Hot Wax Album Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR – April 10, 2023

WOMEN IN BLUES SHOWCASE Bob Corritore & Friends (SWMAF/VizzTone) *****+

Bob Corritore’s “From The Vaults” series has thus far been richly rewarding, but he’s outdone himself this time. Women In Blues Showcase is a series of great recordings with spectacular blues women that cover a wide stylistic spectrum- this is essential blues.

Some names involved in WIBS you might know, others maybe not.  The queen of the blues Koko Taylor is here, along with Gulf Coast legends Barbara Lynn and Carol Fran, Francine Reed from Phoenix who has toured for years with Lyle Lovett’s band, Diunna Greenleaf from Houston, Tennessee’s Valerie June, Mississippi’s Shy Perry and Alita Primer, daughter of Chicago blues legend John Primer; featured here on her first recording at the age of 17.  Once this thing starts rolling it’s quickly apparent you’re in for something special.

Women In Blues Showcase was recorded during 11 sessions between 2001 and 2022.  It was produced by Bob Corritore along with Clarke Rigsby who recorded the sessions, along with John Worble who also mixed and mastered the album.  The back cover of the disc lists who played on what, a list is far too lengthy to include here.  It’s no small wonder that, with as many musicians and singers taking part over the years, the record hangs together this well.  It feel like there’s a groovin’ house band laying it down in the studio while all the singers hang out in the control room, waiting for their turn to go out into the room and burn the place down.

Corritore has recorded all of these amazing singers with great sensitivity to their stylistic and personal individuality, his harp playing a delicious counterpoint to some powerful vocal performances.  Women In Blues Showcase rolls like it was recorded over a couple of weeks instead of decades, with a handful of players instead of half the friggin’ phonebook. This is the best (so far) in an already breathtaking series and absolutely vital for every blues fan.

HOT TRACKS: What Kind of Man Is This (with Koko Taylor), You’re Gonna be Sorry (with Barbara Lynn), Wang Dang Doodle (with Shy Perry)

CUT MY SPIRIT LOOSE Big Harp George (Blues Mountain Records) *****

It may come as a surprise to some that the blues can be a life-affirming, joyous, celebratory racket, and that’s just what it is in the hands of Big Harp George.  Cut My Spirit Loose is the new album from this San Francisco-based singer and harmonica player that covers a number of blues styles, from Dixieland to swing, to New Orleans funk and more.  It’s impossible to put this on and not have a big smile as you tap your feet. Talk about a perfect title!

George assembled an all-star cast to pull this album together including guitarist Kid Andersen, who also engineered the sessions.  Cut My Spirit Loose explores a number of blues and jazz styles while addressing a number of current issues of the day.  It’s been called “something akin to a modern day Tin Pan Alley production”, and that’s a big part of the charm it unabashedly exudes.  BHG has a great voice and I really dig his harp playing, but as a songwriter he sure has a way with words.  It’s Tuesday opens the record with an irreverent look at the trials and tribulations of the Covid lockdowns, and the easy swing of Give Me The Dark turns the notion of ‘life is better on the sunny side’ on its head.  This isn’t just “moon, spoon, June” stuff, taking deep dives into the songs and the message they carry a big bag of fun.  Big Harp George (George Bisharat) even takes on a Beatles deep cut in She’s A Woman and makes it sound like his own… not so easy to do with a tune from The Fabs.

Big Harp George and his crew met the challenges of the pandemic head-on and came out the other side with a rousing blues party that serves as a testament to their teamwork and resilience.  The attitude of Cut My Spirit Loose reminds me of a quote from the late comic George Burns. Well into his 90’s he was asked what he attributed a long and happy life to, and his answer went something like “Two things; number one, don’t sweat the small stuff. Number two, it’s all small stuff.”  I’m catching that spirit from Cut My Spirit Loose and as I stare down the final decade or two of life myself, it’s a good reminder.  Life is a wonder to be celebrated, savored… this disc will help you along the way.

HOT TRACKS:  It’s Tuesday, Prince Of Downward Mobility, My Dog Is Better Than You

THE DIO ALBUM Paul Gilbert (Mascot Label Group/ Music Theories Recordings) *** ½

What’s in a name? In this case, everything.  Guitarist Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big) used the Covid downtime to formulate an all-instrumental album of Dio classics from across RJD’s career- Rainbow, to Black Sabbath, to the Dio band.  These aren’t obscure album cuts either; anyone who knows Ronnie’s career will recognize each and every one of these songs.

The Dio Album makes no attempt to reinvent Dio’s catalog but rather pay tribute to it, with Gilbert’s trusty Ibanez guitar replicating Ronnie’s vocal melodies.  When I first heard of the record it struck me in a similar way as when I first heard about Cars way back when; “a movie where all the characters are vehicles? That’s just stupid.”  Naturally, Cars ended up being one of my favorite flicks.  Same thing when I heard Gilbert was doing an instrumental record of Dio tunes; the thought seemed daft but I checked out Stand And Shout via a link on and thought “hey- he’s on to something here.”

