Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bobby Patterson: “I Got More Soul!” (2014) CD Review



A lot of what is called R&B these days has neither R nor B. So it’s great to hear a new rhythm and blues album that is steeped in blues and soul, with lots of great rhythms. This album is a serious amount of fun, while the quieter songs (like “Let Me Heal It”) also work beautifully. This is mostly original material, but has a great, timeless feel, from an amazing singer who earlier this year turned 70 but sounds much younger.

I Got More Soul! opens with its title track, a ridiculously fun tune, with a beat to get you dancing. This song features horns and a bit of boasting:  Like the finest wine, I’m here to stroke your mind.”  This song also mentions fellow musicians Little Johnny Taylor, Al Green, and BB King.

That’s followed by “Your Love Belongs Under A Rock,” one of only two covers on this album. It begins with a classic groove that immediately gets me smiling. It’s a song about a woman who is just no good; after all, she has “the heart of a cobra,” as Bobby Patterson tells us. Understandably, he decides: “I got to put you down, woman/You’re getting out of control.” And then there is a fantastic sax lead toward the end. “Your Love Belongs Under A Rock” was written by Mick Collins and originally performed by The Dirtbombs. The album’s other cover is Sly & The Family Stone’s “Poet,” capturing the groovy, funky feel of the original.

Bobby Patterson then brings things down a bit for “Let Me Heal It.” I really love his vocal performance on this track. There is something so tender in his voice, like his voice itself has the power to help and heal. He’s trying to make us feel good, and he's succeeding. “Why don’t you talk to me/So I can see, baby, what I can do/Try to get through to you/Come on, baby, just reveal it/Whatever’s ailing you, I can heal it.” This wonderful track is one of my favorites.

“I Feel The Same Way” has a nice, easy groove, reminding me of some of Sam Cooke’s material, like “Good Times.” It’s a sweet love song, with lines like “Now I wrote this song to show you how I feel/Even though I tell you every day/We took the time to make the thing real/You’ve heard it all before, but I really want to say/I feel the same way about you/Don’t think I could live without you.”

Things get a bit funky with the sexy “Can You Feel Me?” This song features some very cool work on bass. “Well, I’m one of a kind/And I’m here to shock your mind/Can you feel me.”  There is some intimate-sounding spoken word vocals over a groovy jam toward the end.

There is also something intimate and so bloody honest about his delivery of “I Know How It Feels.” This is another highlight for me. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever fall in love again/Or if she’ll come back – she might come back and ease my pain.” I love his delivery of “She might come back,” full of hope and yet also, most likely, delusion. This woman is gone, and deep down he knows it. But when he starts to think about possibly falling in love again, his thoughts and his heart immediately turn back to this woman, which is so sad. I love this song.

Things then turn toward gospel with “Everybody’s Got A Little Devil In Their Soul.” The Relatives provide backing vocals on this track. Sure, the song is a bit repetitive, but it’s delicious. The album concludes with “The Entertainer Pt. 1,” which features some more delightful (and humorous) boasting: “See, I’m the real deal with the master skills, and the longer you listen the better you feel” and “I don’t care if you’re in the ‘hood or in the trunk/Ain’t no way you can get away from my funk/I’m the entertainer.” And I love this line: “I got something for everybody that woke up on the right side of the wrong bed with a bad head and no bread/Ha ha, it's called soul.”

CD Track List

  1. I Got More Soul
  2. Your Love Belongs Under A Rock
  3. Let Me Heal It
  4. I Feel The Same Way
  5. Can You Feel Me?
  6. Poet
  7. It’s Hard To Get Back In
  8. I Know How It Feels
  9. Everybody’s Got A Little Devil In Their Soul
  10. The Entertainer Pt. 1

I Got More Soul! was released on July 22, 2014 through Omnivore Recordings.

Vogue Dots: “Toska” (2014) CD Review



Vogue Dots are a Canadian electronic pop duo made up of Babette Hayward and Tynan Dunfield. Toska is their debut release, an EP full of slower grooves and interesting, somewhat haunting vocals. Three of the five tracks are originals. They also cover a couple of fellow Canadian artists – A.A. Wallace and Cousins.

