Ronnie Baker Brooks steps to the plate with Times Have Changed to give us a modern and updated blues that fully ventures into soul and funk. After all, its Ronnie Baker Brooks and that is his gig- modern sounding stuff with a big and delicious guitar sound. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Brooks surrounds himself with horns and strings and more guitars and vocalists and Hammond organs and electric pianos and makes it all blend together into a soulful and funky set of tunes that go back and forth into the blues and other genres with ease and aplomb. One minute it’s straight up Chicago and then he’s down on the Chitterling Circuit. He even verges on hip hop and certainly into rap on one cut and it’s cool. Baker goes way back for the covers and does six originals (five which he had a hand in writing).
“Show Me” is a Joe Tex tune that Ronnie does with Steve Cropper and Big Head Todd assisting on the guitar. Brooks slows the pace down just a bit from Joe Tex, adds a Steve Cropper Blues Brothers-styled guitar lead in and the horn section to make this one a lot of fun and exciting. Cropper gets to give his own guitar solo and the horns blare throughout. Brooks does a bang up job on the vocals and sets a great tone for his new CD with a nice hook of a tune. Willie Weeks is on bass, Steve Jordan is on drums, Felix Cavaliere is on organ, and there is a four piece horn section also on the cut. Next is “Doin’ Too Much” where Brooks gives us a Bobby Rush styled performance where he funks it up. Big Head Todd helps on guitar and vocals. Leroy Hodges is on bass, Charlie Hodges is on organ, Jordan is on drums and Archie “Hubby” Turner is on electric piano. The guitar is stinging and the groove is cool. Nicely done.
“Twine Time” features Lonnie Brooks on guitar and the vocal intro, Jordan, Weeks, Hodges, Turner and the horns. It’s a slick instrumental with the father and son guitar showcased in this soul cut originally recorded in 1965 by Alvin Cash & The Crawlers. A little rap enters the picture in Baker’s “Times Have Changed.” It begins as a soul blues cut and stays that way until near the end. Al Kapone raps and takes this out. Michael Toles is on rhythm guitar and there is a three piece string section that fleshes out the soul part of the blues in a nice manner. Jordan, Weeks, Hodges and Turner are the backing band.
“Long Story Short” is a funky blues with most of the same players. Jonathan Richmond is on electric piano and the horns return, but Baker sings and plays on this original song and he’s the featured artist. Big guitar solos and fills are in your face and well done. Angie Stone is featured on vocals along with Brooks in “Give Me Your Love (Love Song).” Brooks does not attempt the Curtis Mayfield falsetto and leaves the high stuff for Stone. I like the duet version and they have flute, horns and strings along with organ and the guitar to fully funk up this slow, soul classic.
More Joe Tex in “Give The Baby Anything The Baby Wants” has more Big Head Todd assisting on guitar along with Eddie Willis. Brooks gets down and funky and gives a very convincing performance. “Old Love” is the Clapton Cray collaboration that Baker collaborates with Teenie Hodges on guitar and uses Bobby Blue Bland on vocals to make special. Bland and Brooks sell it vocally and the organ and guitar do the same instrumentally along with the string section. Felix Cavaliere penned “Come On Up,” helps sing and plays organs. Lee Roy Parnell gives a big guitar assist and Brooks blazes with the horns behind him.
“Wham Bam Thank You Sam” is a Brook original; Hodges is back on guitar and the organ, piano and horns also return in this funky number with a full-fledged set of backing vocalists. Brooks delivers the goods once again. He concludes with another original, “When I Was We.” Hubby Turner is featured on electric piano and does a good job. Strings and a couple of rhythm guitars along with the piano and organ and big backing vocals makes this soul ballad slick and memorable. Baker is a tenor version of Barry White crooning and oozing charm.
I’ve seen some folks comment that they were expecting a straight up blues album. Well, that may have been Lonnie Brooks they were thinking about because Ronnie takes his blues way into funk and soul with modern sounding arrangements and even a little hip hop flavor. He even paid homage to rap on “Times Have Changed.” It all began as blues and the blues begat all this other stuff that Ronnie weave and blends expertly into the mix. He take a bunch of old songs and a bunch of new ones and makes them his own. It’s more soul than blues and that’s perfectly okay because Brooks shows us how they mix and how they work together. It’s a nice little album. Brook’s fans along with the soul tinged blues loves will eat this up and enjoy it as I did.