Posts Tagged ‘Reprise’

The Kinks: The Essential Kinks

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Kinks_Essential30 years of pivotal music on two fully-packed CDs

The Kinks touched so many musical bases that two full CDs (79 minutes each!) can still only outline their story. They blazed the British Invasion’s trail with “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” and supplied a steady stream of ever-more finely-written hits into the early ’70s. In parallel with their singles success, the band’s vocalist and primary songwriter, Ray Davies, wrote compelling B-sides and sketched out thematic collections that turned into a string of inventive concept albums. Davies ruminated on British culture, society, working class life and schooling, show business and the record industry in ever-more ambitious and increasingly theatrical productions that couched his lyrical alienation in satire, nostalgia and music hall tradition.

Banned from performing in the U.S. from 1965 until 1969, the band’s success on the American charts quickly faded. But elsewhere, particularly in their native Britain, they continued to land hit singles (including “Dead End Street,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Death of a Clown” and “Autumn Almanac”), and their albums continued to attract critical praise. Although the band returned to the U.S. in 1969 to promote Arthur, “Autumn Almanac” signaled the start of a fallow commercial period, with a brief respite from 1968’s “Days.” At the same time, Davies was crafting what was to be among the Kinks’ most revered albums, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Though not a commercial success at the time of its release, Village Green has grown to be the group’s best selling album, and the album track “Picture Book” gained belated exposure in a 2004 HP commercial. By 1969 the group reestablished themselves commercially with the singles “Victoria,” “Lola” and “Apeman,” and the well-regarded albums Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One and Muswell Hillbillies. The latter represented their shift from Pye/Reprise to RCA, and unfortunately for the latter’s immediate commercial returns, Davies’ preoccupation with theatrical concept albums led to a string of early ’70s releases that failed to garner any singles action. On the other hand, the albums slowly rebuilt the group’s album sales in the U.S., and led to renewed chart action later in the decade.

Davies finally moved on from writing rock operas (and the Kinks from RCA to Arista) with 1977’s Sleepwalker, and the group returned to the American charts with the album’s title track. Their next few albums found an audience with U.S. record buyers, and the band became a regular concert draw. The latter success was memorialized on 1980’s Top 20 One for the Road, and represented here by live versions of “Lola” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.” Two years later the group had their last major commercial success with State of Confusion and the single “Come Dancing.” The latter even broke through to MTV with a heavily spun video. The group’s remaining albums, through 1993’s Phobia, garnered less and less commercial attention, as did their singles, though they did continue to find a home on rock radio into the early ’90s.

Legacy’s 2-CD, 48-track, 2-hour and 39-minute collection does an admirable job of surveying the group’s lengthy catalog, covering early mono productions (disc one, tracks 1-13), UK and US hits, deeply-loved album tracks, concert favorites and live performances (including a terrific 1972 rendition of “Till the End of the Day” drawn from the CD reissue of Everybody’s in Show-Biz). The timeline spans releases from Pye/Reprise, RCA, Arista and Columbia, and stretches from the band’s primal first hit, 1964’s “You Really Got Me,” to their final release for Columbia, 1993’s “Scattered.” Absent are stellar early B-sides like “I Gotta Move” and “Come On Now,” tracks from Schoolboys in DisgracePercy and the band’s two 1980’s album for MCA, but what’s here paints a compelling overview of a band whose three decades of music outstripped even the sizeable recognition it’s received over the past fifty years. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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The Electric Prunes: The Complete Reprise Singles

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Mono mixes of the Electric Prunes’ singles 1966-69

For those who weren’t there in ’66 and ’67, the oldies radio shorthand for the Electric Prunes has been their one big hit, “I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night),” as anthologized (as the lead off track, no less) on Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets compilation. The few strokes of shading inclues their chart follow-up, “Get Me to the World on Time,” and an oft-anthologized ad for Vox Wah-Wah pedals. It’s an abbreviation that shortchanges the band’s recorded legacy. Reissues of their albums along with single- and double-disc compilations (including Birdman’s Lost Dreams and Rhino’s Too Much to Dream) expanded the group’s posthumous reputation, and are now joined by this collection of twenty-four mono single mixes. As a group whose tenure spanned across AM Top 40 and the birth of underground FM radio, their singles are just as interesting as the stereo album tracks.