On The Dio Album Paul steps into the big shoes of Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore, plus he replicates Vivian Campbell’s work on the early Dio records too. Not sure who the band is here but Gilbert does a solid job duplicating the work of those particular guitar heroes as he sticks close to the original arrangements.  Where TDA was bound to succeed or fail was on how he handled replacing vocals with guitar parts, and we gotta give him a thumbs up.  Unlike other guitar instrumental records that can be like a wank-a-thon where the endless soloing gets tiresome, it’s like Paul’s guitar is singing instead of just showing off.

Listening to The Dio Album will send fans back into their record collection to spin the originals but these versions are respectful and well done, so why not enjoy both?  A review I came across on says this “has the character of something made mostly for the joy of the artist and really, that is something to be admired.”  Check out the video links you’ll find online; if you enjoy the song, you’ll dig the rest of the album too.

HOT TRACKS:  Kill The King, Stand Up And Shout, Heaven And Hell


In the absence of any new music- Kiss’s last studio album Monster came out in 2012- the band has kept their hands in the fans’ wallets with their Off The Soundboard series of recordings, a sort of officially sanctioned bootleg series. What makes Poughkeepsie notable is that this is the only full concert recording to feature lead guitarist Mark St. John. The sound quality ain’t the greatest, but St. John’s playing makes the set worth having.

As any Kiss fan can tell you, Mark St. John replaced Vinnie Vincent in time to record 1984’s Animalize, but as the band set out on the road Mark developed a rare arthritic condition in his hands that made playing guitar difficult, then impossible.  I believe he played a portion of a few shows, plus this one, before being let go by the band.  He was replaced by stand-in Bruce Kulick, who is considered by many fans (myself included) the best guitarist Kiss ever had.  This particular Off The Soundboard is a glimpse into what might have been had Mark stayed.

That aside, this is a chance to hear the band play a few tunes live that we might not hear otherwise, such as Young & Wasted with Eric Carr taking lead vocals and Fits Like A Glove, both deep cuts from Lick It Up.  What this also shows too is how necessary it is for Kiss to ‘fix’ their live albums.  The Eddie Kramer produced Alive records sound like pristine studio albums by comparison, and it’s widely known that the first Alive album in particular was almost entirely re-recorded except for Peter Criss’s drums.

Off The Soundboard Poughkeepsie will cause nary a ripple in the world at large but Kiss fans will gobble it up just for the chance to hear St. John in action- that’s why I bought it.  Iffy sound quality and Paul’s constant dropping of F-bombs along with cringe-worthy stage patter will make it tough for most to listen to, but for us fans it’s a rare glimpse at this chapter in Kisstory.

HOT TRACKS: Cold Gin, Fits Like A Glove, I Still Love You

GODDESS IN THE DOORWAY Mick Jagger (Virgin) RELEASED:  Nov.19th, 2001

This is Mick Jagger’s 4th and final solo album, coming after The Stones’ Voodoo Lounge and Bridges To Babylon records.  Pete Townshend, after hearing some of the demos, told Mick they didn’t sound like Rolling Stones songs and that he should record them on his own- thanks, Pete!.  Goddess is Jagger’s best, strongest solo disc, second only to 1987’s Primitive Cool.

Up until recently, Primitive Cool was the only Jagger solo album in my collection… but after listening to an interview with him in a 4 part CBC documentary on The Stones, it occurred to me that he might have something interesting to say musically outside of the band.  So, I searched out Goddess, along with She’s The Boss and Wandering Spirit on I Tunes.  Townshend was right in what he told Jagger; and these songs deserve to be heard.  They’re more pop, with grooves and melodies that might have sounded out of place with Keith, Charlie and Ronnie on board.

According to the summary on Wikipedia Mick worked primarily with Marti Frederiksen and Matt Clifford as producers, and brought in Lenny Kravitz and Wyclef Jean too.  Though the songs were largely composed by Jagger he also wrote with Kravitz and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas.  Several of his musical friends- Townshend, Bono, Joe Perry- also made contributions, resulting in a wide ranging album stylistically. Only Bridges To Babylon comes close to matching Jagger’s musical ambition here and as much as I like THAT record, BTB falls short.

Commercially Goddess In The Doorway deserved a better fate, reaching only #44 in the UK and #39 in the US. A review in The New York Times said “everything sounds cold and corporate”, but that seems a knee jerk reaction to the more modern production techniques used, and more to the point; how dare Mick step away from the band to say something on his own!  Keith Richards regularly referred to it as Dogshit In The Doorway, but this is better than Keith’s solo stuff.

With a band like The Rolling Stones it’s easy to overlook the solo efforts from any band members, but Goddess In The Doorway is worth dusting off and reconsidering in a new light.  It’s not The Stones, but it was never meant to be.

HOT TRACKS:  Everybody Getting High, Joy, Hide Away



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