Blue Barrel Records
This recording takes listeners back to the sounds of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s noted band from early in his career that featured arranger Joe Scott. There aren’t many better inspirations for forming a band that wants to take a deep dive into the intersection of blues and R&B that a major part of the musical landscape 60-70 years ago.
Recorded live at Bar DKDC in Memphis, the Love Light Orchestra comes storming out of the gate, horns blazing, as John Németh creates a fuss, wrapping his superlative voice around “See Why I Love You,” with Art Edmaiston wailing away on the tenor sax break. That track was written by Joe Restivo, guitarist for the band and also the Bo-Keys. His B.B. King-inspired licks kick off “Bad Breaks,” which gets a spark from Kirk Smothers’ rowdy baritone sax solo. Nemeth turns in an exceptional performance on a tune Bland made popular, “I’ve Been So Wrong,” the horn section matching him note for note. Another tune from Bland’s catalog, “Poverty,” benefits from sterling fills from Gerald Stephens on piano.
Turning up the heat, the band tears into a Don Robey song, “Sometimes,” as Edmaiston rocks the house, paced by the solid rhythm section featuring Tim Goodwin on bass and Earl Lowe on drums. “This Little Love Of Mine” is a slinky Robey tune that features a beautifully constructed solo from trumpeter Marc Franklin, with toured with Bland and is also a member of the Bo-Keys. Restivo lays down some impressive chicken-picking’ and Nemeth utilizes his full vocal range on “What About Love,” one from the Freddie King songbook.
The horns are prominent on the arrangement for “It’s Your Voodoo Working,” a Charles ‘Mad Dog” Sheffield tune that crawled out of the Louisiana swamps. The trumpet section of Franklin, Scott Thompson, and Jason Yasinsky boost the sound with a constant stream of succinct embellishments. The Percy Mayfield classic, “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” gets a reverent run-through as Németh once again showcases his eloquent vocal skills. “Singin’ For My Supper” is a Franklin original that takes off once Restivo breaks into a solo with the horns riffing in full support. Nemeth contributes one song, the robust shuffle “Lonesome And High,” the full weight of the band brought to bear on a standout track. For the closing number, the band chose “Love And Happiness”. Hearing this song rendered by veteran Memphis musicians who understand the textures of the Hi Records sound erases the memory of many less than stellar versions listeners have been subjected to over the years.
While they don’t break any new ground, the Love Light Orchestra certainly succeeded in their mission of honoring some of the pioneers of the music that has shaped their lives. There are few bands out there that have a full horn section adding so much power to the music, particularly live on stage. That forceful sound is apparent throughout these twelve tracks. When you combine them with Németh’s soul-soaked vocals, you get a gem of a recording that will probably experience a long stay in your CD player, and may cause sudden outbursts of spontaneous dancing!
Don’t let this one slide by…….