Choice CDs Considered

"My two cents worth"

If you're lookin' for a CD to play at your next party, "Red Dog Speaks" by Elvin Bishop is a great find. Elvin's been at this thing for over 40 years and it all sounds effortless now, but don't be fooled; He's a master of his craft. His catalogue numbers over twenty releases and this one may be his finest yet! Because of their close relationship with the instrument, many guitarists give their "axes" names. Elvin gets things rolling here using his familiar "Pigboy Crabshaw" character to pay tribute to his Gibson ES-335 that he calls "Red Dog". Superb soul singer John Nemeth lends his vocals to the old Huey P. Meaux classic "Neighbor, Neighbor". "Fat And Sassy" is lots of fun with it's humorous lyrics and heavy dose of Elvin's superb slide playing. The instrumental "Barbecue Boogie" just plain smokes! Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross" doesn't seem as out of place here as it might seem with John Nemeth again providing soulful vocals. "Blues Cruise" was apparently actually recorded on one and features a number of the other blues stars that have played on them. The list of stars playing with Elvin on this track is pretty danged impressive: Ronnie Baker Brooks, Tommy Castro, Buckwheat Zydeco, Roy Gaines, John Nemeth on harp, the rhythm section of Ruth Davies and June Core plus some rubboard by Sir Reginald Master Dural! The blues cruise industry couldn't buy better advertising. Changing the CD's mood yet again is "Doo-Wop Medley" which is exactly what it says, Doo Wop, but Elvin Bishop style (Instrumental!). John Nemeth returns to help cover Otis Spann's "Get Your Hand Out Of My Pocket". The traditional tune "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" includes a brass section while "Clean Livin' ", another hilarious Pigboy Crabshaw tune about getting old, features only Elvin and "Red Dog". The "Midnight Hour Blues" written by Leroy Carr brings this disk to a close, but your party should sho nuff be cookin' by now.

"Living With War" is a CD that every American should buy and listen to! This just might be the most socially relevant rock record that has been released since the 1960's. Neil Young's songwriting is direct and while the subject matter is topical, this music should hold up in the future because life seems to go in cycles and we'll probably be "Living With (another) War" again someday sooner than later. The CD opens with the powerful "After The Garden" which asks the question "Where will all of the people go, after the garden is gone?" This is followed by the title track "Living With War" which cleverly incorporates part of our National Anthem with the writer taking a solemn vow to "never kill again". "The Restless Consumer" asks some rather pointed questions of the current administration, "How do you pay for war and leave us dyin'? When you could do so much more, you're not even tryin'!" While never mentioning Iraq, "Shock and Awe" looks back on the "days of mission accomplished" when "we had a chance to change our mind but somehow wisdom was hard to find". "Families" takes the "family values" issue back from the right wing and is written from the perspective of a soldier anxiously hoping and waiting to see his family back at home again someday. "Flags of Freedom" is another great song that is somewhat reminiscent of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" but looks at a family observing their youngest son (and brother) parading off to war: It also asks the question "Do you think that you believe in your's (flag) more than they do somehow"? "Let's Impeach The President" may be the most powerful song on the CD, it pulls no punches and simply, must be heard! "Lookin' For A Leader" is just what the title says, a song asking America to look for and find the leader walking among us. In "Roger and Out" we hear someone reminiscing about an old best friend that was called off to war and never returned but is still very fondly remembered. "America The Beautiful" is a beautiful recording sung by a choir of 100 voices. I have listened to this CD several times every day this week and felt compelled to post my "two cents worth" about this important CD. Each of these songs is thought provoking and heart felt, this is real Rock & Roll! Every American should listen to "Living With War", perhaps we'll all be compelled to do something. :-)
Mahalo to Neil for this statement, Peace!

"Rise" is without a doubt, one of my favorite releases of the year 2005! Eddie Turner is the guitarist who painted some of those surreal audioscapes on Otis Taylor's first four records. He has now branched out on his own with his debut release on Northern Blues and he has definitely stood up to be counted! There are lots of different grooves on this record and Eddie brought along his producer and bassist Kenny Passarelli from the Otis Taylor band to help him realize them. The title track, "Rise" opens things with a bang and in the next track he states that he's "not the Voodoo Chile" but he certainly is one of the most innovative and interesting guitarists on the current blues scene! There is a nice selection of originals as well as covers that have been completely rethought. "The Wind Cries Mary" is a good example: Of course it has the familiar ring of the Hendrix original but Eddie has made this arrangement all his own. Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Gangster of Love" receives a funky treatment with Eddie's "Hendrixian" guitar licks floating above and around it all. I also really like this version of Freddie King's "Play It Cool"! "It's Me" is an explosive guitar tour de force that is sandwiched between telephone answering machine message recordings from a woman telling Eddie, "It's Me". :-) "Confusion Illusion reminds me of something Michael Hill's Blues Mob might do but otherwise Eddie Turner doesn't sound much like anyone else. The final song on the CD is "Secret". I hope this CD doesn't remain a secret to record buyers for very long. I would highly recommend this album to any and all adventurous blues and rock listeners.

