CD: 12 Songs; 59:25 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric and Ensemble Blues, Blues Covers
According to Organic.org, how are food products certified worthy of the name? “Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.”
Extrapolating the analogy, what would “organic recordings” be? Harlem, NY’s Solomon Hicks clearly shows us on his new album, Carrying On the Torch of the Blues. He presents seven original tracks (several written or co-written by producer Jeff Levine) and five popular covers. All of them are as crisp and fresh as newly-picked carrots. There are no pesky pop songs, no artificial techno-synthesizer/keyboard riffs, no sludgy, mumbled lyrics, no blues-modified hard rock songs, and no “ear-radiating” screech-fests on guitar. This is 100% organic ensemble blues. Purists and casual fans alike will gorge on such a satisfying musical meal.
Hicks’ website reveals: “Twenty-year-old guitar prodigy and singer Solomon Hicks – known by some fans in Harlem as ‘King Solomon,’ ‘lil B.B.’ or ‘East Montgomery’ – has been playing guitar for 14 years. After 2 years of songwriting and recording with his producer/manager, Jeff Levine (a Joe Cocker veteran musical director and keyboardist), his new album entitled Carrying on the Torch of the Blues was released June 2015 on the Organic Recordings™ label…
“Special guest Southside Johnny plays harmonica on the cover version of “Homework”, a roots classic made popular by Otis Rush and The J. Geils Band. Jake Clemons (current member and the nephew of the legendary Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street Band) is featured playing saxophone on the title track.”
Also joining lead guitarist/vocalist Solomon Hicks are Jeff Levine on Hammond B3 organ, grand piano, clavinet, and Wurlitzer electric piano; Gary Dates, John O’Neill and Steve Hoffman on drums and percussion; Rick Brunermer on alto, tenor, and baritone sax; Rob Elinson on alto and tenor sax; Eric Udell on bass; Tom LaBella on alto and tenor sax; John Berry, Curt Ramm, and Mac Gallehon on trumpets; Bob Funk on trombone; Gary Mazzaroppi on upright bass; Freddie Salem on second rhythm guitar; and Angelo “Buddy” Savino on bass.
The following three original selections burn the brightest on this CD, hot as an acetylene torch:
Track 01: “You Don’t Want Me Anymore” – With a medium, swinging tempo and hallowed horn section, the album’s opener is reminiscent of “Tore Down.” However, it’ll tear any dance floor up: “I can admit we had our days, when we would fight and walk away. You told me it was the last goodbye. I look back now and wonder why. I’ll always love you like I did before, but it’s clear to me: You don’t want me anymore.” Breakups are no fun, but this song’s a party in itself.
Track 04: “Jukin’ at the Cotton Club” – One of the world’s most famous music venues gets its due in Fab (Number) Four. It’s a swing/jump blues masterpiece, no matter how many people might call it jazz: “In Harlem, New York City, street 125, there’s a club up there that really jumps and jives, with a band that burns so hot you won’t believe your eyes.” Dig Gary Mazzaroppi’s outstanding upright bass and Jeff Levine’s perky piano.
Track 06: “Foolin’ Around” – Never has a guitar’s wah-wah pedal been put to such creative use as on psychedelic song six. It’s a familiar tale with a funky twist, told from the point of view of a teenager in trouble: “Well, you told me not to rush into the birds and the bees. To wait…until I found the girl of my dreams, but I was hungry. The taste of lust was all about, and now she claims it’s my baby – and that’s some news I can live without.” Time to grow up, kid, and for you blues fans, it’s time to play some air guitar!
Solomon Hicks is grandly Carrying On the Torch of the Blues!