funk rock

REVIEW: Richie Kotzen – Mother Head’s Family Reunion (1994 Japanese import)

Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.

 

RICHIE KOTZEN presents the Mother Head’s Family Reunion (1994 Geffen, Japanese with bonus track)

Did anybody really expect Richie Kotzen to stay in Poison?  The chances of that happening were always about as good as a Beatles reunion tour — next to zilch.  Kotzen’s talent burst at the seams that were Poison.  He could not have been content for long.  Post-Poison he resumed business swiftly with Mother Head’s Family Reunion, his fifth overall recording.

A funky “Socialite” demonstrates Kotzen’s diversity.  Drummer Atma Anur breaks it down while Richie brings the soul.  Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.   The soulful profile is on full display with “Mother Head’s Family Reunion” which sounds like a Black Crowes cover.  Switch to blues balladeering on “Where Did Our Love Go”, and “Natural Thing” brings it all the way to funk again.

Listening closely, Mother Head’s Family Reunion sounds a lot like Native Tongue, Phase II.  It’s that album, but beyond:  it’s Kotzen completely unleashed and without Bret Michaels.  You could easily imagine a track like “A Love Divine” on side two of Native Tongue, among the more grooving material.  That connects seamlessly with “Soul to Soul”, another bluesy ballad, with a summery feel.  “Testify” has a similar bright side, and a wailing chorus.

Cover songs can be shaky ground, and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sticks out like a sore thumb, a song from another era that doesn’t match up with Richie’s originals.  That’s not to say it’s bad.  Far from it — it’s one of the best covers of it that you’ll find.  It’s just on the wrong album, even as it jams on for seven minutes!

Through the last four tracks (“Used”, “A Woman & A Man”, “Livin’ Easy” and “Cover Me”) Richie and company rock it up and slow it down again with consistently impressive chops.  There are no weak songs, and Kotzen’s ballads have a genuine sound that stays timeless no matter the year.  The speedy funk-soul-metal soup of “Cover Me” concludes the standard domestic album by smoking your ears with blazing hot licks.

This album, long out of print, has been reissued in Japan with the bonus track intact, at a surprisingly low price.  (Amazon Canada had it in stock for $22.33.)  If you’re lucky enough to acquire it, you’ll get the extra song “Wailing Wall”.  Sometimes the Japanese fans got the best exclusives.  “Wailing Wall” is one.  It taps into the spirit of Tommy Bolin-era Deep Purple and it could be the best song of them all.

Easy decision:  Get some.

4.75/5 stars

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REVIEW: Trapeze – You Are the Music…We’re Just the Band (1972)

TRAPEZE_0001TRAPEZE – You Are the Music…We’re Just the Band (1972 Threshold)

Trapeze in ’72 was:

  • Glenn Hughes (future Deep Purple) – bass & vocals
  • Mel Galley (future Whitesnake) – guitar
  • Dave Holland (future Judas Priest) – drums

Due to the fame that this trio found fame separately elsewhere, Trapeze will be on interest to fans of classic British 70’s rock. Trapeze are a funky soul rock band — picture some of the funkier moments that Deep Purple were into when Tommy Bolin was in the band, and you are in the general ballpark.  The very first track “Keepin’ Time” easily could have been on Purple’s Come Taste the Band.  Not only is a high quality funk-rock song, but Mel Galley has some serious chops going on!


Personal highlights on this CD for me are the ferocious funk of “Way Back To The Bone”, the soul of “What Is a Woman’s Role”, and the solid rock of “Feelin’ So Much Better Now”. I also need to single out the track “Loser” as a great little lost funk rock gem. One thing is clear to anyone upon first listen: These guys could PLAY. Particularly with Holland and Galley, what they did later really was only the tip of the iceberg that is Trapeze. Hughes is in fabulous voice, at the very peak of his vocal powers, and this is essential listening for fans of the man that the Japanese call “The God of Voice”.

3.5/5 stars. A pleasantly perfect example of great 70’s soul/funk/rock!

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition)

STORMBRINGER OUTER FRONT

DEEP PURPLE – Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition, 2009 EMI, originally 1974)

Stormbringer, now available in the gloriously remastered series of Deep Purple special editions, is one of my favourite Purple platters. Now augmented with bonus material, it has finally been given the treatment it deserved. It’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, but Stormbringer has earned some begrudging fans over the years.  I for one find it a more enjoyable listen cover to cover than 1974’s Burn.

