More Choice CDs Considered

"More of my two cents worth"

"Exile on Blues Street"

I once read an interview somewhere with Keith Richard in which he stated that he wanted the inscription on his grave stone to read: "Was born, recorded "Exile On Main Street" and died" or something to that effect ;-) Although it took a while for some to realize it, most of the Stones' "boomer" fans would agree with that assessment of "Exiles'" musical importance. While it included "Tumbling Dice", it did not have as many hit singles as previous Stones albums. Instead, the music on this album was a return to the Stones' roots in American Blues Music, which in turn, became a timeless rock classic itself.
"Exile on Blues Street" is Telarc Blues latest release in their series of "blues interpretations of seminal rock albums". The first was the Beatles' "White Album" which was followed by Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde". This one is probably the most successful of the series, although each of the previous installments had it's high points (especially last year's "Blues On Blonde on Blonde" release).
It sure doesn't hurt to have Double Trouble, Brian Stoltz, a horn section and some good backing vocalists who supply the drive throughout this Blues tribute. These releases are not intended as strict re-creations of those classic albums and this one opens with Lucky Peterson's steaming rendition of "Ventilator Blues". Otis Taylor has recieved much acclaim lately and his version of "Sweet Black Angel" is hauntingly beautiful (he also has a new release on Telarc: "Truth Is Not Fiction"). "Shake Your Hips" the Slim Harpo cover is reinterpreted here by another Telarc artist, Tab Benoit who has the perfect swampy blues rock sound for this song. (While you're at it you might want to check out his latest excellent Telarc disc "Sea Saint Sessions"). It almost seems that there's an unwritten rule stating that if anyone is going to release a "Various Artists" compilation; it must include a track by Joe Louis Walker. He always seems to be on the mark and his gospel tinged take on "Shine A Light" is one of this compilations highlights. "Exile On Main Street"'s opener "Rocks Off" closes this set and yet another Telarc artist, Jimmy Thackery goes a long way in proving Telarc's claim of being the "home of some of the most talented artists on the contemporary blues scene". Some of the other fine artists featured on this CD are Deborah Coleman,Tommy Castro, Andrea Re, Jeff Lang and Christine Ohlman.
"Exile On Main Street" was an appropriate vehicle for this concept and "Exile on Blues Street" comes recommended! The Stoddard's Hale sez "Check it out"!

"Sweet Tea" is the album that Buddy Guy's fans have been waiting for since his 1994 Silvertone release - "Slippin' In". That excellent CD was produced and engineered by Eddie Kramer (well known for his work with one Jimi Hendrix) and was further enhanced with Double Trouble as the rhythm section for most of the tracks. Prior to that release, he made a coupla other discs for Silvertone that were big sellers, but both of them left something to be desired by hard core blues fans. At least Silvertone offered him the opportunity to record. His discography has large gaps because his music didn't always necessarily suit the current fashion. This often left him without a recording contract for many years at a time. Trying to capture the Buddy Guy "experience" on record would be like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. "Sweet Tea" is easily the most exciting blues release so far this year. This CD was recorded at Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Mississippi and features a lowdown swamp groove that brings out "Buddy's Baddest"! The songs were written mostly by Junior Kimbrough and a coupla of his Fat Possum label mates. The rhythm section is mostly composed of Fat Possum sidemen. The simplicity and freedom of their timeless music is infectious. You will want to listen to this one over and over again, incessantly, continuously, repeatedly (you get the idea :-) It sounds like the folks at "Sweet Tea" have "caught the lightning" of the mercurial Buddy Guy. This album sizzles from beginning to end. His version of the Lowell Fulson standard "Tramp" will blow you away. Buddy's guitar has not sounded so menacing since the 1979 Isabel release of "Stone Crazy"! Near the beginning of the 12 minute plus "I Gotta Try You Girl", you can hear producer and engineer Dennis Herring encourage Buddy to "keep it goin'" and Buddy and the boys do just that. This is Buddy's tour-de-force and he demonstrates why he is considered by many (including one Eric Clapton) to be the greatest blues guitarist alive. His soloing is incredibly inventive, almost psychedelic at times. You've gotta try this CD, because if this one don't move you: You got a hole in your soul!

