The Mojo Stars – Under The Influence | Album Review

The Mojo Stars – Under The Influence

Self-Release – 2017

11 tracks; 47 minutes

The Mojo Stars are from Vancouver, Canada, and this is their second album. Formed around ten years ago the mainstays of the band are vocalist Randy Clarke and guitarist Mark Rankin who wrote, arranged and produced the songs here, supported by Tom Gould on saxophone, Steve Soucy and Kenny Boychuck on keys, Rob Marr on bass and Shawn Soucy on drums. The CD blends six songs captured live and five studio recordings; the material is varied, ranging across blues, soul and pop and Randy’s vocals work well across all the styles.

Opening with the title track the band sets a chugging rhythm over which Mark explains how he is in thrall to the girl and Mark adds a fine solo. “Why Can’t I Be True?” is a swinging piece with elements of country and rock and roll (especially in the rollicking piano playing) while “No Use In Crying” is a slower tune that features Tom’s sax and a confessional lyric that relates to being behind bars: “I ain’t got nobody to blame, ain’t no use in crying”. Mark’s latin-tinged riff sets the pace for “26 Banks” and the lyrics again reference crime as the protagonist recalls his time as a bank robber though despite being sentenced to a lengthy stretch inside he still savours “the rush, loving the score”. Tom’s sax playing is again a feature his exciting duel with Mark is well worth hearing.

“Stay A Little Longer” is a fine studio effort which is as much 80’s pop as Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes as it soars through a short but satisfying tree and a half minutes. The lyrics for the bouncy country rock number “Lost Love” are credited to Carly Clarke, the first of a run of three live cuts: “Why Didn’t You Know?” finds Randy regretting the end of a relationship over a slow tune, Tom finding a suitably ‘lost love’ tone in his solo and bassist Rob also getting a feature before Mark hits us with a fine solo; the amusingly titled “I Ain’t Feeling As Good As I Look” recounts the story of one of those ‘life and soul of the party’ types who is so under the influence that he is not likely to be a great success with the ladies, all played to a wild rock and roll tune.

Back in the studio we get a real smorgasbord of sounds on “Love What Have You Done” with jazzy sax, accordion, hand percussion and soaring Santana-esque lead guitar and organ swirls. On another live cut Randy invites his intended romantic partner to “Lock The Door Mama” on a swinging rocker and the album closes with a short studio track with a long title – “You Don’t Know Me And I Wish You Would” – which turns out to be a nice bit of rock n’roll with pumping piano and a catchy chorus.

Overall this is a solid CD with plenty of good tunes. All original, varied, well played and sung – plenty to enjoy.

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