A lot of fans did not like the funkier, softer direction of the band. You can understand this, of course. A fan who loved In Rock, one of the heaviest records of any decade, could easily be turned off by the radio-ready soul funk of “Hold On”.  Blackmore himself decried the funky direction of the band.

Here’s the good news: Whatever Deep Purple set their minds to, they could do. And they could do it well.

STORMBRINGER CDBlackmore may not have liked the album, and he did take a step back in the mix, (you can barely hear any guitar on “Hold On”).  He could stilll adapt to and play any style. His playing here, while sparse, is sublime. Ian Paice takes to the funky rhythms very comfortably, laying down some excellent grooves. Jon Lord steps up to the forefront, supplying some excellent, funky keys.

There are a few songs that harken back to the past: “Stormbringer”, the title track, sounds as solid as any epic the band had ever composed. It could have been on Burn as easily as this record. In fact, it stands out as being out of place: As the opening track, fans must have been shocked and surprised when the rest of the album was so different.

Another song that has shades of older Purple is “The Gypsy”.   It’s a slow mournful piece, perhaps akin to “Mistreated” from the previous album.  The lyrics are uncharacteristically bleak.

One track showed an interesting glimpse of the future. “Soldier Of Fortune” is an acoustic track which forshadowed much of the music Blackmore would do with Rainbow, and even now with Blackmore’s Night. David Coverdale has performed it live with Whitesnake.  I think it’s one of Richie Blackmore’s finest compositions.

Of the other tunes, “Love Don’t Mean A Thing” is one of the funkiest, and one of the most entertaining.  It’s just fun to listen to.  David and Glenn co-sing this one.  Ritchie’s solo is very understated, but appropriate.  Glenn takes his first solo lead vocal with Deep Purple on “Holy Man”, a soulful ballad.  “You Can’t Do It Right” features probably the funkiest guitar work of Blackmore’s career.  It’s fascinating to listen to, and the band really cooks on this one.  It’s one of the most extreme experiments of this funky Purple period.

As with all the Purple reissues, this has been lovingly remastered. Finally you can discard your original CD, mastered for digital ages ago, but never really letting the subtleties of the music shine. Stormbringer, of all the Deep Purple albums, perhaps has more subtleties to hear due to the quieter nature of the music.

STORMBRINGER DVDBonus material?  Oh yeah, there’s bonus material, in this case four remixes by Glenn Hughes. These remixes don’t replace the original songs, but they do act as a companion piece of sorts. Fresh light is shed on alternate takes incorporated into the mixes, and “Love Don’t Mean A Thing” is extended by over half a minute. “High Ball Shooter” is presented in an early instrumental form as well.

As an added bonus, a second disc has been included. The second disc, exclusive to this edition, is a DVD containing the original 1975 quadrophonic mix of Stormbringer! Nice. Apparently, this disc is to be a limited edition so get yours while you can. I liked quite a bit, myself. As with many quad mixes from the 70’s, the songs often bear noticeable differences from the originals.  Quad was a gimmicky fad, by today’s standards, but listening to it with the benefit of hindsight is quite enjoyable.

Lastly, I must acknowledge the great liner notes. The most entertaining story included is in regards to “Love Don’t Mean A Thing.”  While in Chicago, Ritchie ran across a street busker, who was snapping his fingers singing a song about money.  Blackmore invited him onto Purple’s plane, collected Coverdale and Hughes, and jammed for 20 minutes with this guy who taught them the song and the lyrics.  The band finished the song that became “Love Don’t Mean A Thing”, credited to the entire quintet, because nobody ever bothered to get the busker’s name.

Pick up Stormbringer in this 25th Anniversary Edition, and finally you can feel comfortable discarding your original.

5/5 stars for both the music, and the reissue!

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Come An’ Get It (Remastered with bonus tracks)

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WHITESNAKE FRONT

WHITESNAKE – Come An’ Get It (EMI 1981, 2007 remastered with bonus tracks)

Come An’ Get It is my favourite Whitesnake album.  Therefore it’s a bit of a surprise that I still haven’t reviewed it.  On the other hand it’s always nice to leave some goodies for later and cherish them, I suppose?

The first time I heard this album was in 1990.  I had ordered the cassette from Columbia House, and brought it with me on a trip to go visit my cousin and aunt in Calgary, Alberta.  I remember I brought two brand new (to me) albums with me from that Columbia House purchase; the other was School’s Out by Alice Cooper.  I ended up loving both, not a bad trip eh?  Driving through the mountains with “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” by Whitesnake on the earphones was pretty fucking cool.