Ike Turner has released his first album in 5 years and it is arguably the best album of his long and (in)famous career. Sadly, he is probably best known to the general public for his work, and often turbulent marriage, with Tina Turner. Ike wrestled with legal troubles in the 1980s and '90s while Tina became a solo superstar. Make no mistake about it, Ike Turner is one of the founding fathers of modern Blues and Rock 'n' Roll!
Working with producer Willie Mitchell, who helmed the famed Hi Records label and some of Al Green's greatest recordings, Ike recorded this new disc, 'Here and Now', at various studios in California and Memphis. Ike's previous solo album, 'My Blues Country' was released in 1996 and that one's predecessor 'I'm Tore Up' had been released eighteen years earlier, way back in 1978. 'Here and Now' finds Turner working with the reknowned Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier and bluesmen Little Milton and Joe Kelly. It includes a reworking of his classic 'Rocket 88', which he had originally recorded in 1951 and is now credited by many as the first ever rock and roll record. Unfortunately for Ike, "Rocket 88" was released on the Sun Records label under the name of vocalist and saxophonist Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats.
There's plenty of that string rattlin', slinky sound that Ike gets by abusing the whammy bar of his Stratocaster ;-) as well as his equally impressive skills pounding the 88s throughout this album. Most blues fans will undoubtedly recognize these tunes but Ike still manages to bring a freshness to them that is a very hopeful sign for the blues indeed! This is the album that Ike's fans have been waiting a lifetime for, let's hope we don't have to wait too long for the next one! :-)

Mighty Sam McClain's latest Telarc CD opens with a shufflin' new tune that he wrote called "Here I Come Again" and it's a clarion call that he's back with yet another outstanding soul blues disc. "Sweet Dreams" is the follow up to "Blues For The Soul" which received a W.C. Handy award nomination for soul/blues album of the year 2000. "Sweet Dreams" features essentially the same excellent musicians as "Blues For The Soul", including keyboard virtuoso Bruce Katz and underrated guitarist Kevin Belz and is good enough to win that Handy award this year!
"Sweet Dreams" is a country song, written by Don Gibson in 1955 that was a big hit a hit for Patsy Cline in 1963 and has been cut by nearly every important (and not so important :-) country artist since. A young Mighty Sam cut this song in 1966 at the insistence of Dan Penn at (the famed ;-) Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and it went on to sell 100,000 copies, more or less "launching" Sam's career. He has gone through a hell of a lot since those days 35 years ago but he has successfully emerged to be recognized as one of the finest soul singers alive and "Sweet Dreams" goes a long way to prove it.
Most of the songs on "Sweet Dreams" are strong originals by Mighty Sam (including the aforementioned "Here I Come Again" "Standing In The Wings", "Must Be The Music" and the autobiographical "Living In My Dreams") but there is also a "Dy-no-mite" version of the Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself" that you have got to hear! The disc closes with a slow blues reprise of "Here I Come Again" that positively burns!
Mighty Sam McClain is back again and this time he's here to stay!
To see the review for "Blues For The Soul" click here.