Dave Specter and Steve Freund - Is What It Is

What it is, is inspired jazzy blues guitar playing! Two of my favorite guitarists have hooked up to record a truly inspired set of originals and covers that combine for one CD that is nearly impossible to remove from my CD player. ;-) The 12 songs are a good blend of soulful vocals by Steve and instrumentals that showcase the natural flow of ideas between two musicians listening to each other. I love their version of Peter Green's "Albatross" which I believe Steve first performed (as a request ;-) at Haleiwa Joe's a few years back. Their reading of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is lovely and Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" is another standout cover! Both guitarists also contributed some strong material of their own; "My Little Playhouse", Hoverin' Hawk" and "Too Hot At Home" from Steve Freund while Dave Specter wrote the funky title tune "Is What It Is" and "Riverside Ride" that will have you up and dancing in your seat. I highly recommend this disc as well as anything either of these guys have recorded seperately. Check 'em (all) out then just try to take 'em outta your CD player! I dare ya!

Eric Bibb - Friends

Eric Bibb's newest release on Telarc Records is an intriguing collection of duets recorded with some of the friends that he has made while travelling around the world performing his music. There is a veritable tapestry of musical styles and textures on this album and if you are open to listening to a variety of musical styles and especially if you like folk blues of the Keb Mo variety you will find many things to like here. The CD opens with the cool gospel inspired back porch duet with Guy Davis based on a traditional arrangement of "99 1/2 Won't Do" by the Reverend E.W. Clayborn that definitely gets things off with a jump start. I really like this track, also reminds me a little of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. "Six O'Clock Blues" is my favorite track, a hip mix of echo, reverb, Charlie Musselwhite's wailing harmonica and topical lyrics all add up to Chicago Blues 2004 Style, this track alone is worth the price of admission. What more can you say about Taj Mahal? He lends his special blend of magic to "Goin' Down Slow" on this banjo and fiddle driven arrangement of the St. Louis Jimmy standard with the fiddlin' provided by multi-instrumentalist Michael Jerome Browne. "Lovin' In My Baby's Eyes" is a Taj Mahal tune with african kora by Mamadou Diabate. "For You" is a love song, sung with Ruthie Foster who shines with her gorgeous voice along with some nice piano accompaniment by James Peterson. Martin Simpson's finger picking and slide mastery stand out on the Guy Clark composition "The Cape". The unique voice of Odetta and nice interplay between Eric's guitars, Bill Lee's bass and Levi B. Saunders' banjo mark "Tain't Such A Much". Another unusual pairing of instruments brings Harry Manx' mohan veena (Indian lap-style guitar), Eric's vocals and guitars with tablas by Kuljit together on "Needed Time". "Cowgirl Queen" features Hawaii's own legendary Ledward Ka'apana soloing on an electric ukelele (I would like to have heard him play some ki ho alu (slack key guitar) too but I'm glad to see that at least he was included. Hearing Djelimady Tounkara on "Kulanjan/Sebastian's Tune" may just make you want to explore more music from this legendary Mali guitarist, also with Taj Mahal. This is quite an eclectic mix and is recommended for lovers of folk musics of all lands.

Tab Benoit and Jimmy Thackery: "Whiskey Store - Live"

It's not often that a "live" recording surpasses the studio version but "Whiskey Store - Live" is an exceptional album by two exceptional artists! The first "Whiskey Store" album, released in 2002, was recorded with Double Trouble, Reese Wynans and Charlie Musselwhite and it's very good, I would certainly recommend that you buy it and once you hear this live CD, you'll absolutely want to have it anyway ;-) This new album, however, was recorded with regular members of Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit's touring bands in front of live audiences on March 24, 2003 at The Unity Centre For Performing Arts in Unity, Maine and Telarc "caught lightning in the bottle" with this one! Of course, there are lots of guitar pyrotechnics on display by both of these axe slingers but Tab Benoit's voice can also "carry the show" (his reading of "These Arms Of Mine" is a fine example). Slip this disc into your player, toss back a few shots of your favorite libation and let the good times roll!

