What does it sound like?:
The Jools Holland Rhythm And Blues Orchestra with José Feliciano. You know exactly what it sounds like, don’t you? It’s slick and professional, a soothing, buttery balm for the ears, the album release timed for the Christmas market. It’s easy listening for the middle-aged masses.
Jools is carrying out a public service, providing a pastime for the ageing musician. As a consequence, his orchestra has got bigger over time. It gigs endlessly and releases a record every ten minutes. Even so, Jools must be a wizard with finances to keep it viable. Now, he’s added a little Latin tinge to the mix, jazzing up a band as comfortable with swing as it is with reggae.
José is best known for his softening of Light My Fire, rendering it as a cozy cuddle on a sofa rather than a rampant night of passion. He retains an agility in his fingers sufficient to dazzle with his fretwork. His acoustic guitar lines ripple with seductiveness. Jools matches him with his piano trills. In fact, the interaction between these two instruments is the most pleasing aspect of the whole album. It’s amazing how many similarities there are between flamenco guitar and boogie-woogie piano. Sadly, José’s voice has lost its lustre. It is now cripplingly narrow in range and expression. It’s a blessing when Jools invites Ruby Turner and Rita Wilson to take a turn at the mike.
The band are crisp, clearly enjoying themselves, toying with different styles, even a spot of bluebeat. They are very adept at displaying José’s singing and playing in its best light. The horns are specially impressive and noticeably missed on the tracks where they lay out. Dave Swift’s bass, augmented by Jools’s restless left hand, is as all-enveloping as a comfort blanket.
Jools writes a new original, As You See Me Now, they cover a couple of José’s well known numbers, including a ska version of his Christmas hit, Feliz Navidad, and Rita Wilson gets to sing her song, You’re So Cold, but, otherwise they cherry pick from Jools enormous memory bank of songs. Best of all is the the finale, Happy New Year, when the band really come alive and Mabel Ray’s soulful voice dominates.
Expect to hear much of this album on the Hootenanny.
What does it all *mean*?
Jools continues in his quest for National Treasure status.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
The middle of the road.