Tag Archives: featured

sweet

The first single I ever bought was ‘Co Co’ by The Sweet, back in 1971. The second was ‘Alexander Graham Bell,’ by The Sweet. Over the years I gathered five of the band’s albums on vinyl and several compilations on CD.

You see, despite the stick I took at school, I was and am, proud to be called a Sweet fan. I guess I enjoyed being different.

Back in the early Seventies, my protestations that they were not simply a bubblegum pop band, and could rock it out with the best of them, fell on the deaf ears of Clapton and Zeppelin supporters. (Clapton fans must have been deaf, in my opinion, but that’s for another article!)

Bearing in mind Sweet have been around for over fifty-one years (with a couple years hiatus in the early ’80s) various line-up changes have been inevitable, not least due to the ill health and subsequent passing of Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker.

For a while two versions of the band existed; Andy Scott’s here in UK and Steve Priest’s in USA. Sadly, only Andy now remains of the original line-up – but he continues to uphold the ‘classic’ line-up’s legacy of of all those years ago.

Now though, with the very experienced touring musicians in Lee Small (bass) Bruce Bisland (drums) and Paul Manzi (lead vocals) Sweet have settled once again as a four-piece and continue to perform in front of sell-out crowds across Europe. In fact, their Covid-delayed ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour due to kick off towards the end of November.

In the spring of 2021, the new line-up released their ‘Isolation Boulevard‘ album – a re-recording of hits from the classic era of the band, together with an inventive cover of Hello‘s ‘New York Groove,’ and the December 2020 single, ‘Still Got The Rock.’ This is a really interesting album – all the songs are indeed very familiar, not straying too far from the original versions which is what you’d want to hear if going to a show. Yet is IS different. There is a deeper resonance, perhaps down to more advanced recording techniques but emphasized by Paul’s vocal delivery.

Naturally, many of the old hits will feature in the upcoming ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour and it was while rehearsing songs for the shows, that Andy decided what should become the new / current single.

During the rehearsals for Sweet’s forthcoming ‘Hellraiser’ tour in November and December 2021, we were trying out various songs from our back catalogue that could be added to the set list. As soon as I heard Paul Manzi and Lee Small’s vocals on the song ‘Everything,’ I knew that we needed to get it down and record it as our new single.” 

The song ‘Everything 2021′ is a totally new recording. It was originally featured on the album ‘Sweetlife‘ released back in 2002. “I think the new version is a far superior production,” says Andy. “It’s much closer to how I envisaged it when I co-wrote the song back in the day.”

Andy Scott
(Photo: Darren Griffiths)
Paul Manzi
(Photo: Darren Griffiths)

I agree. This new version has more ‘oomph.’ More ‘balls.’ Also, in Paul Manzi, Sweet have a specialist and focused singer. The earlier, 2002 version, was recorded with bass player Jeff Brown doubling up on vocals when then frontman Chad Brown unexpectedly left the band mid tour due to ill health.

The track has a kind of European / German rock sound to it, which is perhaps not so surprising considering the band seem to have spent so much time touring in that area over the years.

So, yeah – once a Sweet fan, always a Sweet fan. The musical landscape has shifted enormously during their life-span. They have seen disco, punk, post punk, grunge, indie, baggy, and many more genres emerge, overtake, then fade.

I’ve grown up with Sweet and while change is good and inevitable, life is sometimes even better for the comfort of constants.

The Glam may have faded ... but the Rock lives on!

(Just for old time’s sake! )

memory of a melody

I remember writing about San Antonio, TX band, Memory of a Melody in an earlier incarnation of Loud Horizon. I was pretty glowing in my review of their release at that time, and I’m not going to be any different this time around.

I have a feeling that the new single ‘Rise Up,’ may come from the same three song ‘Burn Alive‘ EP as did the excellent ‘Mary Go Round,‘ which is posted at the end of this piece.

‘Rise Up,’ is a fast and furious anthemic song of positivity. It’s the type of song that’s sure to get things kicking off big time down in the mosh pit!

Once again, we’re presented with melodic metal of the highest order. Gruff, abrasive vocals are surrounded by boisterous gang harmonies, pounding drums and screaming guitar. Not all ‘metal’ songs could be termed ‘melodic,’ but I guess this is in part at least, where the band’s name derives. ‘Rise Up,‘ is actually catchy as hell!

