Saturday, January 5, 2019

Listened to lately - Eric McFadden, Mike Sponza, and the Allman Goldflies Band

Eric McFadden – Pain By Numbers

I’m liking this.  With his scratchy voice, and often equally scratchy, squalling guitar, Eric McFadden’s primary setting is rugged post-British Invasion American rock.  But there’s more to the San Franciscan than that.  I’m smelling the late Sixties.  I’m smelling Creedence, peace and love, and jam bands.  Or maybe I'm on completely the wrong scent!
If ‘While You Were Gone’ is a bluesy stomp, with a squealing guitar solo, then ‘Love Come
Eric McFadden doesn't it do it by the numbers
Rescue Me’ is an uplifting, post-Beatles response to the oddity and despair of some biblical episodes, with surging, gospel-like organ from producer Tab Benoit (whose presence is itself an encouraging sign) and scurrying bass from Doug Wimbish.  ‘The Girl Has Changed’, meanwhile, is pumped up, champing at the bit R’n’B.
‘Fool Your Heart’ starts out as a cool rumble before morphing into a catchy AOR affair with a raw, Keef-like solo, while ‘The Jesus Gonna See You Naked’ is a gritty slice of bump’n’grind that could have gospel, Prince and Zeppelin in its genes.
Then by way of variation, at one end of the spectrum you get the simple and effective acoustic blues ‘Never Listened Too Good’, with its tasteful solo and hint of the sax line from Springsteen’s ‘Spirits In The Night’, and the virtuoso Spanish guitar vibe of the closing ‘Cactus Juice’.  At the other end there’s the heavy, doomy ‘Skeleton Key’, and the supercharged Delta boogie of ‘If I Die Today’, with the rhythm section of Wimbish and drummer Terrence Higgins clattering along in helter skelter fashion.
McFadden and co may show a tendency to go for a stomping beat once or twice too often.  But leaving that quibble to one side, Pain By Numbers ain’t painful at all – it’s a pleasant surprise.

Pain By Numbers is released by Whiskey Bayou Records.

Mike Sponza – Made In The Sixties

Italian guitarist and producer Mike Sponza has a long list of credits to his name, and the fact that this collaboration with one-time Cream lyricist Pete Brown was recorded at Abbey Road Studios suggests that they mean business.  Made In The Sixties is an interesting concept, devoting a song to each year of the decade, and it’s packaged in some imaginative artwork by Romeo Toffanetti.  But it’s also flawed in several respects.
The musicianship on display is good, and the arrangements are satisfying, starting with the loping soul-funk of ‘1960 – Made In The Sixties’, and continuing with the likes of the Latino vibe on the clunkily titled ‘1962 – A Young Londoner’s Point Of View On Cuban Crisis’, which features a nice trumpet solo from Chris Storr and effective percussion from Mauricio Ravalico, and on to the surging riff and waves of organ on ‘1967 – Good Lovin’’, to which Michele Bonivento adds a satisfyingly soulful organ solo.
But too often the melodies are samey, and if I’ve rarely been impressed by Pete Brown’s lyrics in the past, he’s done nothing to change my mind here.  They’re schoolboy-ish fare, especially when evoking the Cold War on ‘1961 – Cold, Cold, Cold’ and the aforementioned 1962 outing, and there are strained rhymes scattered throughout.
What’s more, Sponza may be a decent guitarist – he delivers some stinging licks and a tidy wah-wah solo on the closing ‘1969 – Blues For The Sixties’ – but he ain’t no singer. Regular readers will know that dull vocals don’t cut it here at Blues Enthused.  You can have an average voice and still be convincing if you invest it with personality, but Sponza barely rises above the mediocre on his four outings – though even he does better than Brown, who is inexplicably let loose on the 1962 offering.
Things improve greatly when Nathan James brings genuine feel, range and soul to ‘1963 – Day Of The Assassin’, and when Dana Gillespie gets to grips with ‘Good Lovin’’, but even Eddi Reader can’t do much to enliven the sluggish ‘1965 – Even Dylan Was Turning Electric’.  Rob Cass has a decent stab at ‘1968 – Just The Beginning’ though, using a megaphone effect to suggest the street demonstrations of the time.  But it’s a pretty anodyne slice of soul for the subject matter, and though Bonivento’s use of a celesta adds a warm vibraphone-type sound,
Gary Allman and AGB chums
it’s scarcely evocative of the subject.
Made In The Sixties is a good idea, but less than effectively realised.  The musicians do their best, but they’re fighting an uphill battle in light of the vocals and the limitations of the material.

Allman Goldflies Band – Second Chance

Yep, there’s another member of the Allman clan doing their thang now folks.  In this instance it’s Gary Allman, cousin to Greg and Duane, who has hooked up with former Allman Brothers Band bassist Dave Goldflies to form the Allman Goldflies Band.
Goldflies is apparently something of a bass icon, and even takes a solo on the opening ‘Ever Been So Lonely Baby’.  And to be fair, his six-string bass playing is stylish throughout – which is just as well, because it’s pushed well forward in the mix.
Allman, meanwhile, contributes keyboards and groaning vocals, as well as some tasteful, patient slide guitar on the otherwise mundane “missing my baby while I’m on the road” fare of ‘Pretty Green Eyes’.
There are good things on Second Chance, most notably the guitar work of Joe Weiss and Matt Siegal, which is frequently subtle and understated, but all the more effective for it, with some jazziness here and there that I take to be the work of Chicagoan Weiss, who apparently has a jazz background. Together they contribute some nicely double-tracked lines, and some interesting moaning, string-like effects, to ‘Standing In The Georgia Rain’, as well as some satisfyingly ‘Jessica’ like licks on ‘Southern’s All I Ever Want To Be’, to make up for some clichéd lyrics.
There’s also a decent guitar contribution from Luthor Wamble, on ‘You Gave Me Love’, a pleasant enough but derivative ballad undermined by some all too lazy words.
Elsewhere there’s the country-leaning ballad ‘Yesterday’s Blues’, with more good guitar work and a ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’-style organ motif in the background.  ‘Can’t Turn Back Now’ is a funky affair, riding along on tip-tapping cowbell and a bumping bass line from Goldflies.  And incognruously, Goldflies also contributes ‘Fadiddle’, an instrumental that begins with a sombre, mournful intro from acoustic guitar and Goldflies’ fiddle, before coming over all Gogol Bordello, en route to a showdown with the Devil in Georgia by the sound of it.
If you’re a sucker for Southern rock then by all means give Second Chance a spin, and see what you reckon.  But for me it’s lacking the depth to make a real impact.

No comments:

Post a Comment