can take such material to the next level and beyond, vocalist Shawn Colvin turned You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go into a heart rending masterpiece on her August 1994 Covers Girl album. Under Colvin's stewardship, Dylan's composition took the quantum leap from paean to unrequited love to an unrelenting lament for one whose passing is seemingly imminent. 

To her considerable credit, Miley Cyrus turned in a remarkably faithful rendition of Shawn Colvin's arrangement of You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go in 2012. In the process, she underscored the notion that the ability of such emotional turmoil in song to resonate across the board knows no bounds. 

To be certain, masterworks such as You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go nonetheless find differing interpretations among the listening audience, commensurate with the level of common experience of the listener. In the process, it begs the question as to whether or not such a piece can be redeemed for the benefit of those who have already taken its impact to the maximum level.

Enter the Boston-based composer, vocalist and guitarist, Danielle Miraglia.

On her latest Vizztone Records release, Bright Shining Stars, Miraglia has dared to venture where few would tread. Extraordinarily gifted in the traditions of such blues visionaries as Victoria Spivey, Tommy Johnson and Bessie Smith, Miraglia by definition is keenly aware that the notion of "opposites attract" (as articulated by Dino, Desi & Billy, the Monkees, the Power Plant and others via She's So Far Out, She's In), applies even in terms of emotional extremes. 

Put another way, when faced with ultimate despair, the only way to flee is in the opposite direction. And in this case, Miraglia brings the beleaguered Bob Dylan composition full circle with a rendition that suggests a resilience towards the imminent, seemingly borne of the experience recognizable only by those who have also lived it. 

True to the mission statement of a thinking outside of the box artist, Miraglia does not rest her laurels exclusively on her rare ability to redeem the seemingly unredeemable. Indeed, Bright Shining Stars marks a reversal of course from much of her previous work with its inclinations towards the relatively upbeat and positive. 

To wit, the opener, the aptly titled instrumental, Sounds Like Home takes plodding yet decisive steps forward, like a smile in search of its own kind amidst a sea of gloom. For the sake of perspective, the latter attribute avails itself in due course with a true to form reading of Ma Rainey's often covered C.C. Rider before the stage is decisively set with the aforementioned Bob Dylan composition.

Not that relentless optimism depicts the course for the remainder of the proceedings. Indeed, the mid-tempo Pick Up The Gun serves as a microcosm of the present day atmosphere of societal division as well as any. In turn, Big Brother And The Holding Company's Turtle Blues remains just as foreboding in the acoustic setting in which it is presented here as it did when subjected to the bombastic atmosphere that characterized the band's 1968 Cheap Thrills album for Columbia.

Nonetheless, the road to optimism is often paved with unlikely methodology. From the juxtaposition of self-depreciation, denial and envy evidenced in Famous For Nothin' to the Kevin "Keb Mo" Moore-penned, Dave Van Ronk - inspired You Can Love Yourself,  it becomes increasingly apparent that the road to happiness is often paved with a healthy self-assessment. 

In rounding out the proceedings with a tip of the hat to the legendary Robert Johnson via Walkin' Blues and the curious yet inspiring Kingston Trio / Colbie Caillat mash up found in the title track, Miraglia brings two essential points home. One is a timely reminder that the genre in its purest form has not been well served by the hijacking by many of its modern day standard bearers of the basic components of early 1970s mainstream rock (a counter productive move that has also managed to keep the once vibrant country music movement in a protracted aesthetic slump). 

Secondly, by allowing the basic template of the genre to avail itself in such a manner as for the present day observers from both sides of the great societal divide to find the inevitable common ground, Miraglia's extraordinary ability to find that often elusive ray of hope amidst the cloudy skies may well serve to facilitate the restorative process hinted at in Friend And Lover's 1968 Reach Out Of The Darkness single far more effectively than any of the other methods that have been utilized to date.

Then again, such is the power of music. Job well done.

BLUES BASH! -
Duke Robillard And Friends (Stony Plain)

Sticking to your convictions can be challenging when your genre of choice has seen its share of self-parody.

