Blue Beak Records
CD: 11 Songs; 40:05 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, most songs (of any genre, but especially rock) were short, with few of them clocking in at over four minutes. As time went on, track length increased, most notably in the blues. Today it’s not uncommon to hear jam songs of ten minutes or more, making live throngs go wild but radio stations go crazy trying to decide when to ‘fade out’. Planet Full of Blues, on their rollicking sophomore album “Hard Landing,” hearkens to the ‘good old days’ when tunes were like popcorn chicken, packing a ton of musical flavor into bite-sized portions for the ears.
Even though their self-titled debut CD received strong international airplay and critical acclaim, PFOB isn’t content to rest on its newfound laurels. Rather, they raised the bar by enlisting the expertise of multi-Grammy-award winner Jim Gaines. Acting as both producer and engineer, Gaines maximizes the appeal of eleven original gems, written by either guitarist/vocalist Johnny Ray Light or drummer/vocalist Brock Howe. Completing this Virginia-based power trio is bassist and backup vocalist Ron Dameron. Whether they are short or long, the following three selections are some of the summer’s best blues rock:
Track 03: “Mashed Potatoes and Gravy” – This gritty shuffle will make fans ravenous for it to be longer. It vanishes down one’s aural gullet after only two minutes and fifty-four seconds. Our hungry hero has been promised several delicious entrées by his lover, none of which are to be found. “I’m warning you; I ain’t your fool. Don’t go messing with this big man’s food,” Light sulks. His electric-guitar fretwork is the hot sauce on top of everything, spicy and satisfying.
Track 05: “Busboy” – Sneeringly talk-sung by Brock Howe, this is a ballad of a bottom-of-the-barrel bloke at a fancy restaurant. One day he’s called on the carpet by his employers: “They said I didn’t smile as much as I should. I’m just a busboy with an attitude problem.” Such low-wage, low-prestige work isn’t likely to engender grins anytime soon, so the peevish narrator quits and uses the money he’s already earned to fuel big rock-star dreams. Is this tune biographical? It might be to college grads crushed by student loan debt.
Track 06: “I Had a Dream” – Slow-burners are perennial blues favorites, as number six will surely be once the world hears it. Johnny Ray Light embodies an insomniac who fails to find relief: “I hope sleep don’t come to these empty arms. If it does I’ll surely feel the same old voices that I always hear – repeating lines that I can’t erase. Tears and shadows and grieving face.” With poignant vocals reminiscent of Joe Louis Walker’s, “I Had a Dream” is a vision come true.
Hard Landing is no bumpy airplane ride for those who crave blues rock, especially as mastered by Planet Full of Blues and Jim Gaines!