RESURRECTION Mike Zito (Gulf Coast Records/ Hillside Global) ****
If you’re in the mood for ballsy, hard swingin’ blues guitar, you won’t find much better than Mike Zito’s latest album. “After the year we have had on planet earth, I believe we all need a rebirth” Mike says of the spirit evident in Resurrection. It has a rockin’ soul that will touch anyone that gives it a listen. This is as much rock & roll as it is the blues,.
Zito is a fine producer but for Resurrection he gave that over to Grammy winner David Z., known for his long-standing work with Prince plus contributions to albums by Etta James, Billy Idol, Buddy Guy, John Mayall and a bunch more. Zito says he has songs in him and musical ideas all the time, writes when he can, and saves ‘em all. “Some of the songs are just songs and they don’t always have a meaning for me” he says, “and some of them become very personal. Resurrection is an album of feelings, emotions and is very personal. The title track is how I once almost lost my love, but it came back stronger than ever.” As all of us emerge into whatever the brave, new world may be, it would do us good to tap into some of Mike’s mojo.
Joining Zito in the studio for Resurrection are many musicians he’s worked with in the last several years; Matthew Johnson- drums; Doug Byrkit- bass; Lewis Stephens- piano, organ; Zach Zito- acoustic guitar; Lisa Andersen- backing vocals; Eric Denmer- sax; Fernando Castillo- trumpet. They dig into the 8 original songs and 3 covers with equal parts finesse and gusto. Their versions of JJ Cale’s I’ll Make Love To You, Eric Clapton’s Presence of The Lord and Willie Dixon’s Evil show Mike and the band to be exceptional interpreters of others’ material. Zito’s original stuff packs an emotional and sonic wallop too. “I have nothing to hide, it seems my honesty is what people relate to most” he says. “Anders Osborne told me early on, ‘if you don’t believe what you’re singing, you’ll never be a good singer’. I try not to write fluff; I try to make every word count.” You don’t even have to look that hard to see yourself in the songs on Resurrection,
KEY CUTS: Resurrection, Evil, I’ll Make Love To You, Damned If I Do
RELISH Dave Kalz (Gulf Coast) *****
I hope you’re ready for a heavy dose of real he-man blues guitar, because that’s just what Dave Kalz has in store for you. Relish is Dave’s debut album, produced by his longtime friend and Gulf Coast label chief Mike Zito, and it’s a bulldozer of a record loaded to the nuts with cocky swagger..
Dave and Mike came up at roughly the same time on the St. Louis scene. Kalz is also a founding member of Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, which served as an opening act for Gregg Allman and also performed shows with The Allman Brothers Band. Relish is driven mainly by Dave’s vivid songwriting and muscular guitar sound, gloriously bluesy as it bench presses rock riffery with abundant glee. “I want my guitar to emote sounds that evoke grit and grease, but with a hint of dark mystery, intrigue” Dave says. “I want it to sound like a big Mack truck trying to fit down a tight back alley, squeezing its way through as it pushed everything around it.”
The songs on Relish all have a Billy Gibbons-style lusty passion for life. Dave wrote Mexico, the lead off track years ago after seeing The Arc Angels play live. He says he wrote it in 10 minutes, feeling like it came from his subconscious “like all the best songs (seem) to.” Werewolf Blues is also an older track. “I was always a huge Vincent Price fan, I loved all those old black & white horror films from the 50’s and 60’s” he says. “I was trying to envision if an old Vincent Price horror flick were a song, and that’s how Werewolf Blues came about. It’s my homage to him and those old movies.”
I could go on and on describing and trying to explain the songs on Relish, but I think the better idea is for you to get your hands on it and play them for yourself. Last June Kalz moved his family to Wisconsin- yes, during the pandemic- and had to deal with Covid as he details in the song Stone Cold Stuck. Luckily the virus came and went with no drama or after effects, but he used the isolation to write some pretty good tunes and as a result you and I get to spin one of the most exciting records of the year.
KEY CUTS: Werewolf Blues, Mexico, Route 666
LIFE IN THE POND Roger Chapman (Ruf Records) **** ½
A new solo album from this veteran of the British blues/rock scene is cause for celebration. Life In The Pond is his latest musical adventure in a 4 decades long solo career after starting out in ’66 with “The Farinas”, who changed their name to “Family” before moving down from Leicester to London. At 79, Chappo still has plenty to say.
Life In The Pond reflects the things that have always interested Roger as a singer and songwriter. “There’s nostalgia for the different musical styles that have influenced my life” he says. “American rock from the 50’s to now, British R ‘n’ B from the 60’s like Georgie Fame, The Stones, Zoot Money, Folk, Blues, Motown, Stax, Blue Note Jazz, Classical, Americana, country, a whole mess of influences (but) mostly it’s anger at politicians that’s kept me fired up.” With the way the world has turned in recent years, there’s plenty happening to keep Roger fired up.
In 2012 Chapman released a live record called Maybe The Last Time, prompting fans to think he was ready to throw in the towel. Throughout 2013 Family were a presence on the British scene, and the 14 disc Once Upon A Time compilation gathered the band’s entire catalog (including outtakes, alternate versions and rarities) and who could blame people for thinking “Well that’s it, then”? 2021 and Life In The Pond find Chapman in fine voice and form with biting and insightful lyrics combined with soulful musicianship. Age has treated his pipes well with a gravelly sound that gives the songs extra emotional weight. He counters that with a certain wistfulness on Naughty Child, the closing track, which suggests that at 79 he still possesses some wide-eyed idealism. When the world was young and foolish he sings, when the world was running wild…
Life In The Pond is a solid record, rough around the edges in a way that I really like, and it gives you plenty to think about. “I think we really came up with the goods on this album” Chapman says, and he’s right.