Like several other groups of their era, including the Chocolate Watchband and Grass Roots, the Electric Prunes name was applied to several wholly different aggregations of musicians. The original lineup shifted subtly through the group’s first two albums (I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and Underground), but with their third, the David Axelrod-produced orchestral Mass in F Major, the original band essentially broke up. The album was completed with studio musicians, and its follow-up, Release of an Oath, was produced similarly by Axelrod. The final album released under the Electric Prunes name, Just Good Old Rock and Roll, was recorded by a newly recruited group of musicians, wholly unrelated to the original lineup.

The singles gathered here span all three eras of the Electric Prunes – variations of the original lineup on the first two albums (1-12, 15 and 24), the Axelrod years (13-17), and the “new and improved” lineup (18-23). Original members James Lowe and Mark Tulin appeared on two of Axelrod’s productions (“Sanctus” and “Credo”), but the compositions and productions are so far divorced from the group’s earlier garage psych as to be nearly unidentifiable as the same band. The new lineup held on to only hints of the original group’s roots, bringing hard rock, boogie, funk and soul sounds to the Electric Prunes name.

As latter-day prune Richard Whetstone notes, the group’s identity remains anchored to the garage psych of their hit single and first two albums; the follow-on material remains more curious footnotes than integral parts of the legend. The collection’s rarest find, the one-sided single “Shadows” (from the film The Name of the Game is Kill) turned up on Rhino’s earlier compilation (along with mono mixes of the band’s early A-sides), but here proves itself the last gasp of the original Electric Prunes sound. Getting the group’s entire legacy of mono singles (including the bleeped-for-airplay version of “You’ve Never Had it Better”) is a great find for collectors, but those new to the group’s catalog should start with the first two albums. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Frank Sinatra and Count Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

The Chairman meets the Count

The twenty tracks collected here pull together the original line-ups of 1962’s Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First and 1964’s It Might as Well Be Swing. Both albums found Sinatra in superb voice, complete command of his material and leading Basie’s band from the singer’s seat. Unlike his early days as a big band boy singer, Sinatra doesn’t have to dodge and weave around the instrumentalists; Neil Hefti and Quincy Jones penned the arrangements in consultation with the vocalist, and the band hangs on his every word. Basie may have been the band leader, but once Sinatra opened his mouth, the instrumentalists took their cues from the Chairman.

By the early ‘60s, Sinatra was in the third phrase of his career – having transformed from big band singer to crooner to ring-a-ding-ding label owner.  In his late ‘40s, the feeling of freedom in his singing was never stronger. He dances through the lyrics as if he was singing extemporaneously, expressing himself rather than the thoughts of a songwriter, and the arrangements push him to great heights. Basie’s band (and for the second album, orchestra) swung hard, ranging from jazzy piano, bass and percussion interludes to full-out horn charts. The sections play with a coherence that’s sublime, and the soloists are given space to weave their own magic, including especially fine moments from flautist Frank Wess.

Sinatra’s records at Capitol may have represented his greatest sustained period of artistic achievement, but his years on Reprise often consolidated and exploited what he’d learned. His sessions with Basie, particularly the first, were a master class in tone and phrasing. Basie’s greatest artistic growth had similarly occurred in earlier decades, but he retained nealy unparalleled talent for accompanying a singer – supporting the vocals as the primary mission, but finding room for the band to be heard. Hefti and Riddle’s contributions can’t be overstated, picking songs and writing charts that allowed Sinatra and Basie to infuse new life into these iconic selections. Sinatra deftly punches, pauses and slides through the lyrics of “(Love is) The Tender Trap,” and with a transformation from Bossa Nova to 4/4, “Fly Me to the Moon” was established as a Sinatra standard.

