Angels Sing the Blues | Album Review

angelssingthebluescdAngels Sing the Blues featuring Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane, Shirley Johnson with Johnny Drummer and the Starlighters

Earwig Records

17 tracks (15 songs, two spoken)/73 minutes

Earwig Music presents us with a live show from 2007 recorded at Chicago’s Taste Entertainment Center.  This is a continuation of the musical shows that are done for the American Society on Aging Events.  The liner notes are a little bit disjointed, but what we have here is Johnny Drummer and the Starlighters show band performing and backing Shirley Johnson, Mary Lane and Liz Mandeville.  Produced by Michael Marcus and John Migliaccio, the duo has also done 20 years of Blues Brothers impersonations. They reenact the “Please Don’t Kill Me Sequence” from the film.

Al “Guitar” Short and bassist Danny O’Connor open the CD vocally with “A Real Mother For Ya” and “Cold Women With Warm Hearts” respectively and do a good job.  Drummer then comes out and is featured for a couple of songs on “Gonna Sell My Cadillac, Buy Myself A Mule” and “Born in the Delta,” two songs he wrote.  He gives it his all and entertains the crowd.  Shirley Johnson is then featured on  track that has no crowd noise, so I’m guessing it’s one of three studio cuts.  The vocal mix is very different, too.  She does a nice job with “Get Your Lovin’ Where You Spend Your Time” and the keyboard work by Drummer is especially good behind her.  Mary Lane then is on a couple of live tracks, “Just As Grown As You” and “Ride in Your Automobile.”  She struts her stuff and shows us what has sustained her in the business since she came on the scene in the 1950’s. Drummer is then featured on the vocals in “Rockin’ In The Juke Joint.”

Shirley Johnson then does “I’m Gonna Find Me a Lover,” “Unchain My Heart” and “You Can Have My Husband But Please Don’t Mess with My Man.”  Her deep and breathy voice impresses and the guitar solo on the latter track by Anthony Palmer  is the finest of the live ones on the CD. Drummer then introduces Liz Mandeville for “Use What You Got” and “I Just Want to Make Love To You.”   She gives us the sexiest and  sultriest performances of the night here.  Back to the studio we go with all three ladies and Drummer and others to perform “Angel From Montgomery.”  The songs stands out as different due to the big production and sound compared to the live stuff with lots of backing vocals overlaid on the cut.  Nicely done, but it does not fit in well.  By the way, the guitar solo here is fantastic.  The Blues Brothers dialogue follows; while I guess it was perhaps fun to witness in my mind  it might have been better left off the CD and let the music speak for itself.  But it is captured from the event and it was part of the show.  Then we have the final studio cut with Mary Lane doing “Run a Red Light.”  Another nice cut, but again it is different in timber and tone from the live stuff.  Mary lets it all hang out and delivers a great performance.

While I enjoyed the CD, the song selection ranges from ok to very good and the recording tends to be a little unbalanced at times with the live vs. studio stuff.  It’s almost as if they threw in a few studio recordings to give us some filler.  Maybe putting them all together as a bonus track section at the end might have been better for the sequencing.

If you are a big fan of the artists here or you want a souvenir of the event, you might want to pick this up.  The artists are having a good time and play to the crowd.   The ladies and gentlemen featured here are putting on a show and the crowd loves it.

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