KEY CUTS: The Playtime Is Over, Naughty Child, After The Rain
APOSTATE The Marigold (Coffin & Bolt Records/ Golden Robot Records) ***
With a band name like that, this album comes as quite a shock- a moniker that suggests airy-fairy folk pop, which is why this sat untouched in my downloads folder from its April 23rd release until now. Apostate is not light and polite, it’s a punishing acid trip of dark, doomy sludge that you will either connect with or not- there is no halfway with this.
The Marigold are Italian sludgy post rockers and their mission appears to be cleaving a trail of destruction that’s second to none. Magmatic, detuned, slow riffs flow like lava under shrieking, murmured lyrics. No idea what he hell Marco Campitelli is singing about but that seems to be beside the point here. Apostate plays like the backdrop to some trippy early 70’s drug film- pro or con, I can’t be sure- and in spots it bears a passing resemblance to solo albums by John Paul Jones like Zooma and The Thunder Thief. Either way, it’s the sort of thing you really need to be in the mood for or it just doesn’t make sense. Nothing here to hum along with or tap your foot to, not really.
Apostate echoes the work of bands like Tool and The Melvins, maybe early Soundgarden, groups that I really need to be in the headspace to get involved with. Two thoughts have been circling my mind of late as I contemplate some life changes over the next couple of years; everything means nothing, and nothing means anything. It’s that sort of thinking that can sometimes make it hard for me to sleep at night, but in that particular light a record like Apostate is surprisingly good company. With song titles like Exorcism Charm, Sludge Machine and Mono Lith, you can rest assured that this isn’t a group of pop music Nancy Boys.
The Marigold is Marco Campitelli on guitar, 6 string bass, keyboards and vocals… Stefano Micolucci on bass… Lorenzo Di Lornzo on drums. Apostate is heavy, fierce, dark, hypnotic and definitely not for the squeamish. It’s also a sludge rock masterpiece.
KEY CUTS: Loser In Lines, Exorcism Charm, The Pledge
WHATNOP DONW7 LMNOP (babysue) ***
Here is another creative outlet for Don W. 7, the man behind the babysue comic strip, website, print magazine and music label. Whatnop is a bizarre and mildly entertaining pile of songs, catchy kitsch pop/rock, likeable and seemingly pointless at the same time.
Whatnop DonW7 is 16 new songs about goats, oceans, milkshakes, benches and more. The band, LMNOP, is really a solo project for S. Flevet, known by those familiar with his work as ‘the babysue guy’. This album is said to be “a test to see how much mileage can be gotten out of a $15 guitar amp found at a yard sale”. It took Flevet 10 months to record the album, incorporating vintage and modern instruments and technology.
Musically speaking Whatnop is likeable straight away with a simple, strummy, early 70’s folk/ rock/ punk vibe. His singing is generically enjoyable, nondescript but not off-key, double tracked as most records are ,to enjoyable effect. The songs are short too, with the longest clocking in at 4:02, three around the 3:00 mark and most around two minutes. The odd lyrics are likely where you’ll decide whether or not this disc is worth adding to your collection or playlist. To look further into that aspect, go to www.LMNOP.com/whatNOP.pdf
All the songs on Whatnop were written, performed and produced by S. Flevet, a/k/a Don W. 7. In a time when your average album is a multi-track monster assembled on computer using studio tricks like auto tune, this is a reminder of the simple pleasures of rock & roll… but it’s hard to take seriously when you get the feeling the artist doesn’t take it particularly seriously. Is he the court jester of rock? Kind of seems that way and I’m not yet sure how to feel about that. Enjoyably insignificant- that’s Whatnop DonW7.
KEY CUTS: Melted Chain, Things, Milkshake
FINALLY FEELING YOUNG Sam Robbins (Music City) *****
One of the problems with writing album reviews- and it’s a nice problem to have- is that I’m sent far more material than I can possibly deal with in print. This disc has been sitting untouched since May and, when putting this week’s column together I thought “this has been around for awhile, maybe I should give it a spin.” Sorry for the long wait Sam, but you know what they say; better late than never. Finally Feeling Young is one of the most enjoyable singer/ songwriter records I’ve heard in quite some time.
Recorded in Boston and Nashville, Finally Feeling Young is along the same lines as James Taylor, Jackson Brown and Paul Simon, while fans with more current tastes may hear a connection to Ed Sheeran. “I’ve always loved classic singer/ songwriters from the 70’s and my writing has always reflected that” says Robbins. “Looking back, I can hear what I was going through in the songs, and how much I was changing in the recordings. I’m so grateful to have a little time capsule from this chapter of immense growth.”
Finally Feeling Young is lush and simple, emotionally stark. While I revel in the energy of bands like Motorhead, Sabbath and Kiss and enjoy the clumsy penis metaphors used by Whitesnake, there’s always been a special place in my heart for introspective artists like Sam Robbins. This is the sort of thing that I like to listen to when I’m thinking about stuff; where I’ve been, what’s going on, and where I might be headed. It’s like good therapy for the price of a CD, and I think Sam might agree with that. “This is my first album, there’s a feeling of discovery in it” he notes. “You can hear my voice and my perspective change throughout the recording. (It’s) something that I think listeners want but are missing today.” Maybe I needed to wait for the time when I really needed to hear what Finally Feeling Young has to say; and that time is now.
KEY CUTS: Addicted, Remind Me, Raining Sideways