Some material from the second session – movie and stage themes “More” and “Hello, Dolly!” – are lightweight compared to the collection’s better titles, but Sinatra and Basie still give their all. Concord’s reissue includes liner notes from Robin Douglas-Home and Stan Cornyn (featuring an interview with Quincy Jones), and newly penned notes by Bill Dahl, but the key is Sinatra: no auto-tune, no punch-ins, no splice jobs… just a supremely talented singer letting it all hang out in front of the world’s reigning swing band. To complete your collection of Sinatra-Basie collaborations, pick up the 1966 live album, Sinatra at the Sands, featuring Quincy Jones conducting the Count Basie Orchestra. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Frank Sinatra: Ring-A-Ding-Ding

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

It was Frank’s world, and we were lucky to live in it

Sinatra’s 1961 debut for his own record label, Reprise, is the product of a man who was on top of the world, with records, films, concerts and a fraternal social life each running flat out. It wasn’t, however, the sort of artistic reinvention he created on his late ‘50s albums for Capitol, nor the middle-aged discoveries he’d make on September of My Years or with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Still, Sinatra was in the pocket, and the self-confident swagger of his performances made up for the lack of a new artistic leap. Together with arranger Johnny Mandel, Sinatra pushed hard on the swing side of these tunes, eschewing balladry, and spurring his band of West Coast musicians to some sizzling performances. Mandel gained the arranger’s slot when Sinatra’s previous partners, Nelson Riddle and Billy May, were found to be exclusively contracted to Capitol. Mandel brought both jazz and film scoring experience, along with connections to some of Los Angeles’ finest players.

The song list includes a title track written expressly for Sinatra by Cahn and Van Heusen, along with standards both new to and revisited in the Sinatra catalog. Those who enjoy Sinatra’s swing records will love the unbridled verve with which he and Mandel attacked these tunes. Concord’s 2011 reissue adds insightful liner and song note from Frank Sinatra Jr. and a ten-minute session track as a bonus. On the latter, Sinatra is spied working on Rodgers & Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones,” dissecting Mandel’s arrangement in the process, digging out notes that disagreed with his knowledge of the song, and eventually discarding the tune altogether. As a ballad, it wouldn’t have fit the hard-swinging album, but as a bonus track it provides a fascinating peek into Sinatra’s intense work ethic, his leadership in the studio, the response he provokes from fellow musicians, arrangers and producers, and his tremendous ear as an artist. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Barney Kessel: Bossa Nova

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Swinging easy with a twangy guitar and a Latin beat

Those seeking Barney Kessel’s legendary jazz stylings should look elsewhere. As a guitarist in the ‘50s, Kessel was renowned for his cool, bop-inspired playing in small quartets on sessions with the Contemporary label. But in the early ‘60s he signed with Reprise and embarked on a series of pop records. This was hardly new territory for Kessel, as he’d been backing pop musicians for years, and was a first-call guitarist for pop titans like Phil Spector; but as a front-man, this was a break from the jazz sessions he’d previously led. This bossa nova inspired entry from 1962 finds Kessel mostly taking a back seat to sharp, lounge-inspired band orchestrations. His guitar playing here is twangy pop, with no jazz inflections or blue notes, and the repertoire of standards is given Brazilian beats. The horn charts are tight, and when Kessel does pick, he sounds great – but this isn’t a jazz album, or even a guitar album; it’s a pop instrumental album in league with contemporaneous works by Neal Hefti, Billy Strange, Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and others. This is a sizzling, swinging treat if you approach it on its merits, rather than as a lesser entry in Barney Kessel’s catalog of guitar recordings. This is also available on CD as a 3-fer with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Contemporary Latin Rhythms. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Various Artists: The Very Best of the Rat Pack

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Early ‘60s thrills from Sinatra, Davis and Martin

By the early ‘60s the Rat Pack that had once included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Judy Garland had evolved to a Sintara-centric group (that called itself “the Summit”) that included fellow vocalists Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. All three were solo recording and concert stars, but it’s their impromptu performances on one another’s Las Vegas bills that solidified their reputation for suave masculinity. The trio, along with Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, starred in the films Ocean’s Eleven and Sergeants 3, but didn’t often record together. The 18-songs in this collection rotate through each singer’s solo recordings, and includes duets of Sinatra and Davis on “Me and My Shadow” and Davis and Martin on “Sam’s Song.”