Paul Pena
New Train

It's hard to comprehend how an album this damned good was allowed to sit on the shelf for 28 long years. Fortunately there were at least some people who understood the value of these 1973 recordings and preserved them for this long overdue Hybrid Recordings release. This album is so good they could offer a money back guarantee!
Paul Pena is from Boston, but in 1973, he was a working musician, touring the country with T-Bone Walker and in the process of moving to San Francisco. This album of songs is a chronicle of his journey. The first song is "Gonna Move" and if it doesn't get you moving and snapping your fingers, brother, I think you got a hole in your soul! The Persuasions reinforce the gospel groove. It is also becomes clear from the git-go that everything about this recording is first class. The rhythm section is Gary Malabar, who is probably best known for having drummed on Van Morrison's "Moondance" album and Harvey Brooks, who was a member of the Electric Flag with Buddy Miles and Mike Bloomfield. Next up is the title track "New Train" and it features guest appearances by Jerry Garcia on Pedal Steel (making this one a must for all you Deadheads out there! ;-) and the soulful keyboards of Merle Saunders. Paul Pena's most famous song, "Jet Airliner" (via Steve Miller's hit cover) is next and I personally like this grittier version of the song better than the more "polished" version that became a hit. Regardless of personal tastes (both were good), this version is basically the same arrangement and demonstrates that Stevie "Guitar" Miller was able to recognize a hit, while apparently all of the major record labels' A&R departments weren't. The funky "Wait On What You Want" showcases this outstanding soul singer's voice and will probably cause you to question why we never heard this stuff before! This shit rocks! Both Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders return for the country-rock flavored "Venutian Lady." Ben Sidran, who produced this release, apologizes for the abrupt beginning to "Cosmic Mirror." Seems it was a studio jam (reminiscent of the Band Of Gypsys ;-) and Ben hit the "Record" button as soon as he realized what was going down. This cat could play some guitar! Sidran does not, however, explain why this track also ends just as abruptly at the start of a guitar solo, no less (?) What's up with that? Johnny Nash's "Let's Move and Groove Together" is the only cover, but it's funky soul groove fits in very nicely with Paul Pena's nine heartfelt originals. According to Ben Sidran's liner notes, the country influenced song "Indian Boy" was written for then President Richard M. Nixon (?). "A Bit Of All Right" is actually MUCH more than that! "Taking Your Love Down" was not intended for the album's original release (it would not have fit on the LP format) and wasn't even mixed until this collection was being readied for release, but it is up to the same high standards as the rest of the tracks on this CD. This CD further illustrates that the record industry is "Big Business" where marketability is far more important than talent. I seriously doubt that this CD would have even been released at this late date if not for the success of the Oscar nominated film "Ghengis Blues". I suppose we should just be happy that this music was finally released at all, but I can't help feeling like we (not to mention Mr. Paul Pena!) were almost "cheated" by having to wait 28 years for this brilliant album's release! This timeless music withstands the injustice of it's 28 year "exile" and still sounds fresh today.
Check it out, this CD is "Highly Recommended"!

Travis Haddix "Winners never quit"

This 1999 release came to my attention a while ago, so I've had a chance to kinda absorb it ;-) I think it was Downbeat Magazine that had a category in their Annual Polls for "Artist Most Deserving Of More Recognition" (or Fame or something like that) and Travis Haddix would certainly have my nomination for that award. He's a Triple Threat: This cat can play guitar, has great pipes, and writes his own excellent songs.
This CD opens with "Homeslice" which sounds like some long lost soul classic with it's funky guitar, punchy horns, Hammond B-3 and Travis boldly anouncing that "your real man is home tonight"! Other highlights of this disc are the topical "Bag Lady" which features some outstanding (but uncredited) low down, dirty harp playing; the title track "Winners Never Quit" which could be a hit on "Adult Contemporary" radio; the ultra funky "Something in the Milk Ain't Clean"; my favorite track-"Beggin' Business" (which has now been covered by Michael Burks on his Alligator debut "Make It Rain"!) and the funky 'boasting blues' "I'm Mean" with Travis declaring that "when the going gets too tough for the average man, it's just right for me!"
Check this one out and look for all of Travis' other releases while yer at it. :-)