James "Blood" Ulmer: "Memphis Blood-The Sun Sessions"

It's safe to assume that everyone even remotely interested in American Music has heard of Sun Studios Memphis Recording Service. After all, that is where Elvis, Jerry Lee,Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash et al. recorded their seminal hits for Sam Phillips during the mid 1950's. What's not as well known is that the Memphis Recording Service is not only still open for business but there is some great music still being recorded in it's hallowed halls.
A good example of this is the new release by guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer on Label M. "Memphis Blood-The Sun Sessions" was produced by Vernon Reid, who not only attempted to bring Blood back to his Southern roots but also features his incendiary fretwork on second guitar! The songs are all pretty much blues standards but their decidedly non-traditional approach to them is inspired by Blood's musical mentor, Ornette Coleman. The arrangements here are quite unique and probably the first significant reworking of some of these tunes in decades. Check out "I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)" which sounds like Living Colour meets Howlin' Wolf via Ornette with Prime Time! Most of the other tunes aren't quite this aggressive though and songs like "I Love The Life I Live" and "Too Lazy To Work, Too Nervous To Steal" have a kind of rough and tumble, electric country blues feel to them. Another highlight of this set is their cover of Otis Rush's 1958 Cobra Records hit "Double Trouble" (which also featured the amazing whammy bar Strat playing of Ike Turner!). The pair's intricately interwoven guitar lines are supplemented by important sonic contributions from Charles Burnham, (Blood's associate from his 1980's trio Odyssey) on violin and slide mandolin, Rick Steff's keyboards and the harmonica playing of David Barnes. The rhythm section propelling it all features Aubrey Dale on drums and Mark E. Peterson on bass.
There is plenty to like about this CD and it would certainly be an excellent addition to any Jazz, Blues or Rock fan's collection.
This is easily one of my favorite CDs of 2001 and is highly recommended by "The Stoddard's Hale"!

"Ronnie Earl and Friends"

"Ronnie Earl and Friends" may be the best recording yet by the "Blues Guitar Virtuoso". With his second release for the Telarc label, Ronnie has moved away from the all instrumental approach that he's favored for most of the last ten years. On this disc he employs several of the most distinctive blues singers of our time with very satisfying results indeed. His mission on this CD was to evoke the spirit of the great Delmark "jam session" albums of the sixties that featured Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, etc. The album opens with the Magic Sam gem "All Your Love" with Telarc labelmate and former Muddy Waters sideman Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson handling the vocals and trading licks with Ronnie. This album also features the great Kim Wilson (whose new release on MC Records "Smokin' Joint" is spectacular, BTW). He contributes his vocal and non-pariel harp talents to half a dozen of the tunes on this recording. In another inspired pairing of legends, James Cotton joins forces with Kim Wilson for three of them, two being the Cotton originals "Mighty Fine Boogie" and "One More Mile" which are highlights of this album. The third vocalist in the mix is Irma Thomas and she sings a new composition by Ronnie called "New Vietnam Blues", inspired by Junior Wells' "Viet Cong Blues" from the classic Vanguard three record set "Chicago/The Blues/Today! (Volume 1)" and is a tribute to all Vietnam vets. Her reading of the medley of Bobby "Blue" Bland's "I'll Take Care Of You" and Doc Pomus' "Lonely Avenue" will give you "chicken skin" if you have a pulse! The recording closes with another lesser known Magic Sam gem called "Lookin' Good". Based on this new release, the future for Ronnie Earl is looking very good.

"Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson"Talkin' About Soul"

Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson's latest release on Telarc Blues is "Talkin' About Soul" and the Man is "tellin' it! Luther was discovered by the late, great Magic Sam on the West Side of Chicago in the early sixties and was a featured member of Muddy Waters' band during most of the seventies. He has led his own band (The Magic Rockers) since the late seventies and has released a number of outstanding albums since then. His debut "Doin' The Sugar Too" was named the #4 Blues Album Of The Year at the W.C. Handy Awards in 1985. This is his third release for Telarc Blues and his best record to date. The CD features seven originals interspersed with some classic tunes like Ray Charles' "I've Got A Woman", Willie Mabon's "Poison Ivy", Sam Cooke's "Somebody Have Mercy" (the tune Magic Sam heard him singing, that prompted him to sign him all those years ago ;-) and the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing". If Blues and Soul are your thing, you gotta check this one out!

