Roomful of Blues

Roomful of Blues

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Roomful of Blues' self-titled 1977 disc on Island Records, produced by Joel Dorn and the great Doc Pomus, reveals a powerful and entertaining approach to material from Noble "Thin Man" Watts, Chick Willis, Aaron Walker, Lou Willie Turner, and others. Duke Robillard's authentic vocal and guitar lead with authority, the group performing these solid blues with the precision of jazz greats. There's an interesting resemblance here to the Atlantic debut of the J. Geils Band, not in sound, but in look and attitude. Decades later Robillard would join John Geils; merging their journeymen talents, this ten-track collection by the septet is chock-full of this Duke's magic and indicates great things to come. Though Greg Piccolo is the tenor sax player in the ensemble, Scott Hamilton is featured on Aaron Walker's "Still in Love with You," a performance by the group that allows their respective talents to shine, the production flawlessly gives breathing room to each instrument. The rave version of "Honey Hush" condenses the music, focusing the elegance of the previous track into a rocking stomp with the band building into a mini blues Wall of Sound. Where members of another New England band of the day, Duke & the Drivers, were more fans than musicians, creating a party atmosphere from the sheer love of it, this serious bunch re-creates the aura found on some of the better known renditions of these compositions much like Stompy Jones, a group of veterans in the new millennium capturing the spirit of the time when this music was in its heyday. "Duke's Blues" is an inspired original with the guitar and saxes wailing in a symphony of earthy tones. The disc is an impressive contribution, but perhaps a bit out of place on a label that featured Bob Marley, Robert Palmer, Ultravox, John Cale, and Steve Winwood around the time of this album's release.

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