Al Gold – Paradise | Album Review

Al Gold – Paradise


CD: 10 Songs, 36 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Roots, New Jersey Blues, All Original Songs

What is New Jersey blues? Al Gold, a Garden State native, confesses that “it may be difficult to define it as uniquely from NJ…The world has become a much smaller place; musical boundaries trampled and characteristic sounds have been shared. I’m not calling [Paradise] a blues album. Although it’s steeped and rooted in the blues, its options are open and a bit outside of the box.” Translation: There’s a lot to enjoy here, especially for fans of big-band sound. Al and his ensemble, featuring guests such as Johnny Sansone and Dave Stryker, are top-notch musicians, providing an extemporaneous quality to their ten original tracks. Overall, the album sounds tighter than a jam-session CD, but more improvisational than a studio release. Gold and company go with the flow no matter where it takes them. Sometimes the lyrics are hard to decipher, but no one can fault them for their retro aesthetic on every selection. Baby boomers and younger fans of vintage blues, roots and jazz will find Paradise lives up to its name. How, exactly? Read on.

The place to start was at home with Al’s band, the Suburban Rhythm Kings: drummer Jerry Cordasco, guitarist Tom Rice and bassist Terry Hemmer. They like a good groove and as little noodling as possible – two strategies that have worked well for them. They’ve been fortunate to back up several heavyweights passing through their backyard, as well as performing at countless gigs, festivals, and independent appearances. Joining them on this project are guest stars who all live and/or/were based in New Jersey. In alphabetical order, they are guitarist Mitch Eisenberg, jazz organist Jared Gold, pianist Eric Heilner, up-and-coming guitarist/singer Cassidy Rain, Baron Raymonde on sax, multi-instrumentalist and Blues Award winner Johnny Sansone, jazz and blues juggernaut Dave Stryker, and roots singer/songwriter and guitarist Anthony Tamburro. Also featured is V.d. King (with non-capitalized middle initial) on bass and other guitar.

“That’s My Baby” opens the proceedings, ushering in a 1950s vibe and classic subject matter: a cheating partner and an irritated significant other. “Paradise (Downhome)” has a contemplative intro with understated harmonica by Johnny Sansone. Imagine hearing this on an antique radio, on a dark and rainy night. Lyrics like this might chill you: “When I leave this town, I won’t be back no more. You’d still hear me knockin’, knockin’ on your screened back door.” “Tramps Take Linden” is an atmospheric jazz boogie with highlighted drums by Jerry Cordasco. Later on comes sassy number six, “Boogie in the Dark,” with a bouncy beat that’ll move your feet along with other parts of your body. Cassidy Rain provides sultry female vocals. “Won’t Sleep Tonight” is a terrific slow-burning blues track, and the instrumental “Maplewood Limbo” a postmodern meditation suitable for a dance hall/roadhouse scene in a blues biopic.

For lovers of jazz, roots and New Jersey blues, Al Gold’s latest offering is pure Paradise!

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