I like also the nod to punk / Oi! music with the ‘Hey! Hey!’ chants that intersperse the verses.

Yeah – my mosh pit days may be well behind me now, but if MoaM ever head over to Glasgow, you’ll definitely find me tapping my feet at the side of the stage!

Love it.

**********

(Just in time for Halloween, here’s a sinister sounding song to set you on edge…. earlier single release, ‘Mary Go Round.’)

mayfield’s mule

If I’ve been puzzled when writing previous posts as to how and why certain albums from the Sixties and Seventies achieved ‘cult’ status, then I’m completely flummoxed as to why THIS, recorded in 1970, has NEVER been released in UK.

Had it not been for me re-reading the sleeve notes to my Sweet albums, I would never have stumbled across this one. You see, I noted Sweet guitarist Andy Scott had previously played with this band. He didn’t actually play on the album, joining after its recording, and his stay was short-lived as the group disbanded not too long after.

It’s amazing though, how a little bit digging around reveals gems like this.

From North Wales, Mayfield’s Mule was formed by guitarist Chris Mayfield in 1969. Chris had previously played with several notable bands of the Sixties, including (the original) Nirvana and Ian Hunter. However, becoming a bit disillusioned at how his music career was panning out, he joined Amen Corner as a roadie.

It was when that band’s sax player, Mike Smith was presented with a few demos of Chris’s own work, that fortunes changed, leading eventually to a record deal. Gathering around him Pete Saunders (keyboards), Steve Bradley (bass) and Sean Jenkins (drums) Mayfield’s Mule was born.

The new band quickly recorded three singles on Parlophone, which between A and B sides swing from heavy rock to blues and country. Over the winter of 1969 / 1970, an album was cut at Abbey Road studios. All tracks were written by Chris himself, and the album covered many bases. Laced liberally with Hammond organ, I guess I’d sum the eponymous album as a blend of Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Canned Heat, meets Mungo Jerry, meets Deep Purple. It depends really what track you listen to!

P.P. Arnold contributes backing vocals on the album which was engineered by Alan Parsons. Mike Smith was also on co-production duties and he’d later join the band himself. So, some ‘big hitters’ were involved with the band at this stage.

Amazingly, for whatever reason, EMI decided against releasing the album in the UK. It did, though, secure a release in Uruguay of all places. Apparently the band had no input or indeed any notion that this was happening!

Not long after this, Andy Scott, who had played with drummer Sean Jenkins in The Elastic Band, joined …. which is where we came in.

(The album has subsequently been released – 2007 -in CD format by the Italian label, Night Wing, but that’s about as far as it goes. Any takers here in the UK?)

MAYFIELD’S MULE
Chris Mayfield – Guitar / Vocals
Steve Bradley – Bass / Backing Vocals
Sean Jenkins – Drums
Pete Saunders – Keyboards
+
‘Moxie’ Gowland – Harmonica / Flute
Andy Scott – Guitar
Mike Smith – Saxophone / Tambourine

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
(Drinking My) Moonshine 7″ single1969Parlophone
We Go Rollin’7″ single1970Parlophone
I See A River7″ single1970Parlophone
Mayfields Mule LP1970OdeonOnly released in Uruguay.

bliss

Bliss was born from the ashes of U.S. garage band, The Sect, who were formed in 1966 in Mesa, Arizona by high school students, Brad Reed, Rusty Martin, Corky Aldred, Tom Smith and J.R. Lara.

Initially, the band were very much influenced by the sound of the British Invasion bands and were soon taken under the wing of radio DJ and producer, Hadley Murrell who introduced them to the recording process in his studio.

Two years down the line, all five members had graduated from school and decided to call a halt to the band. However, a short while later, Martin, Reed and Aldred got the bug once more, decided to reform as a power trio, and rechristened themselves, Bliss.

Still with producer Murrell guiding them, they recorded one album with the Los Angeles based Canyon Records in 1969. This does seem a strange choice of label to align with as they were more focused and famed for producing R&B, soul and funk artists, rather than psych and heavy rock.

Inevitably, through lack of promotion and given such low priority by Canyon Records, the album simply fell through the cracks. (So, it would seem, did much in the way of information about the band.Photographs too.)

