Blues-rock guitarist Castro brings us his fourth recording, an enhanced CD recorded live at his hometown, San Francisco-based Fillmore Auditorium. Castro is a good guitarist who is not hung up on pyrotechnics; he plays clean, undistorted licks in the basic tradition. Vocally, he is quite reminiscent of Tower of Power singer Emilio Castillo (check out "What Is Hip?" for the similarities.)
This 11-song set starts off rocking on the straight-laced, organ-fired (by Jimmy Pugh) "Right as Rain," one of several tracks from previous discs. Castro is also into hot funk with horn help from trumpeter Tom Poole and tenor saxophonist Keith Crossan for "Like an Angel" and the 12-bar R&B-ish "Nasty Habits," all of which are Castro's tunes. "My Time After Awhile" is the most straight-blues-oriented number of the lot, slow and quietly sizzling. "Lucky in Love" and "I Got to Change" are more pop-oriented, the former in rock territory, the latter á la Otis Redding. Albert King's "Can't You See What You're Doing to Me?" is a loping blues-rock tune with Castro's best guitar improvs and most animated, feverish vocal. Even more into Otis Redding's bag, "Just a Man" is a sweet, slow soul sender, followed by the good, old-time type, midtempo, high-energy-injected rocker "Can't Keep a Good Man Down." Castro's rhythm section of bassist Randy McDonald and drummer Billy Lee Lewis finally doubles the time on the fastest tune, the typical '60s dance ditty "The Girl Can't Help It" with background vocals, and Castro exclaims, "it's not my thing, but we'll borrow it" before posing the strut of James Brown's "Sex Machine" in extended fashion for band intros and some enjoyable jamming.
Every musician should put out a live club or concert date, yet few do these days. Castro's confidence is evident, his band is tight, and this CD produces a pretty good representation of what you hear in any given short set of Castro's performances. Three sets, or at least the best moments of that long night of party music, would have been even better.