Sinatra’s tracks are selected from his early Reprise years, and include the brash “Luck Be a Lady” and the title track from his label debut, Ring-a-Ding-Ding. The bulk of these are remakes of songs that Sinatra initially recorded for Capitol in the 1950s, including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Come Fly with Me,” “Witchcraft” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.” These ‘60s performances find Sinatra in good voice, jazzily stretching out the rhythms, playfully punctuating his syllables and snapping his fingers on “Come Fly with Me,” but they don’t have the inventive vitality of the Capitol originals. The early Reprise-era Sinatra often sounds like an entertainer coasting on his top-of-the-world success rather than an artist brashly reinventing himself, as he had at Capitol.

Martin’s tracks, borrowed from both the Capitol and Reprise libraries, include signature hits “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “Volare,” “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Additionally, his 1962 single “Who’s Got the Action?” pairs horn-heavy swing with a lyric of love and horseracing. The same year saw the release of the Vaudeville-styled duet, “Sam’s Song,” with Davis singing stagey counterpoint to Martin’s crooning. Davis’ solo tracks show off his brilliant theatricality as he caresses and belts Bye Bye Birdie’s “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” and his roots in blues and jazz come out for the Ocean’s Eleven showcase “Eee-O Eleven” and a reprise of his own Broadway success with Mr. Lucky’s “Too Close for Comfort.”

Over the years, all three performers became such outsized media personalities that it’s easy to forget the greatness of their recordings and live performances. Sinatra’s reworking of his Capitol material is looser than the originals – more Sinatra doing Sinatra than being Sinatra – but they give you a good feel for his ‘60s ring-a-ding-ding swagger. Martin’s sides are among his most loved, and Davis’ proves just how skilled and soulful he was as a vocalist. This is a good sample of what these performers were doing in the studio, with a 16-page booklet filled with period photos and liner notes adapted from Bill Zehme’s The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’. For a taste of the trio in action as a live act, check out the CD/DVD set The Ultimate Rat Pack Collection: Live & Swingin’, or look for the hard-to-find The Rat Pack Live at the Sands and Summit in Concert. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Frank Sinatra: September of My Years

Monday, September 6th, 2010

A reflective Sinatra records his last perfect solo album

Frank Sinatra was hitting yet another career peak as the British Invasion stormed the popular music charts in the mid-60s. But such was his artistic force that the period saw the Chairman’s continued success on both the album and singles charts, successfully battling the storm unleashed by the Beatles and their compatriots. In 1965, with his 50th birthday looming, Sinatra took stock at mid-life and recorded thirteen songs with arranger Gordon Jenkins. Their choices delicately balanced a nostalgic look at the successes of youth, poignant thoughts on the limitations brought on by age, and optimistic visions of what time was still left to live. Sinatra had never before sounded this personally vulnerable, and the realization of his own mortality comes across like a genuine first thought.

The swagger of Sinatra’s recent swing albums gave way in this set to the sort of melancholy he’d explored with Jenkins on 1957’s brilliant Where Are You? and 1959’s No One Cares. Though Nelson Riddle is usually hailed as Sinatra’s most sympathetic arranger, Jenkins’ charts, both in 1957 and in 1965, winningly back Sinatra with lush strings that frame the singer exquisitely. In the thirty years since Sinatra broke into music as a boy singer, he’d proved himself America’s greatest interpretive vocalist, and now, in the approach to his golden years, he firmly established himself as the elder statesman of pop music. He’d record some good albums throughout the rest of the 1960s, but never again would he make such an arresting, innovative and deeply personal artistic statement.

The songs he picked for this album don’t fight the notion of aging, but neither do they succumb to its frailties. The title track, recorded five weeks after the rest of the album, opens the set with the stark realization of passing years, but “How Old Am I” opts to see the changes of age as maturity rather than weaknesses, and exults the power of love to keep one vital. Sinatra and Jenkins gathered “top of your game songs” and performed them with a presence and knowingness that was, particularly among Sinatra’s rich catalog of stellar recordings, astounding. Sinatra’s empty nest – his three children were grown and he was currently single – is heard in Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s “It Gets Lonely Early,” but even here the lyric is both happily nostalgic and optimistically forward looking.

