On February 8 2015, Bob Malone performed most of his superb new album “Mojo Deluxe” at The Grand Annex in San Pedro, California in a one-off performance supported by Mike Baird (drums), Jeff Dean (bass), Chris Trujillo (percussion), Bob Demarco (guitar, banjo), Marty Rifkin (slide guitar) and Lavonne Seetal, Trysette and Karen Nash (vocals). As well as a live performance, this was recording for the DVD “Mojo Live”, so there was absolutely no pressure at all on the band to turn in a great performance. If you’ve read what we’ve said about Bob in the past, you won’t be surprised to hear that they nailed it, start to finish.
If you’ve seen Bob touring the UK, his band comprises two Italian musicians (guitar and drums) and a British bass player. They’re great musicians and they gel perfectly as a band, but many of the songs on “Mojo Deluxe” have big arrangements, which a four-piece just can’t deliver, no matter how good they are. So Bob’s solution was to bring the gig to the audience rather than the audience to the gig (apart from the lucky ones who were in the Grand Annex on the night).
What you get on the DVD is a group of superb musicians playing a set that was meticulously prepared and played, with all of the verbal sparring that goes on between songs, including a bit of faux-snarky husband/wife dialogue to spice things up. From the raucous opening of “Don’t Threaten Me (with a Good time)” and the instrumental “Chinese Algebra” (which works perfectly as a solo piano piece or with the full band) to slow closers “Paris” and “Gaslight Fantasie” everything is played to perfection. There’s even the obligatory version of the Faces classic, “Stay with Me”, giving all the band an opportunity to trade licks with Bob, and just generally have a good time. There’s even some excellent still photography on there as an extra.
If you get the chance you go and see Bob Malone live, but this is something a little bit special. It’s unlikely that this show will go out on the road; this is the only chance you’ll get to see this and you really shouldn’t miss it. It’s a great record of great show and the only thing missing is the smell of spilt beer and soggy carpet; you can probably manage without that. Good Christmas present? I think so
Bob Malone’s one of those musicians that you know you’ve heard about, but you’re not sure where or when; it didn’t take long to find out. Just have a look at his Wikipedia entry for a start. He played keyboards on five songs on one of my favourite albums of 2014, John Fogerty’s “Wrote a Song for Everyone”, and that’s a pretty good recommendation. He’s also a singer, songwriter and arranger who has already released six albums and “Mojo EP” is a UK-only sampler for his upcoming album “Mojo Deluxe”.
With a pedigree like that, you would expect the playing on the EP to be high quality and you won’t be disappointed. With support from Mike Baird (drums), Jeff Dean (bass) and Bob DeMarco (guitars) and a few guest appearances, the playing and arrangements are always on the money. Bob’s voice is perfectly suited to the styles and songs on the EP. He can power out the rock and blues in a raucous style, but also sounds totally convincing on the slower songs, particularly the gospel/blues cover of the Ray Charles song “Hard Times”.
The first track on the EP, the stomping “A Certain Distance”, pulls you in with an electric piano riff and pumping, mainly root-note bass to drive the song along, and it’s one of a couple of songs that explore the gap between musicians (and maybe creative artists generally) and the rest of the world. The brooding, menacing “Toxic Love” is a slow blues which builds slowly from a foundation of bass and drums by adding layers of slide, guitar and keyboards to create a swampy, bayou feel with a hint of early Creedence Clearwater Revival. “I’m Not Fine” is the second of the songs that deal lyrically with the role of the professional musician and the artificial bonhomie of the music business, and it’s boosted by some fine unison guitar and keyboard playing plus some powerful backing vocals from Lavone Seetal and Sarah Nolan.
The ballad “Paris” turns the old romantic cliché on its head as the beauties of the city are listed but can’t compare with being back home with the one you love; it’s a nice sentiment but, after rejecting one cliché, it reinforces another by introducing an accordion to create a Parisian ambience. The final track, “Rage and Cigarettes”, is a warning about the dangers of becoming embittered by allowing circumstances to take control of you, rather than the opposite, and it’s pulled along nicely by an overdriven five note slide guitar hook and a melodic bass line; this is one that you just know you want to hear live.
Bob Malone has brewed up a heady mixture of rock, blues and New Orleans soul over the years and “Mojo EP” is a perfect sampler for the upcoming “Mojo DeLuxe” album. If you want to see him live, you can find his UK tour dates for the next four weeks here. We’ll see you at the final show in Southend.
“Mojo EP” is out on 01 September 2014 on Delta Moon Records (DMR 007).