Soul Book | Rod Stewart
One question we get hit with is "Why are all the albums you review given such high ratings?" The answer is simple. We try to review stuff we feel is worthy of your time and hard-earned cash.
Every once in a while an album lands on our desk that has us scratching our heads and asking, "Why?" And so it is with Rod Stewart's latest release Soul Book, released in the fall of 2009. Rod's work with The Jeff Beck Group and Faces is great Rock and Roll Hall of Fame material. Even some of his more recent solo albums, such as Atlantic Crossing, contain some gems, though in truth nothing comes as close as his work with the Faces.
Rod has always had the voice and a penchant for American R&B. And so this album finds him covering some of soul music's greatest hits. It's an embarrassingly unoriginal idea. His renditions of "This Old Heart of Mine," "I Know I'm Losing You," and the blatant rip off of the Betty Wright's classic "Tonight's The Night" are but a few examples. So Rod is a blue-eyed soul brother. To which we reply "So what?" What can we expect next? Rod Sings the Barry Manilow Songbook? Good grief.
This album is like Harley-Davidson making a new Indian motorcycle. It would still just be a Harley with an Indian emblem. Thus, the songs on Soul Book are quite listenable. And there's no faulting the production qualities or musicianship. But the original versions are way better still. Rod brings nothing new to the table in terms of originality or improvisation in covering songs like "If You Don't Know By Now," "My Cherie Amour," "Just My Imagination," "Tracks of My Tears," and the other classics in this album. Rod's renditions are like well-worn retreads-they may be ok, but hardly better than the originals and certainly not worth the money. C'mon Rod. Give Ronnie Wood a call and find your inner rock 'n' roll self.
Groove Alchemy | Stanton Moore
Here's something different. If your tastes run toward the funk side of things, or if you like Booker T and The MG's, Fred Wesley, and The Meters, then brother you need to get this album. Seems Stanton Moore is a drummer who's been involved in all sorts of his native New Orleans' funk-inspired projects. And in attempting to advance the theory of funk, Mr. Moore has concocted Groove Alchemy, a wildly sensational album that seeks to expose the very essence of funk to those of us lacking funk-ucation. Trust me; you'll hardly miss the vocals.
If you have a decent-sounding sound system on your bike, think of this album as a strenuous workout routine for your speakers. Stanton Moore literally pounds the skins off the drums while the remaining members of the trio-organist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard-contribute mightily to the overall groove sensation. Walter sounds like a psychedelic reincarnation of the late, great Jimmy Smith. Meanwhile Will is channeling everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Nile Rodgers. Can you say Wah Wah pedal? Can all of this music be coming from just three dudes? Indeed, the songs on this album will have you bobbing and weaving your way through your favorite stretch of highway. Every track offers up its own lesson in funk-tology. And it's no wonder, as Stanton is a one-man army, very much in demand for drumming duties and is also involved in a myriad of humanitarian, music preservation, and educational projects in post-Katrina New Orleans. The digital age may have given us drum sampling but Stanton Moore is proof that the computer is no replacement for the actual thing. If you wanna hear what real music is supposed to sound like, give the drummer some, as they say, and go buy this CD.
Face The Promise | Bob Seger
While we were asleep at the handlebars, Bob Seger-quietly it seems-released a new album...four years ago. Maybe this says something about the promotion machine behind the album, or maybe we were just left off the list the first time around. No matter, because listening to Mr. Seger is like getting reacquainted with an old familiar friend. On Face the Promise Bob's hair may be greyer, but his voice shows no sign of aging. And while he may not be singing about night moves or Hollywood nights, the subject matter nonetheless remains relevant-at least to this decidedly older audience member.
Bob re-visits the common themes of life, love, the highway, suspended dreams, and things that matter. Oh, and drinking too. All fine by me. A little rock 'n' roll maturity never hurt anyone and besides, Bob never dressed in spandex. Intentional or not, over the years Bob has given us some great biker anthems, "Roll Me Away," "Travelling Man," and "Against the Wind" to name a few. And all provide good background music for a ride. This time around, Bob serves up another classic for the open road in "Wait for Me:"
I will answer the wind
I will leave with the tide
I'll be out on the road
Every chance I can ride...
Recorded in Nashville, there's tinges of modern country; even a guest appearance by Patty Loveless. And a neat surprise awaits in a duet with fellow Michigander Kid Rock on Vince Gill's "Real Mean Bottle." Seger belongs to that holy triumvirate of modern American working class rock heroes, along with Springsteen and John Mellencamp. They write songs that are relevant to us as regular Joes that just happen to ride. Too bad we can't get all of these guys on stage together-now that would be a ticket! Let's all hope Bob will return to the road one more time. Or at least keep dropping albums, if only occasionally.
Flashback Of The Month
Easy Rider Soundtrack Deluxe Edition | Various Artists
By now, it's been pretty much established that the movie Easy Rider is to bikers what Endless Summer is to surfers. The movie has become part of modern pop culture and is practically begging for an updated remake (hello Hollywood, are you listening?). And we can all rest easy knowing that one of biker nations' first counter-culture heroes, Peter Fonda, is actually a decent guy and shares a passion for motorcycles. He may not ride Captain America, but at least he rides.
So it's no surprise that a few years ago some enterprising marketing person thought it would be a good idea to expand the original movie soundtrack by some 19 songs; nearly tripling the total song count. Nevermind that the additional 19 songs have nothing to do with the original movie. Classic Rock excess? Hardly. The added tracks by Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Procol Harum, Blue Cheer, and others provides a backwards glimpse at the turbulent times of 1967-69. Plus, we finally get The Band's "The Weight" which was in the original movie but left off the soundtrack album due to contractual reasons. Marketing exercise or not, it's a pretty cool idea.
However, thanks to the iPod, one can, in theory, create his or her own Easy Rider soundtrack without having to worry about artist clearance issues. We'd add The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and Santana to the mix. But this CD set also includes some great time-warp nuggets-stuff you may not think of when creating your own. For example, there's "Mendocino" by the Sir Douglas Quintet, "My Uncle" by the Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Seeds' "Pushing Too Hard." If nothing else, this makes for another cool birthday idea for the biker in the family.