Third Degree

Third Degree has finally released their first CD and, while it may have been a long time coming, the band is justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Third Degree, Chris Planas on guitars and vocals, James Ronstadt on harp and vocals, Bailey Matsuda on keyboards, Milan Bertosa on bass, and James Ganeko on the drums has been together and gigging around Honolulu for about four years now. This CD features the sort of eclectic set of tunes that you might hear at one of their gigs.
The opening track is Chris Planas' poignant song about a part time love called "Every Other Day" followed by a revved up version of the old Tommy Tucker classic "High Heeled Sneakers" with James Ronstadt taking over the vocal duties. Next Chris sings his beautiful love song "I Will Be There". Then comes a nice cover of the Willie Dixon penned Little Walter hit "My Babe". James Ronstadt leads the quintet for two of his originals: the outstanding "Back In Memphis", a song about a local boy having the opportunity to sit on the banks of the Mississippi to play his harp and soak up the blues (and soul food) that he loves so much on Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn. and the plaintive "Broken Man". The two singers alternate again with Chris contributing "Personal Style", his song about expressing one's own personality. "Twenty Pounds Of Love" is James's tribute to a dog that he cherished. Chris and the band get to show off their considerable chops on the Otis Rush instrumental "Homework". They wrap up the proceedings with James's emotional reading of "Do You Know What It's Like", a slow blues that he has been perfecting since his days with the "The Honolulu Blues Band" and finally Chris' shuffle "Had My Fill".
There is so much to recommend here: the production is first rate and there is a very good mix of mostly original material with a few well chosen cover tunes. Chris'understated guitar work that evokes masters such as Otis Rush and Peter Green yet has a sound that is uniquely his own. Bailey Matsuda's keyboard playing really stands out on this recording and is a little more prominent in the mix than at their live gigs where small stages often don't allow him to play much more than one electric keyboard. If you have seen Third Degree perform, you will undoubtedly want a copy of this CD and if you haven't had the opportunity to see or hear them, here's your chance to hear Honolulu's finest Rhythm & Blues band. This disc is available at most major retailers in Hawaii but if you're having trouble locating a copy, please feel free to contact us at "The Stoddard's Hale".

"Grand Slam - Live at the Regatta Bar"

Jim Hall, Joe Lovano, George Mraz, Lewis Nash

The best way to experience jazz music is, of course, in a live setting, especially in an intimate venue where the musicians can interact, not only with each other, but with their audience as well. "Live" recordings are released in an attempt to bring some of these performances to larger audiences. Grand Slam is a new all star quartet whose debut CD was launched by Telarc on September 26th and it was recorded January 20-22, 2000, during the course of their six sold out sets at the Regattabar in Cambridge, Mass. Jim Hall and Joe Lovano are the driving forces behind this aggregation. Hall, one of the he fathers of modern jazz guitar, whose affiliation with the Telarc label has served to showcase his brilliance as a total jazz musician, with each release designed to spotlight a different facet of his talents, such as composition (Textures - Telarc 83402) or arranging (By Arrangement- Telarc 83436). For this album the focus is on his considerable talents as an improviser. Joe Lovano is generally considered one of the premier saxophone players to emerge in the last decade and he provides three of the themes presented here along with some outstanding horn work throughout. The "swing" is provided by the versatile rhythm section of George Mraz and Lewis Nash. The apparent contrast between the "hot" Joe Lovano and the "cool" Jim Hall and the willingness (and ability) of each of them to explore and improvise makes this a most pleasant listen indeed. A few of these numbers have been recorded before: "All Across The City" was a ballad originally written for Hall's second collaboration with Bill Evans and was later the title track of his 1989 Concord Jazz release. "Chelsea Rendevous" first appeared on Joe Lovano's 1988 "Village Rythm" album and is one of his most familiar compositions but this release captures the sheer joy of some of America's best jazz musicians just playing and communicating with an audience that was enthralled with the music! Even if jazz isn't your bag, this CD would make an excellent Christmas gift for that jazz fan in your family or circle of friends, check it out!


Dave Specter, the Spectacular Chicago guitarist who has made Hawaii his second home, has released his sixth CD for the Delmark label. Like Justin O'Brien writes in the liner notes; "Dave Specter has always straddled the the Blues/Jazz fence with a hip disregard for such arbitrary categories". This all instrumental release, recorded with his working band, is Dave's finest yet and is a must for all blues AND jazz fans! Dave contributes eight new songs here, including "The Haleiwa Shuffle" (for the surfer town on the north shore of Oahu) and the classic West Side sounds of "Blues For Magic Sam. For some variety (and to jazz things up) he throw's in covers of Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works", Charles Earland's "The Mighty Burner" and The Meter's "Look-Ka-Py-Py" (to fonkify thangs!) If you don't like this CD, then you must have a hole in your soul! Check it out !

