Who could resist an album entitled Louisiana & New Orleans Southern Bred R’n’B Rockers (Koko Mojo Record Stack)? We're talkin' 28 seething slabs of Creole madness by the likes of “Hey “Piano” Smith and his Clowns, Blind Billy Tate, Smiley Lewis, Drifting Charles, Little Walter & His Jukes, Oscar McLollie and His Honeyjumpers (“Take Your Shoes Off, Pop”), Roy Brown and his Mighty Mighty Men, Fat Man Matthews and The Four Kittens, Richard Berry, Irma Thomas, Lonesome Sundown, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Lazy Lester. All tracks have been dusted off and revitalized and—best of all—the clinker quotient is oh so low.
Nina Simone, with her larger-than-life persona, remains a vibrant image today as an icon activist, feminist hero and heartstring-tugging vocalist, not to mention her way with the 88 keys of a piano. The gal was radical through and through. It’s one of the reasons why she is still so cherished today, 18 years after her death, and that’s why the release of Nina Simone: The Montreux Years (BMG/Montreux Sounds) is such a magnificent event. These rare tracks—some previously unreleased—are perfectly remastered, and come complete with voluminous liner notes and never-before-seen photography. She was unpredictable. She was mesmerizing. And she could attain heights of glory, some of which are captured here.
So many highlights! The debut ’68 show is astonishing. It forever bonded her with Claude Nobs (the festival’s co-creator/director). Glorious moments from ’68, ’76, ’81, ’87 and ’90 succeed in having her bare her soul. You get to know her in a way that hasn’t exactly ever even been attempted before on record! (The 2015 What Happened, Miss Simone documentary is devastating.) Now, on CD, she comes to life again.
Party For Joey: A Sweet Relief Tribute To Joey Spampinato (True North Records) not only provides funds for the seriously ailing bassist, singer and songwriter of NRBQ, it proves to be, in the words of Chuck Berry, a rocking little record you’ll want your DJ to play. Los Lobos, Peter Case, Steve Forbert, Bonnie Raitt and NRBQ's Al Anderson rock out to raise funds for the medical bills of NRBQ co-founder Joey Spampinato. Highlight? Ben Harper with Keith Richards, Don Heffington, blues-harp legend Charlie Musselwhite, Heartbreaker Benmont Tench and super-producer Don Was make for a helluva band on their pal Joey’s 1989 “Like A Locomotive.” The songs go back to the ‘60s and, like NRBQ itself, range from eccentric and rootsy to swinging, totally rockin' and jazzy. There is no doubting the veracity of saying that NRBQ is--and has been for decades--America's most deliciously eccentric band...and it's due, in no small part, to Joey.
Clint Morgan must revel in his role as a Troublemaker (Lost Cause Records). The Washington-state singer/songwriter/boogie-woogie piano player has crafted 15 great songs on his third album with help from Watermelon Slim, Kinky Friedman, producer Kevin McKendree (from Delbert McClinton’s band), “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin (from Muddy Waters’ band) and gospel quartet The McCrary Sisters. No wonder Clint’s got the blues! He seems to fall for all the wrong dames like “Hangman Woman” (“got a heart just like a noose”) and “My Honey Takes My Money.” Bravo! This one's a keeper.
All Tommy Z wants to do is Plug In And Play (South Blossom Records). To that end, the Buffalo Guitar Hero has enlisted A-Lister Tom Hambridge—who has won two Grammys with Buddy Guy—to produce, write, sing and drum. The result is a blockbuster: an hour of 11 power tracks where Z’s originals, his blistering lead ax, and his friendly vocals all coalesce into an action-ball of hard’n’heavy delight…big on the blues but incorporating the essence of rock’n’roll complete with flourishes of funk, jazz and pop.