When I started doing this, I hoped only to share my music collection with you, to make some use of all those records I’d bought over 35 or so years, just as if we were sitting together in my rec room.
I never imagined bands and publicists would send me music, hoping I might put in a good word for them. The queries pour into my e-mail, more now than ever. Some of the sharper publicists have figured out we have an older demographic and send music accordingly.
Which brings us to three records sent all the way to our corner of Wisconsin, two of which I am long overdue in mentioning.
“Soul On Ten” by Robben Ford arrived first, at the end of last summer. I didn’t know much about Ford beyond that he was a guitarist, mostly a blues guitarist. He’s also worked in rock and jazz. He’s been at it since 1969, recording since 1972. He’s well regarded among musicians, but has never had a high profile.
“Meet the Meatbats” by Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats arrived next, early last fall. I know Smith as the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and more recently the supergroup Chickenfoot, so I was curious to see what kind of a side project this would be.
“Emotion & Commotion” by Jeff Beck arrived last week. I’m most familiar with Beck from the Yardbirds in the ’60s and from the Honeydrippers in the ’80s and less familiar with his vast solo catalog.
What I realized after listening to all three was not at all what I expected.
The records from Robben Ford and Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats, though quite different stylistically, are pleasant throwbacks to the free-form FM radio of the early ’70s. Ford’s extended live jams and the Meatbats’ funk-jazz fusion workouts would fit nicely in that format.
“Indianola,” Robben Ford, from “Soul On Ten,” 2009.
Though Ford covers Willie Dixon, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed on the album, which was recorded live at The Independent in San Francisco, most of it is original material like this cut.
“Pig Feet,” Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats, from “Meet the Meatbats,” 2009.
The Meatbats are an instrumental quartet with Smith on drums and percussion, Jeff Kollman on guitars, Ed Roth on keyboards and Kevin Chown on bass. All their tunes are originals created in jam sessions.
Chown is from Escanaba, Michigan, just up the road from us. He arranged this tune and brought it to the group, he told Steve Seymour, who writes the fine Michigan-oriented Rock n Roll Graffiti blog.
Also worth noting; The last cut, “Into the Floyd,” which has a nice, gentle “Dark Side of the Moon” vibe.
“There’s No Other Me,” Jeff Beck with Joss Stone, from “Emotion & Commotion,” 2010.
This record has been getting mixed reviews. There’s no denying his remarkable guitar skills, but this one seems to be embraced most passionately by those who have long liked Jeff Beck. That said …
Thank goodness for Joss Stone. Her blistering vocals on two cuts — including Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” — bring some life to a meandering record that also covers Jeff Buckley, Judy Garland and Puccini and winds up sounding like a soundtrack album. Stone wrote this cut with keyboard player Jason Rebello.
When I listened to those first two records last fall, I thought they were just OK. Heard alongside the new Jeff Beck record, they are far more interesting. But as always, you be the judge.
FTC disclosure: We received free copies of each of these records from publicists for review purposes. We promised only to listen. We did not promise, nor were we asked, to play nice.