The album resurfaced over twenty years later, when collectors of psych records picked up on the heavy, bluesy sound and original copies began to change hands for increasingly high sums of money, in some cases over four hundred pounds.

Of course, when this happens, albums are given a new lease of life via reissues, which allow the likes of you and I to add them to our collections.

‘Bliss‘ the album is nowadays considered a cult psych classic, and some tracks do certainly have that feel to them. Of the nine tracks, six are originals ‘ Ride The Ship of Fools, features hard, fuzz-wah guitar, driving bass and pounding drums. ‘ ‘Cry For Love‘ has a feel of The Zombies‘Time of the Season’ and ‘Visions‘ echoes Cream.

There are a couple of weaker tracks, it has to be said. ‘Make My Old Soul New’ in particular. But there are also three pretty solid covers: ‘Gangster of Love‘ I recognised from Johnny Winters‘ version of this Johnny Watson song; ‘I Want to be Free,’ a Joe Tex original and a good interpretation of B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby.’

Overall, this is a decent, solid, heavy rock album, I think boosted some years ago by attaining ‘cult’ status.

Originals worth £400+? I’m not sure. Certainly on rarity and ‘collectible’ tag, then probably. But if like me you buy records for listening to, then I think the regular album price of £20 – £25 is more in line with the content.

BLISS
Brad Reed – Guitar / Vocals
Rusty Martin – Bass
Buford ‘Corky’ Riley Aldred – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Ride The Ship Of Fools / Gangster Of Love 7″ single1969Canyon Records
BlissLP1969Canyon Records



leaf hound

Leaf Hound were one of those bands who seemed to morph naturally from the Blues and R&B boom of the late Sixties into a heavier rock centred band of the early Seventies.

The band’s origins lie in the blues rock of South London band, Black Cat Bones, which at one point counted then future Free guitarist, Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke in their number.

When, in the latter half of 1970 Rod Price left to join Foghat, remaining members and brothers, Derek and Stuart Brooks enlisted the vocal talents of Pete French and his guitarist cousin Mick Halls.

(If Pete’s name rings a bell, it’s because he would later join Atomic Rooster performing vocal duties on their 1971 ‘In Hearing Of‘ album. He would later also play with US band, Cactus, featuring Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice )

With the addition of Keith George Young on drums, the band were re-named Leaf Hound and began gigging around UK, gaining quite a reputation for their brand of raucous rock.

A deal with the Decca label wasn’t long in being offered and by the end of 1970, ‘Growers of Mushroom‘ was recorded – legend has it, in eleven straight hours in Mayfair’s Spot studios.

Strangely though, having toured Germany, the album was licensed to that country’s Telefunken label before being released in UK. Even more weird, was the album being produced without either the title track (see top of post and ‘Freelance Fiend‘ which opens the subsequently released UK version.

In the autumn of 1971, ‘Growers of Mushroom‘ was finally granted its UK release, but by that time, the band had called it quits and all moved on to other projects.

Their legacy is this storming album of heavy rock. It may be pretty generic stuff, at times sounding like Jethro Tull, (the title track and ‘Sad Road to the Sea’) and others with hints of Led Zeppelin / Free, but it does have a character of its own and the more I listen to it, the more I love it!

I should add that my copy is a re-press on the Akarma Record Label. It’s not an original 1971 Decca release, copies of which sold for £4732 and £4218 via Discogs in 2019! This makes the album one of the most expensive major label recordings of the Prog Rock era.

In 2004, Pete French and Mick Halls formed a new version of Leaf Hound, recording an album ‘Unleashed‘ which was well received on release in 20007. I believe they continue to perform live to this day.

This is them back in 2012.

LEAF HOUND
Pete French – Vocals
Derek Brooks – Guitar
Stuart Brooks – Bass
Mick Halls – Lead Guitar
Keith George Young – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABEL NOTES

Drowned My Life In Fear / It’s Gonna Get Better
7″ single1971TelefunkenListing only the releases from the initial incarnation of the band.
Leaf HoundLP1970Telefunken
Growers Of MushroomLP1971Decca



gerry jablonski & the electric band

(Header photo by Star Shots Photography.)

(Latest single – September 2021)

Classic Rock magazine couldn’t have put it any better when they wrote about Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band, ‘…. the best band you never heard of.’