“Skinny Thing” starts off in a kind of pretty mood, then takes on more of a club beat, though still with a slower groove. It’s when the vocals come in that I begin to really appreciate what they’re doing. Babette Hayward has a good voice, and the vocals have a light, ethereal quality. Also, there is kind of a 1980s vibe to the song during the verses which I really like. “I’ll let the symptoms save me/Or just play the baby/Why can’t you pull your weight/Freedom makes you hesitate.

They follow that with a cover of A.A. Wallace’s “Temporal Suspension,” kind of a slow tune with a steady rhythm. In Babette’s vocal delivery, she seems to hold back a bit, to keep something from us. “I don’t believe that a temporal suspension is out of reach/I don’t believe that a massive collision is all we need/To prove that we’re alone, there’s nothing where we’re going/So we should fight the future because it’s so impressionable.” And a few minutes in, her vocals seem more at a distance for a moment, like she’s getting lost or enveloped by the surrounding sounds, by the environment she finds herself in. I really like this track a lot. There is more of a beauty to this version than is heard in A.A. Wallace’s original. By the way, I love the line “As far as evil goes, it keeps me on my toes.”  

That is followed by the EP’s other cover, Cousins’ “Thunder.” Vogue Dots’ rendition is quite a bit different from Cousins’ original. This has a harder, tenser, more industrial sound at the beginning. Babette’s vocals then come floating in through the surrounding static, and they have an almost angelic quality at first, in wonderful contrast to some of the sounds.  She then breaks through, suddenly closer to us, but even then there is something of a distance, as her vocals are like a repeated message coming over the radio waves, while the thumping of our own heartbeat seems in the fore. As always, I could do without the rain sound effect at the end. (It’s not in the original.)

“Mercy” has a strange, otherworldly feel to it, like breath pulled in hard, a reversed life, but with gorgeous, angelic vocals over it. A voice from beyond, perhaps, but friendly, gentle, pretty. This, to me, is the most intriguing track of the CD.

“Turns And Turns” begins with an electronic landscape, just this side of dreaming. It then comes in as a wonderful pop song, perhaps the closest to a mainstream feel of all the tracks, but certainly not dull. In fact, there is something quite beautiful here, and it might be the CD’s strongest track. It’s always interesting to see which lines are chosen for repetition. Here, it is “Honey, I’m bored.” Seamus Dalton plays guitar on this track.

CD Track List

  1. Skinny Thing
  2. Temporal Suspension
  3. Thunder
  4. Mercy
  5. Turns And Turns

Toska was released on May 6, 2014 on Indica Records.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Keith Allison: “In Action/The Complete Columbia Sides Plus” (2014) CD Review



Before joining Paul Revere And The Raiders, Keith Allison appeared on the television show Where The Action Is in the mid-1960s. He was also recording with several artists at this time, including The Monkees. And in 1967 he released the LP In Action, featuring the song “Action, Action, Action,” which became the theme song for Where The Action Is. He also recorded several singles for Columbia.  In April, Real Gone Music released In Action/The Complete Columbia Sides Plus, which includes Keith Allison’s LP, In Action, plus his Columbia singles (and one single on Amy). It’s a great collection of music.

In Action opens with “Louise,” a good rock tune with excellent vocals, a great energy and a good beat. He delivers the lines with an occasional snarl. The lyrics give a description of Louise, with lines like “She thinks without no reason/That girl is out of season” and “Her head goes round and round and round.”

The Monkees

Keith Allison co-wrote one of my favorite songs, “Auntie’s Municipal Court,” from The Monkees’ The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. And on In Action he covers two Monkees songs. Well, technically the first, “I’m A Believer,” is a Neil Diamond song. This is a fun rendition, fairly faithful to The Monkees’ version. (Keith also covers Neil Diamond’s “Do It.”)

The other Monkees song Keith covers on the LP is the Boyce and Hart composition, “I Wanna Be Free,” which Davy Jones sang on the Monkees’ first record. It’s not one that is often covered, and Keith Allison does a good job with it.