In recent years, the infiltration of such generally incongruous and counter-productive inspirations as early '70s mainstream and arena rock has taken much of the punch out of at least two once vital genres. One such genre is country music, which has remained in an unprecedented and protracted aesthetic slump for that (and other) reasons since its reinvigorating New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s ran its course.

The other genre in question is the blues. Having been thrust upon center stage via the efforts of a cadre of well meaning (mostly) UK rock and roll bands in the mid-1960s, those bands' eventual embracing of the self-indulgence, pyrotechnics and other such potential liabilities of the hippie era has done little more than reduce the output of a number of its practitioners to generic, lowest common denominator tedium.

All of which could made matters difficult for even the most determined veteran. That is of course unless that veteran maintains a strong vision that can deflect such curve balls and stay the course.

Such is the case with Room Full Of Blues cofounder, Fabulous Thunderbirds veteran and Woonsocket, Rhode Island native Michael John "Duke" Robillard. For more than a half century, Robillard has not let either his purist approach nor such distractions as the aforementioned ones derail his momentum.

With Blues Bash!, Robillard joins forces with such like minded colleagues as Chris Cote, Michelle Willson, Greg Piccolo and Rich Lataille for a spirit romp through such classics as Roy Milton's What Can I Do, Ike Turner's Do You Mean It, Dave Bartholomew's Ain't Gonna Do It and Lefty "Guitar" Bates' Rock Alley. They are augmented sublimely by such ambitious Robillard originals as No TimeGive Me All The Love You Got and the decidedly jazz-tinged instrumental, Just Chillin'.

Upon occasion, staying true to one's original vision without compromise can result in a few challenges along the way. If such a distraction avails itself here, it is with Michelle Willson's You Played On My Piano. Whereas the coy references to drums, fiddles and the like may have fit the bill on Helen Humes' 1952 Decca label original (which they most assuredly did), in a present day setting, despite the best of intentions, they serve as little more than to make the work in question a period piece. 

That notwithstanding, Blues Bash! overall is a reminder that when in the most capable of hands, the genre is far from spent, as is the case here. In the words of an earlier, Rounder label-era Robillard triumph, it is a triumphant outing that can still produce the prerequisite Shivers indigenous to the genre's finest work.

AIN'T DONE YET -
Savoy Brown (Quarto Valley)

Sometimes there are advantages to being the last man standing.

As the lone active survivor from the band's heyday with the Parrot label, Savoy Brown co-founder and guitarist / lead vocalist Kim Simmonds has taken decisive steps to avoid the redundancy that is seemingly inevitable when working within the confines of a genre with built in limitations. Simmonds' success in that respect is made all the more remarkable by the fact that this second outing by the band for Quarto Valley Records is their forty-first album overall.

Part of what has kept the band's mission statement vital for more than a half century is the emphasis on songwriting. While many of the blues rock's sub genre's current pretenders to the throne have drawn from the lowest common denominator attributes of the pioneers of the movement and filtered those inspirations through the most bloated early 1970s mainstream rock, Savoy Brown has astutely noted that the built in limitations of such an approach almost invariably lead to self parody.

As former Herman's Hermits bassist and lead vocalist Karl Green has also done in his most recent outings with the like minded Karl Green Band, Simmonds has found that subtle vocal execution in the low register is the most fitting for the material at hand. The understated approach works particularly well on such inspired fare as the swamp rock-ish River On The Rise, the ominous Borrowed Time, the boogie-friendly Jaguar Car, the slide meets basic 4/4 rock of Rocking In Louisiana, and the relative bombast of Soho Girl.

As has been the case since 2009, Simmonds is joined in this latest endeavor by bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm. Sadly, project engineer Ben Elliott passed away not long after sessions were completed at his New Jersey-based Showplace Studios. Savoy Brown has dedicated Ain't Done Yet to his memory. To be certain, it is an album that, in the words of one of the key tracks from the band's 2003 Strange Dreams album for the Blind Pig label, manages to Keep On Rollin'.