It was towards the back end of 2008 when session drummer of some reknown, Dave Innes, approached established bluesman, Gerry Jablonski with a view to forming a band. The latter, though he’d fronted several bands in the past, had spent several immediate years prior performing solo acoustic blues sets, and took some persuading.

Some months later, now in 2009, the insistent Dave had put together the line-up he’d been pursuing, and with himself on drums, Gerry on guitar, Grigor Leslie on bass and Pete Narojczyk on harmonica, they played at an open mic night in their home city of Aberdeen.

Taking heart from the positive reaction and feedback, the four started writing their own songs and three months later they played their first ‘proper’ gig. A month after that, and the debut album had been recorded!

Released in 2009 through local label, Fat Hippy Records, the eponymous debut opens with ‘Breaking the Stones,’ a swamp blues stomper which I think also echoes early Free. It sets the precedent for what follows – an album of blues maturity and variation. Mainly upbeat and bouncy blues rock, Pete’s harmonica playing trades space with Gerry’s guitar, typified on ‘Blues Power‘ when you could just so easily be listening to Mark Feltham (Nine Below Zero / Rory Gallagher) and Roy Buchanan.

It would be two years before the follow up came along, ‘Life At Captain Tom’s’ which references the rehearsal and recording studio in Aberdeen. (I mentioned above how I could hear a Free influence poking through various tracks – on this album there is a song called ‘Koss,’ a tribute to the original Free guitarist, and weaving several of the band’s song titles into the lyrics.)

Another two year gap, and album number three was released, ‘Twist of Fate.’ Again, a clean sounding rocking blues album of ten tracks. The opening and closing tracks especially (‘Slave to the Rhythm‘ and ‘Suzi Sunshine’) are more palatable, I’d think, to commercial daytime radio than would be a more traditional blues song. ‘Dave Says,’ a jazz infused blues instrumental is my favourite, though. Just sayin’.

Fate however dealt the band a tragic hand the following year, with the passing of founder member / drummer, Dave Innes, following a long battle with stomach cancer.

He had acknowledged his destiny however, and was insistent that the band should continue with a replacement. And so with the comfort of his blessing, and Dave’s own recommendation, Lewis Fraser was invited to join.

And so has it been since. 2015 saw the release of studio album number four, ‘Trouble With The Blues‘ and the ensuing years have seen two ‘Live’ album releases. Their heavy blues sound is enhanced, I feel, on these ‘live’ recordings,

Goddamn,’ is the first recording since 2018’s ‘Live at The Blue Note,‘ album.

The video for this, shown at the opening of the post, has an interesting twist: Crystal Head Vodka, the brand set up by actor / comedian Dan Akroyd in 2008 decided they’d like to co-produce the video, and use it to feature their product in a forthcoming promotional campaign!
(Happy to oblige with with a wee additional plug!)

Now the UK music scene is slowly awakening from its enforced torpor, Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band are back out and about, looking to pick up in recent months where they left off, selling out shows in mainland Europe as well as at home.

They’ve certainly been welcomed back enthusiastically, recently selling out their headline show at the Rory Gallagher Festival in Ballyshannon. As a diehard Gallagher fan myself, I know just how discerning Rory fans can be, so this is high accolade indeed!

They’ll be on my gig list for next year, that’s for sure.

Remaining gigs for the current year can be found on the Gerry Jablonski Band website.

(Photo: MB Photos Scotland ) – 2018

GERRY JABLONSKI & THE ELECTRIC BAND
Gerry Jablonski – Guitar / Vocals
Peter Narojczyk – Harmonica 
Lewis Fraser – Drums / Backing Vocals
Grigor Leslie – Bass / Backing Vocals

+
David Innes – Drums / Backing Vocals ( 2009 – 2014)

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Breaking The Stones ‎CD Album2009Fat Hippy RecordsThis is the self-titled debut album, but listed as ‘Breaking The Stones’ on Discogs
Life At Captain Tom’s CD Album2011Fat Hippy Records

Twist Of Fate
CD Album2013Fat Hippy Records
Trouble with The BluesCD Album2015Unknown
LIVE TroubleCD Album2016Unknown
Heavy Water Double-A-sided single2017Unknown
Live at The Blue NoteCD Album2018Unknown
 Goddamn7″ single / CD2021Unknown



fuzzy duck

Fuzzy Duck released just five hundred copies of their only album in 1971, resulting in original copies now fetching up to £900. The interest in the band these past fifty years has led to many re-pressings and re-issues. Some, like my copy, have added as bonus tracks, the band’s two singles and their respective B-sides.