Big Guitar!

Here's another new, all instrumental release from another one of my favorite guitarists, Green Bay's own Billy Flynn. While Billy is primarily known as a superb, first call Chicago blues guitarist, this CD finds him playing in a '60's rock instrumental genre, running the gambit, from Link Wray to Santo & Johnny to Dick Dale to Davie Allen & The Arrows to The Ventures and even all the way to Martin Denny! His love of playing the guitar and his genuine feel for this music is immediately apparent and this is a CD which will stand up to repeated listening under many different circumstances. Check out both of these instrumental gems !!

Shoji Ledward

All jazz guitar fans will want to hear this disc by local Honolulu guitarist Shoji Ledward. It was recorded live at the Contemporary Cafe at the Contemporary Museum by Milan Bertosa of The Mountain Apple Company (& Third Degree) way back in March of 1997. Accompaniment on these nine standards and one original (Coffe Manoa) is provided by Dave Snider on Upright Bass.
Shoji still has a regular gig there every other Saturday afternoon, so be akamai, check him out, and buy his CD too, cuz he's really good! (not to mention a nice guy ;-)

Bobby Ingano

Bobby Ingano was a semi-regular "jammer" at O'Toole's when Third Degree played there on alternate Friday nights a coupla years ago. On this disc released by Flying Solo Music "Steel Reflections" Bobby shows that he is a master steel guitar player. Steven Hall is on acoustic guitar and Mahi Pekelo on bass. B.B. Shawn also makes appearances on acoustic guitars, bass and ukelele on a number of tracks. This is one very relaxing and peaceful CD which came recommended by none other than Dave Specter. Check it out!

Keahi Conjugacion "Live at the Atherton"

Keahi Conjugacion's CD captures her outstanding concert June 24, 2001 in the Atherton Studio at Hawaii Public Radio.
Click here to read a review of the concert.

L.A. Holmes

The long awaited follow up to Rick "L.A. Holmes" Holmstrom's "Look Out!" was finally released on March 21, 2000. The sound Holmes achieves on his guitar harkens back to the that of Bill Jennings or Guitar Slim with those tube amplifiers threatening to explode at any moment. This is some thrilling jump blues, Check it out!
Or as Jazz Times Magazine put it: "A purveyor of the raunchiest guitar tones since Willie Johnson recorded through ripped speakers on early Howlin' Wolf sessions, Holmstrom lets loose with raucous abandon on 13 jump blues and boogie originals like a kind of punk Pee Wee Crayton."

Duke Elegant

One more recent release that deserves your attention is "Duke Elegant" by Dr. John This new Blue Note release features the good Doctor's quartet: David Barard on bass, Bobby Broom on guitar and Herman Ernest III on the drums, also featured are Ronnie Cuber on saxophones and Cyro Baptista on percussion. How about some "Elegant Fonk"!!!

HotFoot Powder

I got my copy of the new Peter Green & Nigel Watson Splinter Group CD, "HotFoot Powder", on May 8th, just in time to celebrate Robert Johnson's birthday. This release was supposed to include the remainder of Robert Johnson's classic catalogue that were not covered on the the 1999 W.C. Handy award winning "Robert Johnson Songbook" but it seems like somehow, somebody forgot about "Kind Hearted Woman Blues". Despite this oversight, this is the Splinter Group's best effort yet. There are numerous guest stars here but no showboats. Let's all be grateful that Peter Green seems to be all the way back from the personal demons that were haunting him. By all means, check this CD out!!!

Son Seals

"Lettin' Go", the first new studio recordings from Son Seals in six years was released by Telarc Blues on April 25, 2000. This is one of Son's finest recordings yet and should help him to finally assume his position as one of the "Premier" Blues Artists of our time! Son also gets to "stretch out" a bit on this release with some of the songs having a distinct rock 'n roll flavor, some of them countrified and Trey Anastasio from Phish is even added to the mix to help update "Funky Bitch".
By all means, check it out !!!

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