Slapping Cat Records SLAPCD 012
13 songs – 48 minutes
Calling all original hippies and current hippie wannabes! Here’s something that might interest you: A new CD that delivers acid blues with the true feel of the ’60s. And you can take that to the bank because this reviewer was there when it all began.
Recorded live last April at the Arlington (Mass.) Center For The Performing Arts Theatre in a Boston suburb, it’s the product of Bees Deluxe, a five-piece ensemble with seven previous releases to their credit. For the past two years, the band has conducted Bluesapocalype, a concert benefiting the venue.
The band’s led by Conrad Warre — a veteran road dog, record company production manager and music journalist who’s toured with Joe Jackson, The Specials and The English Beat — on guitar and vocals and includes Berklee College Of Music grad Patrick Sanders on drums, Allyn “Aldo” Dorr on bass and vocals, Carol Band on keyboards and David Blaustein, founder of the New England favorite quintet Melodious Funk, on tenor sax. The idea of this live disc came about after someone recorded a bootleg of a recent performance and handed a copy to the band’s sound man after the show.
Bluesapocalypse Live features revolutionarily different interpretations of nine tunes made famous by blues, jazz and rock legends in addition to four original numbers, all written by Warre. While it features several extended jams, like their Age Of Aquarius counterparts, the band is completely under control throughout and remains on point, free of the screeching feedback and noodling common to the previous era.
The festivities kick off with a spacy introduction for the original, “Blues For The Decline Of The Western Civilization,” an instrumental that features Warre’s talent on the six-string atop a slow shuffle, before the group reworks Etta James’ classic, “Damn Your Eyes,” stripping it of Etta’s soulful fire and turning it into more of a pensive ballad before Conrad’s psychedelic solo brings the song to a close.
The tempo picks up for another instrumental, “B-Minor With Stops,” a rapid, stop-time shuffle, before a version of J.B. Lenoir’s often-recorded “Talk To Your Daughter.” In this version, which is nothing like Lenoir envisioned, it’s a trippy, loping blues with jazz accents provided by Blaustein’s horn. A cover of Robben Ford’s “Start It Up” follows with tasty horn highlights and the vocals slightly buried in the mix before a solid take on “I’ve Been Downhearted,” made famous by B.B. King.
Two more instrumental originals – the driving “Roll Over Stockhausen,” which features the rhythm section, and hallucinogenic “Zoe’s Chromatic Blues” – precede the Phillip Walker/Robert Cray hit, “Phone Booth.” It’s a fairly traditional arrangement atop rapid rhythm that’s handicapped by a somewhat monotonal vocal.
An equally throaty version of Albert Collins’ “Travelin’ South” is up next, followed by a slow-paced cover of Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” before the disc concludes with takes on John Schofield’s “Green Tea” and Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me).”
It’s an interesting CD, especially for lovers of bands like Free, Traffic or Soft Machine, but might be off-putting if you’re locked into a traditional blues sound. That said, the musicianship is first-rate. Available through direct download from the band’s www.beesdeluxe.com website.