Formed in 1971 in North London, their sound was principally of a heavy progressive rock nature, built on a foundation of hammond organ, time signature changes and elements of jazz .

The guitar and organ combine seamlessly and I’d say there are future echoes of Uriah Heep in here. That may not be too far from the truth, for though he didn’t join Heep, organ player Roy Sharland was previously a member of Spice, who were indeed the mighty Heep’s first incarnation.

The track above, ‘Mrs Prout,‘ is typical sounding of what the band were capable of – I just love how the track uses that shuffling drum sound, mixed with a rolling bass line. The second half of the track I’m sure must have been in the subconscious of The Stone Roses when they wrote ‘Fools Gold.’

Looking at the credits on the album sleeve, only four band members are listed. However, from what I can make out, guitarist Garth Watt Roy was also in Fuzzy Duck. Indeed, he wrote their first single, ‘Double Time Woman,’ and contributed to the writing of two other ‘bonus tracks’ on the album. I can only assume he had moved on before the album was recorded?

(The aforementioned track and the other two in which Garth was
involved, differ, I think from the others in that they have that sharp edge of Atomic Rooster poking through.)

What interested me here, though was the surname, Watt Roy. Not a common one in the music business back in the early Seventies, I’ll wager. I checked, and my hunch was correct – Garth is the older brother of Norman Watt Roy, who played bass in one of my favourite bands, Glencoe.

It’s such a shame Fuzzy Duck din’t leave more of a legacy. This album has seen more visits to my turntable these past few weeks than any other in my collection. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in early Seventies rock.

(I don’t think this video was issued by the band, but the track is the album closer, and shows the lads had a good sense of humour!)

FUZZY DUCK
Mick Hawksworth – Bass
Roy Sharland – Organ
Paul Francis – Drums
Graham White – Guitar / Vocals
Garth Watt Roy – Guitar

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Double Time Woman 7″ single1971MAM
Big Brass Band7″ Single1971MAM

Fuzzy Duck
LP1971MAM

rich chambers

The late Seventies, here in UK, was the place to be if you enjoyed variety of musical genres. For me as a kid, I graduated through Glam Rock to Heavy Rock to Punk to Reggae and then Rock ‘n’Roll / Rockabilly. I’m glad to say, these were not just whimsical fads I was passing through – they still form the basis of my record collection and listening pleasure to this day.

It’s easy to see then why I was drawn to this track.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Rich Chambers was determined from a very early age that he was going to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. However, several years of touring the local toilet circuit for the sake of a pint or two of the local craft lager made him re-consider. For a while.

He returned to his studies and gained a degree in English and latterly, a Masters in Humanities. But the music still burned within him, and actually the hook to the chorus of this song came about rather randomly as he walked to his car in the parking lot for the University.

Although the harmonies had been brewing for many years, it is only now, with a bit more ‘life perspective,’ that Rich has been able to match the tune to a reflection of High School experiences and use that as a metaphor for how we perceive our dreams and innocence of youth.

This three minute rock ‘n’ roller has been billed as Buddy Holly mixing it with Green Day; rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of added modern spike.

Me? I’m reminded of the vibrato tremble of The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey‘s voice and the melody and fun attitude of The Vandals. And there’s certainly a bit of old school punk bounce to the bassline, if you listen.

The lyrics may take a slightly cynical look at the missed opportunities of our youth and how decisions taken so young can impinge on the rest of our lives, but hey ….. it’s fun tune!One to put a smile on your face and get your feet moving.

I like it!

(This was the second of four singles released so far this year by Rich. The video has been receiving really positive feedback from several Film Festivals.)

tear gas

TEAR GAS: line-up #2, who recorded the debut album ‘Piggy Go Getter.’
(Back row, left to right: Davey Batchelor, Chris Glenn & Wullie Munro,)
(Front row, left to right: Eddie Campbell & Zal Cleminson.)

***Photo, by John Young in the dressing room of The Electric Ballroom, Glasgow – June 1969)***

It feels a little strange, sitting here at home outside Glasgow, Scotland and writing about one of our city’s most famous ‘unfamous’ bands. I mean, everyone knows that members of Tear Gas ultimately joined forces with Alex Harvey to form ‘The Incredible Alex Harvey Band,’ right?