Come An’ Get It features this classic Whitesnake lineup, aside from David Coverdale himself:

  • Jon Lord – organ
  • Ian Paice – drums
  • Bernie Marsden – guitars
  • Mickey Moody – guitars
  • Neil Murray – bass

Basically, THE lineup of early ‘Snake.  In the liner notes, David says he finds this to be one of his most consistent efforts, and his favourite of the early band.

The incredible album kicks off with the flirtatious title track, Cov the Gov as cocky as ever, with this seasoned band behind him solidly grooving.  “If you want it, come an’ get it, I got something for you.”  And kids, I hate to break it to you, Coverdale’s “something” was not something innocent like candy or treats.

“Hot Stuff” is the second track, which changes up to a breakneck speed.  Lordy on the piano hammers away, keeping up with the furious pace of Paice and the 3 M’s – Moody, Marsden and Murray.  Another standout.

The single, “Don’t Break My Heart Again” is a bit more ominous, with Lord’s trademark Hammond organ carrying the song.  It’s a bit darker, a bit plaintive, David convincing us that he really is heartbroken, even though two songs ago he was begging some lovely lass to “Come An’ Get It”.  This is a standout song, with fantastically colourful solos and a memorable melody.  Shades of the Whitesnake to come.

The aforementioned blues, “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” follows.  It’s this kind of song that David really sinks his teeth into.  Moody and Marsden throw in plenty of bluesy licks, Lord with his Hammond colouring the backdrop.  Once again, David will have you convinced that somehow, he really is lonely.  Lonely, even though the very next song talks about how much he loves “Wine, Women An’ Song”!

“Wine, Women An’ Song” is actually my favourite tune on the album.  Coverdale is as cheeky as ever:

“If I can make you smile, I will raise my glass,
But if you don’t like it, baby you can kiss my ass,
Yes indeed…
You can tell me it’s wrong, but I love wine women an’ song!”

This barroom piano bopper is irresistibly catchy.  I’ve always been a sucker for past piano tunes, that’s why I love Little Richard I guess!  David’s done a number of these over the years (“Bloody Mary”, “Bloody Luxury”) but this one is my favourite.  And that ended side 1.

WHITESNAKE INNER

Side 2 kicked off with one of David’s more philosophical songs, a style he also does well.  “Child of Babylon” starts slow and bluesy but soon becomes something a bit more menacing.  This is another triumph.  “Would I Lie To You” returns David to his cheekier side.  “Would I lie to you…just to get in your pants?  I think so,” winks Cov the Gov.  This is just a fun Whitesnake tune, catchy, danceable, tongues in cheeks (just not necessarily the cheeks of the tongue’s owner).

My least favourite song is the next one, the slightly funky “Girl”.  The liner notes compare it to Deep Purple; I don’t think so.  Yes, both bands forayed into funk.  I think Deep Purple did it better than this.  Much better is “Hit An’ Run”, which drives.  This song kicks.  David’s vocal is perfect, and there’s even a talk-box solo, and then a killer slide solo!  What more could you want?

The final song of the original album was “Till the Day I Die”, another one of David’s perfect philosophical album closers.  He seems to like to close his albums with tunes like this, or “Sailing Ships”, songs with some mood and thought to them.  “Till the Day I Die” is one of the best ever, a dramatic, sweeping number that goes from acoustic to epic in under five minutes.

Martin Birch produced Come An’ Get It, as he did many ‘Snake platters.  It has a workmanlike sound, powerful enough, sonically clear, with excellent performances.  Slide It In is more powerful in the long run, but this is a step on that road.

There are six bonus tracks to keep you satisfied after the main meal.  Think of this as dessert, as these are unfinished or rough mixes of album tracks.  There is nothing especially revelatory here, but as added value, it’s nice to have these bonus tracks.  There’s some unheard stuff here, such as Ian’s count-in to “Child of Babylon”, nothing mindblowing, just nice to have to fill out the CD.  Some alternate vocals, solos, and so on.

The liner notes by Geoff Barton are excellent, loads of photos, lots of text.  Coverdale shows up to offer his perspective, and illustrates a harmonious band firing on all cylinders.

Keep in mind that context is everything, especially when it comes to music.  I have powerful memories of this album.  For you, it might not be worth it, but for me:

5/5 stars