Sinatra was no stranger to thematic albums, but never before, and never after, would the theme connect so closely to his circumstance or the emotion spring from so deep in his heart. Recorded in only three sessions spread over eight days, September of My Years won the 1966 Grammy award for album of the year, and Sinatra won an individual Grammy for best male vocal performance for “It Was a Very Good Year.” Jenkins won for his brilliant arrangement of the same song, and Stan Cornyn (who returns to this reissue with new liner notes) won a Grammy for his original album notes (which themselves are reproduced in the booklet). Concord’s 2010 reissue adds two bonus tracks to the original baker’s dozen: a 1984 live recording of “This is All I Ask” and an alternate version of “How Old Am I?” released as a single. With or without the bonuses, this is one of a half-dozen essentials in any Sinatra fan’s collection. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim: Sinatra/Jobim – The Complete Reprise Recordings

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Quiet, masterful duets by Sinatra and Jobim

By 1967 Frank Sinatra was riding yet another wave of artistic and popular success. After career highs as a big band singer, a solo artist for Columbia, an innovative solo artist for Capitol and the founder of his own label, Reprise, Sinatra found commercial gold in 1966 with “Strangers in the Night” and “That’s Life.” In 1967 he recorded both the chart-topping “Something Stupid” and this artistically rich album of bossa nova tunes. Pairing with Brazil’s most popular musical exponent, Sinatra gave Antonio Carlos Jobim’s originals (and three American songbook standards) the deft lyrical touch that marked the vocalist’s best recordings. Jobim, in turn, gave Sinatra a hip outlet that was more sophisticated than reworking contemporary pop songs. Also contributing to the superb final results was arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman, whose charts gave Sinatra space to sing with a quiet ease.

Sinatra sounds unusually relaxed in these sessions, swinging ever so lightly to Jobim’s percussive finger-played acoustic guitar, and the moody strings, breezy woodwinds and muted horns of Ogerman’s arrangements. The easy tempos give Sinatra a chance to explore Jobim’s songs, hold notes and show off the textures of his voice. The recording and mix show off the brilliant results engineer Lee Herschberg accomplished in capturing the nuances of Sinatra’s voice. Jobim adds vocal support with occasional alternating or duet lines, and provides both Brazilian flavor and contrast that highlight the incredible quality of Sinatra’s tone. Three nighttime sessions yielded ten final tracks, which were released as the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, and climbed into the Top 20 on the album chart.

Sinatra moved on to other projects, including an album with Duke Ellington (Francis A. & Edward K.), a family Christmas album, an album of pop and folk rock (Cycles), and the triumphant My Way. But in 1969 he and Jobim returned to Western Recorders for three more nights to lay down ten more bossa nova styled tracks for an album tentatively titled Sinatra-Jobim. But two years later on, Jobim was writing more complex melodies that weren’t as easy for Sinatra to vocalize, and new arranger Eumir Deodato’s charts are more insistent than those Claus Ogerman scripted for the first album. Sinatra sounds rehearsed (which he was) rather than organically warmed up, and his vocals don’t lay into the arrangements as effortlessly or seamlessly as before. Still, there’s chemistry between Sinatra and Jobim, and though the former was particularly unhappy with his performances on “Bonita,” “Off Key (Desafinado)” and “The Song of the Sabia,” the project went ahead with its release plan.

Sinatra-Jobim was finalized, cover art produced and a limited number of 8-track tape editions released to market before Sinatra killed the project. The 8-tracks that got into the wild have since become collectors’ items. The seven tracks with which Sinatra was relatively happy were re-released in 1971 as side one of Sinatra & Company, two more (“Bonita” and “The Song of the Sabia”) were later released on the 1977 Reprise compilation Portrait of Sinatra, and the 1977 Brazilian double-LP Sinatra-Jobim Sessions, and the third (“Off Key (Desafinado)”) was finally released on 1995’s epic The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings. Pulled together into a single 58-minute disc, it turns out Sinatra was right, the vocals from the second sessions, particularly the three delayed tracks, are not up to his standards. The stars simply didn’t align for the 1969 sessions as they did two years earlier.