At least, that’s what was proclaimed on the sticker that adorned the sleeve on my copy of their re-issued debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ A bit of a ‘Sensational’ cock-up, by the record company, I’d suggest.

Playing the local Glasgow circuit as The Bo-Weavels, the band changed their name to Mustard, when vocalist George Gilmour left. Andy Mulvey, formerly with top Scottish beat band, The Poets, stepped in,

More changes would follow with Mulvey himself moving on. Wullie Munro signed up, taking over on drums. He was backed up in the rhythm section by new bass player Chris Glenn, while Eddie Campbell came in on keyboard duties. Joining forces with the two remaining members of The Bo-Weavels / Mustard, Davey Batchelor and Alistair ‘Zal’ Cleminson, it was decided that another name change was in order, and, in keeping with the ‘mustard’ theme, I guess, the band were re-named, Tear Gas.

They were billed as a ‘heavy rock’ outfit, though I find that hard to comprehend from their debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ Most of the tracks are pleasant enough, but pretty much soft rock at best, and not so memorable, if I’m honest. The second side of the album has a bit more of a rock edge and perhaps the final track, ‘Witches Come Today,‘ was a better indication of what was to come with the follow-up.

(Tear Gas – second album.front cover.)

The eponymous, second album, now with Ted McKenna on drums, is much more like what I would have expected from a band who were scouted by Alex Harvey when looking for a ‘backing band.’ Having lost his brother, Les, guitarist with Stone The Crows, and who was electrocuted during the soundcheck for a show in Swansea, Harvey searched for solace in his work. He had previously been working with the stage musical, ‘Hair,’ in London but now sought to embark upon a solo career … if only he could find the right band.

Following the release of the second album, Ted Mckenna’s cousin, Hugh Mckenna joined in place of keyboard player Eddie Campbell. Hugh would also take on lead vocals when Davey Batchelor left to pursue a career in production.

The resultant line-up of Zal Cleminson, Chris Glenn, Hugh McKenna and Ted Mckenna was the one ‘spotted’ by Alex Harvey, and though the band had some misgivings about their new ‘boss’ (Alex was about fifteen years older for a start) and his rather autocratic attitude, they realised they had probably gone as far as any ‘big fish in a small pond’ could and …. well, the rest is history as they say.

TEAR GAS
(Ultimate / Final Line up)
Zal Cleminson – Guitar / Vocals
Hugh McKennna – Keyboards / Lead Vocals
Ted McKennna – Drums
Chris Glenn – Bass / Vocals

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Piggy Go GetterLP1970Famous
Tear Gas LP1971Regal Zonophone

joanne shaw taylor

(Photo: Christie Goodwin)
(Track # 8 from the new ‘The Blues Album.’)

Joanne Shaw Taylor has come a long way since being ‘discovered’ by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart – and not just geographically, relocating from her home in the Black Country, England, to Detroit, USA.

Now widely regarded as the UK’s premier blues rock guitarist, she is set to release album number eight on September 24th. ‘The Blues Album’ was recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville by blues legends Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, both of who guest on the eleven track album of blues covers.

Joanne and Joe had been friends for many years, initially meeting when Joanne opened a show for a young Joe Bonamassa some while back. Since then they have kicked ideas about and learned from each other.

So when the pandemic struck and normal life was no more, Joanne, like the rest of the world, finally found herself with some time on her hands.

“I’d known from the beginning of my recording career that one day I wanted to record an album of blues covers, I just wasn’t sure when the right time to do that would be,” says Joanne. “I’ve always found it far easier to write my own material than come up with creative ways to make other artists’ material my own.

That time was now!

(Photo by Christie Goodwin)

I mentioned my new project idea to Joe Bonamassa,” recalls Joanne. “He asked me for my song choices. Immediately he began sending me notes and was texting me song suggestions.

He was already acting as a mentor as well as an unofficial producer on The Blues Album, so I asked him if he’d fancy the job, officially,” says Joanne. “Thankfully, he accepted. The Blues Album has been everything I hoped it would be. It’s been a labour of love, overseen by an artist, producer, and friend who I trust beyond measure.

