“Mojo Deluxe” – Bob Malone

5 stars (out of 5)

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MojoDeluxeCover TitleYou would never guess that “Mojo Deluxe” is Bob Malone’s seventh album; granted it’s packed with the kind of accomplished playing, tipping over into virtuosity, that you would expect from seasoned players, but there’s a vitality and freshness here that wouldn’t be out of place on a debut album. There’s another magic ingredient as well; fun. There’s the odd studio comment left in on an intro or outro, but it’s more than that; this album sounds like people having a good time; the kind of fun you have when you’re doing what you do best, with a bunch of musicians who are tuned in to what you do.

Just like the “Mojo EP”, a sampler for the album released in the UK a year ago, “Mojo Deluxe” kicks open the doors with an electric piano riff and pounding bass on “A Certain Distance” that say ‘Go on, just try and ignore me’. Don’t even try; just surrender to the rhythm and enjoy the ride. You might be willing to forgive a jaw-droppingly good keyboard player with a classic gravelly blues voice if he just phoned in some lyrics to fit the great tunes but, guess what, Bob Malone has that covered as well. “A Certain Distance”, “I’m Not Fine” and “Rage and Cigarettes” all tap into the malaise that afflicts gifted musicians confined with others like themselves on tour; you’re locked into a dysfunctional world where you come to hate your travelling companions, but you hate outsiders even more. It’s not as snarky as Donald Fagen, but then what is?

But, there’s more to life than snark. “Paris” is a gentle love song, overturning the clichés with the message that Paris is all very well, but doesn’t mean anything if your lover’s somewhere else; there’s even the irony of an accordion solo. “Toxic Love” is a love song in its own brooding, menacing way with slide dobro and sinister hissing vocal; it’s an affair you wouldn’t expect to turn out too well. There’s a couple of blues covers as well, the Ray Charles classic “Hard Times”, which gets a very clean modern workout with a punchy guitar solo, and a lo-fi, piano-led version of Muddy Waters’ “She Moves Me”. The instrumental, “Chinese Algebra” is a demonstration of Bob’s piano technique which works equally well with the band arrangement or the solo version that you can find all over YouTube; it’s another one of those bits of fun that spice up the album.

“Looking for the Blues” and “Don’t Threaten Me (With a Good Time)” are both uptempo blues numbers with all the trimmings including horns and backing vocals (even a funky clavinet on “Don’t Threaten Me…”); great fun again. “Watching Over Me” and “Can’t Get There from Here” both have a world-weary gospel feel and bring the album to a satisfactory if slightly melancholy close. And that’s it for “Mojo Deluxe”; it’s an enticing stew of Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Dr John and mainly Bob Malone. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be coming back for more.

Bob will be touring the UK with his superb band later this year. Go and see him at any of these venues and see what all the fuss is all about:

Friday October 9                     The Railway Hotel, Southend-on-Sea

Saturday October 10              Boogaloo Blues Weekend, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

Sunday October 11                The Navy Club, Maryport

Wednesday October 14          Dusty’s Blues Club, High Wycombe

Thursday October 15              The Green Hotel, Kinross

Friday October 16                   The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen

Sunday October 18                Hope Tavern, West Lindsey

Tuesday October 20               Blues Café, Harrogate

Wednesday October 21          Railway Venue, Bromley Cross, Bolton

Thursday October 22              The Jam House, Birmingham

Friday October 23                   Keighley Blues Club

Saturday October 24              Catholic Club, Peterlee

Monday October 26                The Bullingdon (Haven Club), Oxford

Tuesday October 27               The 100 Club, London

Wednesday October 28          The Jazz Café, Cardiff

“Mojo Deluxe” is released on August 21.