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Savoy Brown – Voodoo Moon

Ruf Records

9 tracks; 45.32 minutes

Savoy Brown has been around since 1966, the one constant being founder Kim Simmonds who has been there since the beginning on guitar and occasional vocals. Although the original incarnation of Savoy Brown was British, Kim has been resident in the USA for many years and all the players here are local to NY State where Kim now lives. Kim produced the CD, wrote all the material, plays all guitars and sings on two tracks. Joining Kim are Joe Whiting who handles most of the vocals, plays sax on six and co-wrote two, Pat DeSalvo who plays bass and Garnet Grimm who plays the drums. Keyboards and percussion are added by Andy Rudy and Ron Keck respectively.

Vocalist Joe Whiting has a clear, strong voice, ideally suited to this sort of blues-based rock. His sax playing is always in the background, beefing up the music rather than taking a lead role which remains largely Kim Simmonds’ role. What I like about Kim’s playing is that he never distorts the sound, keeps it clean and often gets great tone in his solos. The album opens strongly with “Shockwaves”, an insistent guitar riff and lots of piano underpin the fast rhythm. The next track slows the pace a little, another catchy riff carrying along a song that claims that the singer does not have (or need) some of those ‘little extras’ of blues lyrics such as TNT or dynamite, John The Conqueroo or a Black Cat Bone – no, he’s just a “Natural Man”. What he does have though is a great lyrical guitar solo in the middle of the song.

“Too Much Money” is also a slower tune with a touch of funk in the mix. Keyboards feature strongly here, the lyric suggesting that nobody has too much money – “Only a fool says something like that”! “She’s Got The Heat” is a real rocker, with exciting slide guitar and sparkling piano. Kim steps up to the mike for “Look At The Sun”, another mid-paced piece. He has a good voice, not quite as strong as Joe’s, but certainly serviceable. Joe’s sax can be heard quite clearly supporting the main theme. “24/7” is the only instrumental on the album, a fast-paced number with lots of guitar which ably demonstrates how good and varied a player Kim is.

In an album of strong guitar performances my particular pick is “Round And Round”. A repetitive guitar motif and swirling organ underpin the vocals but between verses Kim weaves an intricate pattern of crystal clear solos. Title track “Voodoo Moon” is also a strong contender for best track on the album. It has a rousing chorus which lifts the music after the slower paced verses and another strong guitar solo. “Meet The Blues Head On” closes the album with an anthemic, riff-driven tune and the memorable chorus “You’ve got to stand up tall and strong, don’t run and hide, you’ve got to meet the blues head on”.

This is a very enjoyable album of strong songs and performances. Savoy Brown will be touring to promote this album and I suspect that this line-up will be well worth catching live.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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