Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Stephen Cooper And The Nobody Famous: “Stephen Cooper And The Nobody Famous” (2020) CD Review

Vocalist and saxophone player Stephen Cooper has played in several bands over the years, including The Groove Hogs. Now he is leading his own group, Stephen Cooper And The Nobody Famous, a lively and exciting band featuring an excellent horn section and bent on delivering delicious grooves. The band is made up of Stephen Cooper on vocals and tenor saxophone, Kurt Shipe on trumpet, Jack Naus on trumpet, Matthew Stiehr on trombone, Dan Zaffrann on baritone saxophone, Kelvin Kaspar on guitar, Matt Spatol on organ and piano, Greg Roteik on bass, and Chris Scheer on drums. Earlier this year they released their self-titled debut full-length album, and it is a lot of fun, mixing soul and rock, and featuring a lot of wonderful original material.

The disc’s first track, “My One And Only,” comes on like a deliriously cheerful pop song, with a catchy beat and some cool work from the horn section. Toss your cares aside, and while you’re at it, kick off your shoes and dance barefoot to this enjoyable opening track. “Would you be my one and only/The one that I’ve been dreaming of/I would never leave you lonely/Because you’ve been sent for me to love.” And by the end, it’s like he’s run out of words but still wants to sing about his love, and so does some vocal riffing. The track has that kind of joy, a joy that will likely transfer to anyone who listens. That’s followed by a cover of Adam Mackintosh’s “Higher Love.” The guitar at the beginning tells us this one is going to be more of a rock song. This one also quickly takes on a fun beat, and then the horns come in, and at that point obviously everything is absolutely fine. “Here comes your new tomorrow.” Well, all right, tomorrow is sounding pretty damn good. It’s about time, right? The energy is high here, particularly in that vocal performance, and then that fiery lead on saxophone near the end is bloody great. “Some Other Guy” also has a catchy rhythm. I particularly dig that bass line. “Life for us, it ain’t been easy/We’ve been miles and miles apart/And you might just think I’m crazy/But I loved you right from the start.”

“Don’t You Dare Say Goodbye” has a classic soul vibe. You know, back when R&B actually meant rhythm and blues. Something about this sound and this style, well, it just always works for me, and the passionate vocal delivery helps sell it as well. This is a wonderful track. And that saxophone seems like it is about to tear off into the heavens, leaving a bright streak in its wake for us to try to follow. That’s followed by a cover of Pat MacDonald’s “Invisible Pistols.” When this one kicks in, it has a heavier sound. “How many invisible pistols have been pointed at my face?/How many times was my risky business saved by heaven’s grace?/How many miles of whiskers have I shaved from my face?/How many gallons of your tears have come and disappeared without a trace?/I don't know.” We then get a good rendition of “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” a song written by Al Jackson and Timothy Matthews. It has a cool, kind of funky groove, and this rendition features some delicious leads, including on keys and guitar. That is followed by “Three Shades Of Black,” which comes on strong, the horns delivering some powerful, vibrant work. The music is a force that won’t be trifled with, so get on board and get the hell out of the way.

“It’s You” makes me smile like mad. This song has a classic, kind of sweet sound, and so the lyrics come as something of a surprise. “But I lied, cried and tried my best/To make things work, it’s true/Trouble is, it’s not me, it’s you.” And I love this line: “Trouble is your screws ain’t all in tight.” Yeah, there are a lot of memorable and good lyrics in this one, and “Well, a drunken fight won’t convince me you’re right” might be my favorite line of the song. Also, I love that stuff on keys. That’s followed by “Deeper Kind Of Love,” which features another strong groove. But it is that guitar lead in the second half of the song that really stands out for me on this track. A passionate cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” follows. Then the band delivers a fun song about dancing, “Dance With Me, Baby,” another track with a classic and kind of innocent sound. “If you hold onto me tight/It will be all right/They’re playing our favorite song/So dance with me, baby/Dance all night long.” This track features a cool bass line, as well as some nice work on keys. The album then concludes with “Welcome Home.” There is something about the concept of home that makes it a perfect subject for songs, and there are an many excellent songs about home, several of them titled simply “Home.” Anyway, this is a great closing number, with lines like “You’ve been searching all the time/For something you don’t need to find/So come home.” This song welcomes us home, so wherever we are, we feel at home. Though of course, in these days of the pandemic, the chances are pretty good that we are actually at home.

CD Track List
  1. My One And Only
  2. Higher Love
  3. Some Other Guy
  4. Don’t You Dare Say Goodbye
  5. Invisible Pistols
  6. Breaking Up Somebody’s Home
  7. Three Shades Of Black
  8. It’s You
  9. Deeper Kind Of Love
  10. I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
  11. Dance With Me, Baby
  12. Welcome Home
Stephen Cooper And The Nobody Famous was released on January 17, 2020.

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