Monday, November 20, 2006

New Frankie Lee CD on Blues Express

Standing at the Crossroads (Blues Express 2006)

1. I Wish I Had a Dime
2. High Horse
3. I Need Lots of Love
4. Prayer for Peace
5. Where You Been All My Life
6. Better Than That
7. Let's Think Twice
8. Mary Don't You Weep
9. Standing at the Crossroads
10. How Far Can You Fall
11. Think What It's Doing to Me
12. I Really Got the Blues
13. I Ain't Ever Had the Blues (Like This Before)

Frankie Lee has been a stalwart on the West Coast blues & soul scene for many years with a reputation as a top notch live performer. Despite a lengthy career dating back to the early 60's recordings opportunities haven't been all that frequent. When you listen to this cd you will wonder why. Frankie, and the top notch band pull out all the stops on an excellent selection of material, mostly written by former Robert Cray cohort Dennis Walker. The Robert Cray connection doesn't end there though as Jim Pugh and Richard Cousins also feature in a very impressive band, also sporting a full horn section. The material draws as much from classic southern soul as the blues - the only secular cover on the disc I was familiar with was Johnnie Taylor's classic 'I Need Lot's Of Love' The cd is dedicated to the late Johnnie T and his influence is clearly apparent at times in Frankie's singing. The southern soul connection is reinforced by backing vocals from Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown and Portia Griffin - the current Sweet Inspirations - on 'Let's Think Twice'. New recordings heavy on 'deep soul' tend to be few and far between these days and it is deeply gratifying (sic) to these ears that there are in 'Better Than That' and 'Think What It's Doing to Me', two cracking ballads that induced some serious gooseflesh in this listener..ditto the closing number, a horn heavy 'I Ain't Ever Had the Blues (Like This Before). The two heartfelt gospel numbers rate a mention in this category too.
It's not all wrist slashers though! 'Where You Been All My Life' is an uplifting, uptempo number that ought to have some serious airplay coming it's way and the funky 'High Horse' will have plenty of feet moving at Frankie's gigs.
Overall it's the sheer quality of the musicians that carries the day throughout - even the rather cliched lyrics of the down tempo 'I Really Got The Blues' being transformed by Frankie's total vocal commitment and some tasty backing. I can't even find it in me to criticise Alan Mirkitani's occasionally rather rock-toned guitar, the merest hint of which is usually enough to have me reaching straight for the skip button.
In summary this is a very strong candidate for my best new release of 2006. File under All Killer, No Filler!

The Blues Express website hadn't been updated with details of the new release at the time of posting but there is still a pretty useful Frankie Lee discography here

Will someone please book Frankie for some UK appearances!!


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