Monday, December 18, 2023

Mike Zito & Albert Castiglia - Blood Brothers: Live In Canada

Reviewing these guys' Blood Brothers studio album back in March, I expressed a “nagging feeling that this album could have been so much bigger, so much bolder – a fusion of Zito and Castiglia to blow the bloody doors off”.  Well, friends, I am here to tell you that THIS IS THAT FREAKIN’ ALBUM!
From the minute they crack open ‘Hey Sweet Mama’, everything is just as it should be.  The Quo-like boogie-ing riff rings out like a bell to pave the way for a Skynyrd-like blast of rocking blues, their voices fitting together perfectly as Mike Zito provides high harmonies to complement Albert Castiglia’s growl, while Lewis Stephens flings in piano trills as an extra spark.  Oh yeah, and there are rock’n’rollin’ solos from both parties to top things off.
"Hey Mike, I think he likes it!"

The following ‘Tooth And Nail’ confirms that they mean business.  It starts off as a sturdy strut, with harmonised guitars cranking out its ‘Green Onions’-ish riff, with slamming punctuation from the doubled up drums of Matt Johnson and Ephraim Lowell and a snarling vocal from Castiglia.  But it builds up a head of steam through rollercoaster passages of slide guitar, till it turns into a tyre-squealing, siren-blazing, bodywork-crunching car chase of a thing.
And so it goes on.  ‘In My Soul’ is a Southern-sounding epic to give recent leaders of that pack Robert Jon & The Wreck a run for their money and then some, bringing together spangly, mirrorball-like strumming, thudding drums, sweeps of organ, and more great harmonies, before lifting off into a whole other, stratospheric level of spiralling guitar and Zito singing feelingly that “I need love in my soul”.  ‘A Thousand Heartaches’ opens with simple chords and a tumbling guitar line, as a precursor to the swoonsome melody that illuminates its achingly romantic lyric, with dashes of perfectly complementary piano and organ.  With all its light and shade, and a stunning, intense solo, it’s a real delight.
Ten of the eleven tracks on the studio album feature, but the likes of ‘No Good Woman’ and ‘My Business’ seem transformed.  The former is a relaxed, loping blues of the kind Zito has made a speciality over the years, and in this rendition is bristling with character.  Meanwhile John Hiatt’s ‘My Business’ rides a Willie Dixon-style Chicago blues riff that sounds like it’s being attacked by a panel beater with a grudge, and features a screeching, buzzsaw-on-metal slide solo to go with the acidic distaste of the vocals.
Fans of the Allmans are likely to drool over ‘Hill Country Jam’, a lengthy but structured instrumental that evolves from its loose, conversational opening full of neat guitar harmonising into a funky strut that’s the cue for a pumped-up organ solo from Lewis Stephens, building until they downshift into a breezy section. There’s fine guitar work and clever shifts in pace, with swinging drums and grooving bass from Doug Byrkit, culminating in several minutes’ worth of bass and drums showcases – some of which is even quite interesting.
More pointed is the bitter, teeth-gritted slow blues ‘You’re Gonna Burn’, on which Castiglia observes convincingly that “I don’t get mad but I get even, if it takes me a hundred years”, and adds a fiery guitar solo to live up to the title.  And ‘Bag Me, Tag Me’ is a burst of heads down, no nonsense rock’n’roll, like Chuck Berry hopped up on amphetamines, fit to make you to dance like no-one is watching.
Which just leaves two tracks that didn’t feature on the studio outing.  Firstly there’s a laid back rendition of Zito’s atmospheric, swaying ‘Gone To Texas’, extended to accommodate guitar harmonies and counterpointing that eventually resolve into the theme from ‘Jessica’ – a trick that’s become a cliché nowadays, but I’ll let ‘em off on this occasion.  And then they close by laying waste to all and sundry with a pulverising, guitar-scrambling, neck-snapping take on ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ that does justice to Neil Young’s frothing rage.
In short, Blood Brothers – Live In Canada is 78 minutes of electrifyin' bluesifyin’ from two of the good guys, and you need it in your life. But check your insurance, because it may indeed blow your bloody doors off.
Blood Brothers – Live In Canada is out now on Gulf Coast Records.

1 comment:

  1. Saw three of these concerts INCREDIBLE shows!