Donovan

He also covers my two favorite Donovan songs – “Colours” and “Catch The Wind.” He takes “Colours” and makes it more of a country rock song, and it totally works. I really like his version a lot. It has a wonderful feel to it. There is some nice work on harmonica during the instrumental section.

“Catch The Wind” is my favorite Donovan song. Donovan himself has approached this song in many ways over the years, and each version has worked brilliantly. This is an inherently excellent song. Keith Allison starts his rendition like Donovan’s first folk version, then lets the song build, adding country-rock elements, and it sounds beautiful. This song works for me every time. And Keith’s version is a little longer, which is nice.

“Freeborn Man”

Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few versions of “Freeborn Man.” It’s a wonderful song, and here is the original version, co-written by Keith Allison and Mark Lindsay, and it is absolutely delightful. This country-rock gem has some fun lyrics, such as these lines: “I pick oranges down in Florida/I pick cotton in Alabam/I pick walnuts up in Oregon/I pick a guitar when I can.” And of course, these: “You may not like my appearance/You may not like my song/You may not like the way I talk/But you like me when I’m gone.”

“Action, Action, Action”

“Action, Action, Action” is the song used as the theme for the television show Where The Action Is. It was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and it’s a fun, innocent kind of rock tune, even including hand-claps. The mono single version is also included on this CD.

“I Ain’t Blamin’ You”

Keith Allison has a lot of control over his voice, and can do a lot with it. Compare his delivery on something like “Louise” or “Action, Action, Action” to his delivery on the sad and pretty “I Ain’t Blamin’ You.” Written by Al Stillman and Joe Brooks, “I Ain’t Blamin’ You” was released as a single in 1966.

Its flip side, “Look At Me,” is one Keith Allison wrote and which at the beginning reminds me quite a bit of Buddy Holly’s “Words Of Love.” I love the harmonica on this track.

Keith Allison tackles a couple of good old rock and roll tunes in his medley of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” As you might expect, this track is a whole lot of fun, bursting with energy.

“Toad Jam Blues” is a cool instrumental track with a nice groove. Written by Keith Allison and Mark Lindsay, this is a track I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. It's the only instrumental track on this CD.

“Everybody”

This collection is rounded out with Keith Allison’s 1970 single, “Everybody.” This is another fun track, one he wrote, which features some delicious work on guitar. Its flip side is the beautiful “Wednesday’s Child,” which Keith wrote with his then-wife Judy Allison and Mark Lindsay.

CD Track List

  1. Louise
  2. I’m A Believer
  3. Freeborn Man
  4. Lies
  5. I Wanna Be Free
  6. Colours
  7. Good Thing
  8. Action, Action, Action
  9. Catch The Wind
  10. Leave My Woman Alone
  11. Do It
  12. Action, Action, Action
  13. Glitter And Gold
  14. I Ain’t Blamin’ You
  15. Look At Me
  16. Who Do You Love
  17. I Don’t Want Nobody But You
  18. Birds Of A Feather
  19. To Know Her Is To Love Her
  20. Johnny B. Goode/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  21. Toad Jam Blues
  22. Everybody
  23. Wednesday’s Child

In Action/The Complete Columbia Sides Plus was released on April 1, 2014 through Real Gone Music.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peter Himmelman at The Federal Bar, 7-20-14 Concert Review



Peter Himmelman performing "Kneel Down"

Peter Himmelman’s new CD, The Boat That Carries Us, is one of my favorite discs of the year, and today I finally got a chance to see him perform in concert. He played at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood as part of the Mimosa Music Series put on by Gary Calamar, DJ for KCRW.

I got there early, as I am wont to do. Well, I’d been given three different start times for the show – 11, 11:30 and noon. I figured the earliest call was out, so I left my apartment at 11. It’s so great to attend a concert that is within walking distance of home. When I arrived, The Beach Boys’ “The Warmth Of The Sun” was playing, and on the television screens was some warped children’s program, The Bugaloos. It seemed a bit too early for that. Or perhaps a bit too late, as my acid days seem to be behind me (though you ever know).

