Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band – Soul For Your Blues
Blue Dot Records
13 tracks; 58 minutes
Early in 2013 a live recording of this band at San Francisco’s Biscuits And Blues impressed sufficiently for the disc to be nominated as best debut recording in this year’s Blues Blast Awards. Those who enjoyed the live album will be delighted by this studio effort which manages to improve on the first CD. The main ingredient here is old-fashioned soul, courtesy of Frank’s excellent voice and tight, horn-driven arrangements from the same seven piece ensemble as on the live album. Anthony Paule leads the band on guitar with Paul Revelli on drums, Paul Olguin on bass, Tony Lufano on keys, Nancy Wright on sax, Mike Rinta on trombone and Steffen Kuehn on trumpet. The album was recorded at Kid Anderson’s Greaseland studio and Kid adds guitar to a few tracks and his fellow Nightcat Rick Estrin adds harp to two cuts. There are six covers alongside originals from Anthony and his wife (and band publicist) Christine Vitale.
Frank once opened for Otis Redding and Christine’s soul-drenched ballad “I Just Can’t Go On” definitely evokes Otis’ spirit, Frank’s voice being quite close to how one might imagine Otis to sound if he had survived until now – quite superb. Another beautiful ballad is “You’re Somebody Else’s Baby Too”, a co-write between Christine, Anthony and Karen Falkner who also contributes to two other tracks. Here the horns caress Frank’s vocal and provide understated support to Anthony’s gentle guitar solo, the whole piece being subtle and soulful. Full horn arrangements abound and “Don’t Mess With The Monkey” is a good example, Rick Estrin’s harp adding some accents to the horns while the rhythm section pumps along. Anthony’s “I’m Leavin’ You” recounts a tale of a broken relationship as the woman walks out on her man, despite his always trying to do things right – a cautionary tale in which the horns play second string to the guitar and a funky backbeat.
“I Want To Change Your Mind” sounds like a lost soul classic but is Christine and Karen again, this time telling the story of a divorce which Frank does not want to accept: “I wanted money and fame, I know I’m to blame”. However, leaving the best to last “It’s Good To Have Your Company” is a song so strong that it deserves to be covered by many an aspiring soul singer. The horns introduce the song, then piano and organ and backing vocals support Frank’s outstanding lead vocal. The chorus has that happy knack of a change of pace as Frank sings the title and a superb sax solo graces the middle section. Memphis soul at its very best, albeit recorded in California!
The covers include an excellent version of “I Don’t Know Why” (here credited to Willie Mitchell though I thought it was a Stevie Wonder song) which makes a soulful opener to the CD. Wynonie Harris’ “Buzzard Luck” swings like crazy as Frank commands our attention, his vocal soaring over the excellent horn arrangement, Anthony adding a nice ‘twangy’ guitar solo in the middle of the song. Percy Mayfield is often covered but “Nothing Stays The Same Forever” is less familiar. Opening with a military drum beat and trombone, Frank adapts his voice to a deeper timbre to suit the arrangement of quite a dark song – but we should remember that Percy gave us “Mother Earth” which is far from a happy listen! John Prine’s “Hello In There” is a poignant tale of people getting old, their kids far away and out of touch; however, the arrangement is simply beautiful, Anthony’s guitar and piano underpinning the vocal, the horns playing a minor support role here. The horns sit out Jeff Monjack’s “Bed For Your Soul”, a downhome piece with acoustic guitar and Rick Estrin’s harp to the fore.
Two instrumentals are also included: Anthony’s “Smokehouse” has an Albert Collins feel in the guitar and the horns are heavily featured too. As the closing track the classic “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” might be best known in Tony Bennett’s version but here Anthony’s guitar swings the melody with horns there at every turn in support – not blues, but very catchy.
Overall this is an extremely impressive soul album which more than fulfils the promise of the live album. Highly recommended and an early contender for the Soul/Blues Album of the Year.