The cool of “Girl From Ipanema,” the thoughtful regret and sadness of “How Insensitive,” and the percussive delicacy of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” aren’t matched by anything on the follow-up. Sinatra and Jobim were deeply in the pocket for their initial collaboration, and though “Don’t Every Go Away” and “Wave” find them once again simpatico, Sinatra simply wasn’t as deft the second time out. Concord’s reissue includes the cover art (and unprocessed base photograph) of the aborted Sinatra-Jobim album, and a cropped, black-and-white version of the first album’s cover photo. Veteran Warner Brothers/Reprise writer Stan Cornyn provides new liner notes in his typical riff-heavy, hyperbolic style, and Dan Hersch’s 24-bit digital remastering sparkles. All that’s really missing is Sinatra and Jobim’s 1994 collaboration on “Fly Me to the Moon,” but that’s a nit: the first album is gold, with or without extras. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

The Greenberry Woods: Rapple Dapple

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Top-notch power-pop from the mid-90s

This Maryland quartet had the misfortune to make top-notch power-pop at a time when such sounds contrasted unfavorably to the angsty zeitgeist of the mid-90s. Led by three singer-songwriters, Ira Katz and twin brothers Matt and Brandt Huseman, the Greenberry Woods released this debut album on Sire, garnering opening tour slots with Deborah Harry and the Proclaimers, radio play for the single “Trampoline,” and a couple of television appearances. In a just world these would have sent their album to stratospheric heights, but in the fickle world of pop music, it wasn’t enough to catch on. A superb 1995 follow-up, Big Money Item, faired no better commercially, and with the Huseman brothers working on their not-so-ironically-named side-project, Splitsville, the band fell apart. What they left behind resounds as strongly today as it did in 1994. Their songs are electric-guitar powered ear worms of the first degree, featuring catchy melodies, hook-filled choruses, yearning pop vocals and the Midas touch of co-producer Andy Paley. The CD is long out of print (though used copies can be scored for pennies on the dollar), but with Rhino’s MP3 reissue, power-pop fans owe it to themselves to place a copy alongside albums by Tommy Keene, Material Issue, Teenage Fanclub, Shoes, Adam Schmitt, the Moberlys and the rest of your secret pop crushes. 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

“Trampoline” video
“Adieu” video

Little Richard: The Second Coming

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

LittleRichard_SecondComingLittle Richard’s final album on Reprise finds New Orleans funk ‘n’ roll

After the Muscle Shoals swamp-rock of 1970’s The Rill Thing and the misfire mélange of ‘50s rock and ‘70s R&B on 1971’s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Richard third’s and final album for Reprise splits the difference. The rock ‘n’ roll sides, recorded with many of the New Orleans players who backed Richard’s 1950s sessions, are shorn of the dated neo-disco touches H.B. Barnum added to the preceding album, and though the grooves never cut as deep as the earlier Muscle Shoals session, there’s a good helping of funk here. Lee Allen provides fat sax tone, and Earl Palmer anchors the second line beats with greatest of ease.

Producer Bumps Blackwell’s work is more huskhy here than on his and Richard’s seminal mid-50s sides, mixing the funky jazz sounds of New Orleans with a bit of Stax soul. As on the Muscle Shoals sessions, Richard sounds comfortable, if not always as energized. “When the Saints Go Marching In” is ignited by Richard’s revival-pitch vocal and superb playing by both Palmer and Allen, and the funk continues on the mostly instrumental “Nuki Suki,” with Richard’s clavinet and the saxophone’s yelps giving way to short, lascivious vocal breaks.

A wah-wah-and-bass groove provides the foundation of “Prophet of Peace,” and the closing “Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper” is a seven-minute instrumental. The album’s most unusual track is a co-write with Sneaky Pete Kleinow, “It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way You Do It,” featuring Kleinow’s steel guitar. Richard and Blackwell’s original rock ‘n’ roll grooves show themselves on “Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie” and “Thomasine.” While this isn’t as inventive or forward thinking as The Rill Thing, it’s a great deal more solid than King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and deserved larger commercial success at the time. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]