The Love Light Orchestra – Leave the Light On | Album Review

The Love Light Orchestra – Leave the Light On

Nola Blue Records

10 songs, 34 minutes

John Németh, Joe Restivo and Marc Franklin have performed feats of magic and awe with their exceptional “side-project” supergroup The Love Light Orchestra. These Memphis based Bluesmen have figured out how to create new music that fully lives within a hallowed tradition but is also fresh and original. Nemeth is a well known singer and harp blower with an irreverent greasy Soul Blues style. Guitarist Restivo and trumpeter/arranger Franklin are members of the Bo-Keys, the premier Memphis based Soul band. Forming a 9 piece band in 2016 for a live tribute to Memphis Big Band Blues, the 3 collaborators have not just kept the music flowing they have transcended..

The Love Light Orchestra’s debut studio project Leave the Light On is a short 34 minute blast of pure Vintage (with a big “V” meaning 40’s and 50’s vintage) Big Band Blues. Leave the Light On is a platform for Németh, Restivo and Franklin to flex their creative muscles within the freeing confines of the form. For an album that sounds so classic and familiar all but 1 track is original, the sole cover is a reworking of the B.B. King classic “3 O’Clock Blues,” a fitting tribute to the King of Memphis Big Band Blues.

What distinguishes this music is the authenticity, care and originality the 3 leaders bring. Franklin’s horn arrangements smack of classic troupes while adding rich layers. A great example is the tough kitsch of Restivo’s original “I Must Confess.” Surging horn figures punctuate each stanza while playing counterpoint to Restivo’s raked 50’s Go-Go riffing. It is Restivo’s reverb-dripping tube-warmed guitar tone that anchors this recording in vintage waters. His tasty and deeply personal playing is given depth and heft by his tone. It sounds like he ripped a tear into his amp speaker, a la early Chess singles, in tunes like “Tricklin’ Down.”

The revelation of Leave The Light On, which isn’t much of revelation for those of us hip, is John Németh the soul shouting leader of a new breed of young lion Bluesmen and Blueswomen. Németh contributes 4 tunes all of which are bullet proof. The most compelling, and the one that highlights the innovation of this band, is the medium tempo cheater’s lament “Come On Moon.” The narrator gets caught with another man’s wife while they are “deep in love.” He runs out the back door and is begging the moon to come out and light his way. The simple yet poetic lyricism is majestic, the propulsive and menacing horn arrangements leer and Restivo’s extended manic guitar solo over the mad dash out the back door is frenetic. It is Németh’s multifaceted delivery and impassioned, terrified and mischievous delivery that transcends.

The Love Light Orchestra has a number of players contributing, anchored by drummer Earl Lowe’s fantastic rhythms and the dearly departed upright bassist and educator Tim Goodwin. The rest of the band includes: Gerald Stephens and Al Gamble on piano, Matthew Wilson on electric bass, Scott Thompson and Paul McKinney on trumpet, Jason Yasinsky on trombone, Art Edmaiston on tenor sax and Kirk Smothers on bari and also.

This is the premier Blues Big Band working today. They inhabit the music and express themselves within it. Leave the Light On is a modern masterpiece in traditional Blues that transports you to a bizarro future sock hop in space. Enjoy the ride.

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