The covers on ‘The Blues Album,‘ are not your regular fair. Joe, having seen Joanne perform so many time previous, made it clear from the outset that he wanted her to push her voice. He felt, not unnaturally, that her virtuoso guitar playing overshadowed her voice, and there was more to give, vocally.

The songs the pair settled upon, I think offer that opportunity. They may not be the obvious blues standards, but there are some by likes of Albert King, Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green and Magic Sam. Others that Joanne pays tribute to include Little Village, Little Milton, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and James Ray.

Some of the tracks were initially B-sides of singles, and so with Joanne’s personal and unique interpretation, the whole album sounds so fresh and new.

Album opener ‘Stop Messin’ Around,’was written by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and released in 1968, This version has a more ’rounded’ feel to it I think. The guitar doesn’t sound quite so harsh, the jazzy, boogie piano break from Reece Wynans adds a real party feel, while Joanne’s voice has a wee added snarl to it.

‘If That Ain’t A Reason,’ has Joanne sounding pretty sassy in a more full sounding and slightly more uptempo version of the Little Milton number, the horns and guitar melding into a loud and punchy number.

‘Keep On Lovin’ Me’ is the Blues mixed with a bit swing. A bouncy bassline drives this along, with powerful vocals and guitar solos from Joanne, who feel she has managed to encapsulate the feel of booth the Magic Sam and The Paladins‘ versions.

‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’ was originally recorded by James Ray in 1961, though Joanne says she was more familiar (as was I) with the Aretha Franklin version. I can also hear a little bit of Bonnie Raitt in the vocals here,

The next track is on the album courtesy of a suggestion by co-producer Josh Smith. It’s Little Village‘s ‘Don’t Go Away Mad.’ and features Joe Bonamassa guesting on guitar and vocals, It”s certainly different to the other tracks on the album, and actually reminds me very much of Van Morrison’sBright Side of the Road.

I have no idea about the following short instrumental, ‘Scraps Vignette.’ Neither, it appears, does Joanne:
“We were working on another cover, and when we got to the studio, it just wasn’t working. We ended up having the band change the vibe completely. When I returned home to Detroit, I got in Rustbelt Studios with Al Sutton to put down the vocal, but it still wasn’t working. I believe Josh kept the take without the vocal and edited what we have now which is “Scraps”.

‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me,’ was originally a Stax release from Albert King. This is a tremendous cover – full sounding and brooding, it’s one to listen to. I mean really listen – there’s so much loaded into this one track between the horns, prominent bass, Joanne’s searing guitar work …. I hear something different every time I play this.

‘Let Me Down Easy‘can be heard at the top of this post. Another Little Milton song, Joanne’s voice take on a more gritty, slightly rasping tone … like a pared back Janis Joplin even.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds song, ‘Two Time My Loving‘ was suggested by producers Joe and Josh and is a real toe-tapper. I think it’s one of those songs you don’t realise you know until you actually hear it!

‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got,‘ is a real smoky blues number, with such a soulful Hammond organ, and warm sounding horn section the underpinning features, with Joanne’s guitar moodily working over the top. Says Joanne:
“I’m a huge Little Richard fan this has long been one of my favourite songs. In fact, this was the first song I selected to put on this album. Little Richard didn’t perform or record too many ballads, so I think it’s a particularly stand-out track for him in my eyes. Having Reese Wynans playing keys on it was brilliant, given that Reese had worked with Little Richard.”

The album closes with a more upbeat number, again chosen by Joe and Josh – ‘Three Time Loser.’ I can’t say exactly why, but for some reason this track reminds me of one of my favourite artists, Frankie Miller. I’ve checked, and it’s not n any of his albums as far as I know …. but anyhow, that’s a pretty big compliment, right there!

Here’s a wee taste of what to expect on this album:

MUSICIANS INVOLVED WITH THE RECORDING.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Guitar / Vocals
Josh Smith – Guitar
Reece Wynans – Keyboards
Greg Morrow – Drums
Steve MacKey – Bass
Steve Patrick – Trumpet
Mark Douthit – Saxophone
Barry Green – Trombone
+
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar / Vocals on ‘Don’t Go Away Mad’
+
Mike Farris – special guest on ‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got.’

(Photo by Christie Goodwin)

Joanne Shaw Taylor’s “The Blues Album” is released by KTBA Records on September 24th via www.ktbarecords.com