Delta Moon Records – DMR 008
12 songs – 51 minutes
Bob Malone is perhaps most widely-recognized as the keyboardist with rock legend John Fogerty. His multi-faceted, rhythmically-propulsive style also lends itself well to his solo career, however, with a mix of rock, blues, and New Orleans-style R&B, combined with a warm, lived-in singing voice and top notch song-writing. Mojo Deluxe is Malone’s seventh and perhaps most impressive solo release.
Opening with “Certain Distance”, the overall ambiance is actually closer to early Deep Purple (the “Mark 2” version for the connoisseurs out there) than classic blues, from the overdriven, descending guitar riff and the assertive Hammond organ and electric piano, to the curiously engaging “off-mic” asides and – a common trait on the album – a great knack of capturing a sound-bite lyric and combining it with a melody that nails itself into your cranium instantly. In this case, you may find yourself wondering around town politely singing to yourself: “It ain’t personal if I don’t know your face. I feel a certain distance from the whole human race”.
“Toxic Love” takes the pace down slightly, with a threatening groove that captures the dangers of an all-consuming relationship: “I ain’t got cigarettes, I ain’t got weed. Ain’t got Jesus, ain’t got the need, cos I got you…. And I’m addicted to your toxic love.”
The mood shifts again as Malone delivers a beautiful take on the Ray Charles classic, “Hard Times”, one of only two covers on the album (the other being a stomping version of Muddy Waters’ “She Moves Me”). Malone either wrote or co-wrote the remaining 10 songs, ranging in style from the lonely ballad of “Paris”; the riff-based blues-rock of “I’m Not Fine” with its dynamic changes between quiet and loud in every verse; the New Orleans-via-Delbert McClinton of “Looking For The Blues”; and the jazz-rock instrumental of “Chinese Algebra” with its searing harmony slide guitars.
A range of different musicians provide top drawer support on Mojo Deluxe, including the likes of drummers Kenny Aronoff, Mike Baird and Rich Zukor; bassists Jeff Dean, Tim Lefebvre, David Santos and Ritt Henn; Stan Behrens on harp; Chris Trujillo on percussion; and Tommy Williams and Marty Rifkin on guitars. Lavone Seetal and Karen Nash contribute stellar backing vocals to several tracks. A special mention should also go to Bob Demarco for producing the album, co-writing three songs and contributing electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitars, dobro, eBow and mellotron.
Perhaps the highlight of the album is the closing song, “Can’t Get There From Here”. With hints of John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain”, Malone spins a story of the despair of seeing life pass you by: “Once I was beautiful, now I just look good for my age. I was so full of promise, now I’m just full of rage. Yeah, I got regrets, and soul-crushing fear. I know where I want to go, but I can’t get there from here.” As the song develops and builds, however, the protagonist sees a glimmer of hope, leading to an ultimately uplifting message: “I got a woman that loves me and picks me up off the floor. Always took that for granted, I won’t anymore. This is my last shot at redemption and my moment is near. Just one place left to go, and I’m going to get there from here. I’m going to get there from here.”
Bob Malone writes intelligent, clever songs and sings and plays them with deep emotion and almost casual virtuosity. Mojo Deluxe is not a traditional blues album, but the blues infuses everything Malone does. If your tastes lean towards the rockier end of the blues spectrum, then you will find much to enjoy in this album.