"Willie Nelson "Milk Cow Blues"

Island Records released Willie Nelson's (Yeah, that Willie Nelson :-) first all blues album on September 19th. Here are some of the songs on this CD and the all star friends who lend Willie a hand on them:
"Milk Cow Blues" & "Funny How Time Slips Away" featuring Francine Reed, "Outskirts Of Town" with Keb' Mo', "Black Night" & "Fool's Paradise" featuring Dr. John, "Rainy Day Blues" & "Ain't Nobody's Business" with Jonny Lang, "Crazy" with Susan Tedeschi, "Kansas City" with Jimmie Vaughan & Susan Tedeschi, "The Thrill Is Gone" & "Night Life" featuring B.B. King and "Texas Flood" with Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Have no doubt about it though, this is Willie's album and although that's a lot of egos, these guests are all there to complement him. The backing band throughout consists of Derek O'Brien on guitars, George Rains on drums, Jon Blondell on bass, and Riley Osborne on keys. This is a very appealing disc which reunites the blues with one of it's long lost cousins, Willie's down home Country music. Willie Nelson's voice is a National treasure and it is well presented here. This one is a must for lovers of Blues and Country music!

B.B. King "Makin' Love Is Good For You"

B.B. King's latest recording "Makin' Love Is Good For You" on MCA Records is one of B.B.'s most satisfying discs yet and that's a damn good thing too because it had the serious misfortune of being released on April 25, 2000 around the same time the major record companies decided to "shoot themselves in the foot" and raise CD prices yet again to fight their "declining profits". (Boo hoo, let me get my fu@#in' hankie.) This CD is being sold for $18.99 at Tower Records and the prices of new CDs by all of your favourite artists that record for the so-called "major" labels have seen similar increases ! It's no wonder that sites like Napster are so popular.
Oh yeah, this CD features The King of the Blues with his touring band performing some new compositions by B.B. along with some well chosen covers. I love the version of tenor saxophonist A.C. Reed's "I'm In The Wrong Business" presented here; you've also gotta check out their reading of "Since I Fell For You"!! There are 14 songs here and they're all good, so at least you're not getting shortchanged there.
Unfortunately, the music industry just "doesn't get it" and are in danger of pricing themselves right out of a market! The Used Record retailers are gaining more customers daily ! Resist the music industry's attempts to milk the last few dollars out of the CD market, write to them and voice your displeasure with their greed but please, let's not take it out on B.B.

Alvin "Youngblood" Hart "Start With The Soul"

This is a very strong album by Alvin "Youngblood" Hart whose previous release on the Hannibal Rykodisc label was voted "Best Blues Album of the Year" by both Downbeat and Living Blues Magazines! This "brilliantly versatile and eclectic musician and songwriter" (Living Blues) is equally fluent in the good old time Chuck Berry Rock & Roll of "Back To Memphis", the "stumblingly" ;-) funky Band Of Gypsys style Jazz-Rock Fusion of "Porch Monkey's Theme", in covering the 1971 Cornelius Brothers hit "Treat Her Like A Lady", and the powerful, original, genre bending Blues-Rock of "Fightin' Hard" and "Manos Arriba": "Ain't gonna give you no line/Just gonna take back what's mine/First, we start with the soul/Then, uh, maybe your gold...."
By all means, check out this Youngblood

Murali Coryell"2120"

Marshall Chess' father and uncle ran the famous Chicago Blues label Chess Records . He also successfully launched Rolling Stones Records after some dubious attempts to save the family label in the late 60's and early 70's ("Electric Mud" and the equally bizarre "This is Howlin' Wolf's new album. He doesn't like it. He didn't like his electric guitar at first either.")

"Marshall Chess now uses a technique combining the best of of both new and old recording styles. His goal was to get the trio to lock together, to play as one, just as all of the original greats had to play when there was only two track recording. The old way of recording without extensive overdubbing was a key ingredient in getting the feeling back into the music. When there is no chance to do it over repeatedly you are forced to focus more. That extra focus can take the music to a higher level."

