Supersonic Blues Machine – Californisoul
Provogue/Mascot Record Group PRD 75362
13 songs – 63 minutes
Composed of three of the top instrumentalists in America today, Supersonic Blues Machine enlists an all-star group of friends for an imaginary trip up the highways of the West Coast on this pleasing collection of modern blues, a follow-up to their well-received 2016 disc, West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco.
The band’s the brainchild of Italian-born bassist Fabrizio Grossi, who came to New York in the 1990s as the American representative and A&R person for several European and Latin record labels. As a rocker, he worked behind punk star Nina Hagen and rock guitar god Steve Vai before moving on to back Ice T, George Clinton, Cypress Hill, Slash, Eric Gales and others. A skilled studio engineer and producer, he’s in high demand for his work behind the scenes. And as a songwriter, his work has been featured in the 2015 big-screen remake of Shaft as well as several TV shows.
Grossi produced, recorded and mixed this CD, which features Lance Lopez on guitar and vocals. A native of Shreveport, La., he cut his chops in New Orleans before working alongside soul-blues superstar Johnnie Taylor, Lucky Peterson, Buddy Miles and Gales. Handling percussion is Kenny Aronoff, one of the most decorated drummers of all time. Modern Drummer Magazine recognized him as its top pop-rock and studio percussion five years in a row. He’s played on more than 60 Grammy-winning albums behind John Fogarty, Paul McCartney and John Cougar Mellencamp and appeared on CDs that have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.
Already a star-studded group in their own right, Supersonic Blues Machine wrote most of the material here, but still recruited a handful of top guitarists to round out their sound for Californisoul, as they did with their debut disc. Joining in on the action for one cut each are Gales, Robben Ford, Billy F. Gibson, Steve Lukather and Walter Trout. Also making appearances are Chris Hansen and Fabio Treves (harmonica), Alex Allesandroni Jr. (keys), Chick Kavooras (guitar), Eric Jorgenson (trombone), Cleto Escovedo Jr. (sax), Mario Sanchez (trumpet) and Francis Benitez, Serge Simic and Andrea Grossi, who deliver backing vocals throughout.
“I Am Done Missing You” kicks the action off with a simple guitar line and vocal chorus before picking up speed. It’s a syncopated number that begins as a field holler and features Hansen’s harp behind Lopez’s warm, rich vocals and stinging six-string riffs. Ford’s in the spotlight next for his self-penned “Somebody’s Fool” as Lance continues the lyrical message of the opener.
Despite the opening theme, the band insists “L.O.V.E” is all you need to overcome the bitterness. Gibbons is up next for the ZZ Top powerhouse’s driving original “Broken Heart.” While bad memories still exist, the singer’s still willing to try again, albeit wary of the potential for more heartbreak.
“Bad Boys” outlines the band’s mission — to pray, believe and let go – before Gales sits in for “Elevate,” a statement that nothing in life is granted and that it’s important to keep strong motivation, while “The One” offers a positive spin on romance. It’s a promise to be true to someone who’s afraid, but still looking for affection.
Best known for his work with Toto, Lukather joins the mix for “Hard Times,” which begins as a ballad, but quickly picks up steam as it acknowledges current troubles but offers up hope for the future. Next up, the intense, but slow-tempo “Cry” as it delivers a clear message that it’s okay to weep, but it’s also important to make changes that will enable the tears to evaporate.
The band keeps a guarded eye on outsiders in “The Stranger” before Trout joins the fray for “What’s Wrong.” The action heats again for “Thank You” before “This Is Love” opens with another choral field holler before adopting a reggae beat to bring the action to a close.
Available through all major retailers, Californisoul is solid blues-rock, driving effortlessly from one tune to the next. You’ll love this one if that’s your bag. It’s soulful throughout, but probably too much on the rock side of things for hard-core blues traditionalists.