I took advantage of the free mimosa ticket I was handed on the way in. I’d never had a mimosa, didn’t know what it was, but alcohol seemed to be key. The other ticket I was given was for a free bagel. I love bagels, but bagels and alcohol are certainly an odd combination, so I passed on the bagel. Well, after one sip I learned something about myself: I don’t like mimosas. Turns out it’s made with champagne, and I have never cared for champagne.

By this time, The Kinks were playing on the speakers: “This Time Tomorrow,” from one of my favorite records, Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One. It was followed by one of my all-time favorite songs, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” and I was suddenly in a fantastic mood. The mimosa was even beginning to taste good.

And moments later, Eric D. Johnson, or EDJ as he goes by these days, opened the show. He took the stage at 11:48 a.m. (so none of the times were correct – okay then), and did a really nice solo acoustic set, focusing on material from his upcoming CD release. His second song had the lines, “Even though it’s been so long/Even though I got you for a song,” which made me laugh. It’s a funny expression coming from a singer/songwriter, because it can certainly have an added meaning, and perhaps a more literal one. At one point during his set, he thanked the folks for being there, and said, “It’s my favorite of all the breakfast shows I’ve done,” which got a laugh. You might know Eric D. Johnson from the band Fruit Bats, and he did play “Singing Joy To The World” (from their 2009 album The Ruminant Band). He also played a couple of covers – Ted Lucas’s “I’ll Find A Way To Carry It All” and Robyn Hitchcock’s “Trams Of Old London.” He has a great voice, and the new material is excellent. I particularly liked “Mostly Just Fantasies.”

Peter Himmelman then took the stage at 12:35 p.m., kicking off his set with “Kneel Down” (from Imperfect World). He played acoustic guitar, accompanied only by Jimmy England on percussion. He joked, “I should have planned my set better.” He immediately created a connection with the audience, joking with a family about their children drinking beer. As he started the next song, he said, “I made up this thing, it’s called the blues.”

Most of the rest of the set was made up of songs from his new CD, The Boat That Carries Us.  He played “Mercy On The Desolate Road” on piano, saying that he’d never played it on piano before. It is one of my favorite songs on the CD, and it sounded so beautiful today. That’s one he played unaccompanied. After that song, he joked about how the presence of children in the audience changes his show significantly, that for example there would be no devil worship. Then he actually stepped out into the audience with the microphone, and asked the children directly what they thought of their parents.

Some folks shouted out requests for “Mission Of My Soul,” and so Peter Himmelman played it, asking Rachel Assil to come up from the audience to join him on vocals. It was a really good rendition. And he followed it with another of my favorites from the new CD, “For Wednesday At 7 PM (I Apologize),” which he performed on piano. He did “Tuck It Away” on piano as well, this one unaccompanied (though he said if anyone in the audience had a trumpet, now was the time to break it out – no one did).

After “Afraid To Lose,” he talked about The Who and played just a bit of “Magic Bus,” and then played a nice long improvised song about Gary Calamar and The Federal Bar. Toward the end of the song, he invited Rachel Assil back up to join him on vocals, which she did. While singing this song, Peter joked, “By the way, this show ended ten minutes ago.” He then traded hats with an audience member, did a short improvised piece about him, and then finished the show with the new album’s title track.

This was one of the best concerts I’ve been to this year. It was a ridiculous amount of fun. If you ever have the opportunity to see Peter Himmelman in concert, I highly recommend you do so.

Set List

  1. Kneel Down
  2. (blues song – I’m not sure of the title)
  3. Green Mexican Dreams
  4. Mercy On The Desolate Road
  5. Mission Of My Soul
  6. For Wednesday At 7 PM (I Apologize)
  7. Tuck It Away
  8. Afraid To Lose
  9. Gary Calamar (Sunday Morning)
  10. The Boat That Carries Us

The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. The next show in the Mimosa Music Series is Phil Alvin and Dave Alvin, on August 3, 2014.

Here are a few photos from the show:

EDJ performing "A West County Girl"
"Kneel Down"
"Mission Of My Soul"
"Gary Calamar"
"Gary Calamar"
"The Boat That Carries Us"