The debut release on his new Czyz Records family label (the original spelling) is by one of legendary jazz guitarist Larry Coryell's sons. Murali Coryell This album reveals a maturity which seems far beyond Murali's 28 years. His intense, soulful vocals evoke a young Otis Rush and, while his guitar has a wicked distorted tone, it is always tasteful and never pretentious or overwhelming.

The trio, which includes bassist Bill Foster and drummer Rod Gross, stick mostly to classic Chicago blues tunes but they also do a couple of other interesting covers like "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye and "Pills" by Bo Diddley (& later the New York Dolls !). Murali also wrote one of the CD's 15 tracks - "Stop", showing promise as a songwriter as well ! There are also dynamite versions of the immortal Magic Sam's "All My Whole Life" and "All Your Love", but their rendition of "So Many Roads, So Many Trains" alone is worth the price of admission here. It must seem a little ironic to Otis Rush, whose tenure with Chess was not particularly satisfying !

Oh yeah, 'sup with the that title? 2120 S. Michigan Avenue was the Chicago address of Chess Records for many years. This CD is cool on so many levels, by all means, check it out!

Murali Coryell "Strong As I Need To Be"

"Strong As I Need To Be" is Murali's third CD for as many different labels. This time out, he has released his music on his own label (Murali's Music Records). Murali's soulful vocals and stunning guitar work have led previous reviewers to label Murali Coryell "The Future Of The Blues". I think that's unnecessarily pigeonholing an artist who is creating music that will appeal to many more listeners than just the Stevie Ray Vaughanabees.
If you like American Roots Music, you'll like Murali Coryell! Check him out......

"Soup" Is Good For You !

Gear Fab Records has released a compilation by "Soup", an Appleton, Wi. band featuring the legendary Doug Yankus on guitars and vocals. Ten tracks from 1969-1970 are offered here, including a couple that had never been previously released. The first five of these ten tracks were originally on a self released album with a plain, brown wrapper (Arf Arm Artists 1) from 1970. I have another vinyl version of this album at home (with a blank, white label) that actually has a better mix and less tape wow and flutter. The group's lone single, (on the Target label) "Big Boss Man" b/w "Veronica", is also presented in this collection. As a bonus, the label "threw in" both sides of four singles originally issued in 1967-1968 by one of Yankus' earlier groups: "The Private Property Of Digil". While I definitely would have preferred that they had included the 1971 Big Tree Records release, "The Album Soup", instead of these "rarities", I still have to recommend this disc. Doug Yankus was truly way ahead of his time, Jimi Hendrix even went to see him play when he came to Milwaukee once.
It's about time this music was released on CD !!! (Now let's have the rest of it ;-) Doug Yankus passed away in 1982 from complications caused by his diabetes and 10% of the proceeds from this disc are donated to a Diabetes Foundation chosen by the Yankus family.

David Fiuczynski - "Jazz Punk"

Pulse Magazine gives "Jazz Punk" 5 Stars! ***** "For Sheer chops and raw abandon, no one can touch this Fuze" Tower Records is currently stocking the new David Fiuczynski CD, "Jazz Punk" (a/o March 21, 2000). On this release you will find weird and wonderful versions of tunes by Jimi Hendrix ("Third Stone From The Sun"), Chick Corea ("La Fiesta"), Pat Metheny ("Bright Size Life"), Frederic Chopin ("Prelude Opus 28 No. 4") and even John Phillip Sousa ("Stars & Stripes Whenever"). David Fiuczynski is an incredibly innovative and adventurous electric guitar player, his contributions to other artist's work always stands out (Me'Shell NdegeOcello, Billy Hart, Jack Walrath, Mark Shim, Santi Debriano, Chartbusters, Vic Stevens' Mistaken Identities, among others.) You owe it to yourself to check this CD out! Stoddard's Hale also gives this CD 5 Stars *****

Jimmy D. Lane Sir Real

If you have Jimmy D. Lane's "Long Gone" and "Legacy" CDs, you already know that the late Jimmy Roger's son is an amazing guitar player and soulful vocalist, but this earlier recording which is available only thru features the multi talented Jimmy D. Lane playing all of the instruments on these twelve original compositions. A number of these songs later reappeared on the "Long Gone" CD, including it's title track, along with "Shake, Shiver and Ache", "Whiskey" and "Obsession Baby". If you don't have his other two CDs yet, then I recommend that you go out and get all three of them!

CDs from my personal collection 4 Sale or Trade

You can order most of the music considered here @ The Stoddard's Hale from half-com.
If half-com does not have something you see here, please contact me directly. Mahalo.

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