Sandy Haley – Feels Like Freedom
5 songs – 21 minutes
Southern-California-based vocalist, Sandy Haley, grew up playing piano singing gospel in Detroit and that background deeply informs Feels Like Freedom, a highly enjoyable collection of superb modern-day blues and soul tracks.
Recorded at Ultratone Studios, Studio City, CA, Feels Like Freedom was engineered and mastered by Johnny Lee Schell and produced by Tony Braunagel, who together capture a series of outstanding performances with top drawer clarity. On different songs, Haley is backed by Pat McClure and Schell on guitars, Braunagel on drums and percussion, Teddy Andreadis and Jeff Paris on piano (Andreadis also adds harmonica), Wurlitzer and Hammond Organ, Ricky Cortes, Reggie McBride and Dave DeLeon on bass, Joe Sublett on saxophone, Nick Lane on trombone, Les Lovitt on trumpet and Maxayn Lewis, Kudisan Kai Regalto and Melodye Perry on backing vocals.
The album opens with the soulful title track and a typically superb sax solo from Sublett. A glorious ode to life, love and friendship, “Feels Like Freedom” also feels like summer and escape. Haley is a fine, fine singer, who perfectly channels the optimistic and life-enhancing lyrics. The rocking “Never Sleep Your Way To The Top”, meanwhile, tells the tongue-in-cheek true story of an office worker’s romance with the married boss with wry advice to women of all ages. Some excellent boogie woogie piano and swinging horns give the song added impetus.
Haley, who wrote all the songs on the album, can also do very personal lyrics, such as on the torch song “Love Me Right” in which she tells her partner to love her right “or cut me loose.” The funky “Run For Shelter” by contrast addresses the hardships inherent in starting over in mid-life but again offers hope for those who choose that path – “love will find a way”.
The album ends with the raucous swinging blues of “Dirty Dog” in which Haley humorously recounts the tale of a partner staying out far too late, drinking far too much, and misbehaving far too often. McClure’s guitar solo fits the track perfectly, echoing the barely restrained fury of the scorned protagonist in the lyrics.
Feels Like Freedom is a very impressive release from Sandy Haley. It’s a shame that it is such a short album because there is some significant talent on display here. Let’s hope her next release will contain more tracks of a quality comparable to Feels Like Freedom.