November 11, 2015 Mick Abrahams – Revived! (Album Review)
Imagine being a seventy-one year-old stroke survivor that wants to get a garage band together with some old friends met while doing a day job. Now imagine, that day job was being the original guitarist for the legendary Rock groups Jethro Tull and Blodwyn Pig, the garage is Echo Studios in Buckingham England, and those friends are some of the best studio and concert musicians from the past fifty years of Rock and R&B. Then one would be Mick Abrahams, and the result of that garage jam would be the album, Revived!. A legendary player, the title of the new record release via Gonzo Multimedia is nod towards that fact that Abrahams survived a stroke to produce one of the finest collections of music to come out in 2015.
All of the songs on Revived! were chosen by Abrahams because, as he stated, “I like them and have always wanted to play them.” Furthermore, half of the album’s proceeds will be donated to benefit Kinds ‘n’ Cancer UK- A Pathway to Life.
Purchasers of the physical album receive a DVD that has thirty minutes of behind the scenes video. They also will get a cover that is entertaining in its own right with Monty Pythonesque notes on the music legends that accompany him. Joining in that garage on this seventeen track record, is a host of musicians that include: Bill Wyman—yes that Bill Wyman, Martin Barre—Abraham’s successor at Jethro Tull, Bernie Marsden—Whitesnake’s guitarist, Paul Jones—singer for Manfred Mann, Mark Feltham—harmonica master, Beverley Skeete—singer for the Rhythm Kings, Josh Philips—Procol Harem’s organist, Jim Rodford—longtime Kinks drummer, Elliott Randall—guitarist for Steely Dan and, many others too numerous to list, and too talented to dismiss as not having enough of a pedigree. There are no weak members in this fine cast of musicians.
The album is bookended by different, albeit extremely similar, versions of the Blodwyn Pig heavy-blues song, “Summer Days.” The only discernible difference is the use of a Hammond organ on the album’s closing version. This gives the song a fuller feel when compared to the opening. Both are good, displaying the same excellent guitar and bass work found throughout the album, either would have been a solid contribution to the collection. Including both seems to be filling space as it is hard to believe they could not find another unique song to add instead.
The second song, “What About Us,” is a fun upbeat tune. Sung as a duet, the singers lament that they are less fortunate than an unnamed acquaintance. It is reminiscent of a playful diddy that would have been heard on the mid ’70s AM radio show, Dr. Demento’s. There is a nice use of saxophone and bass vocal to punctuate the song’s lyrics about their feelings. The songwriter may have missed an opportunity with the repeated chorus, would have preferred for each repetition to be unique in some way. It is an odd, but enjoyable tune.
Next up is a live recording titled, “Elz & Abys Jam.” Abrahams makes good use of the talented ensemble of performers and musicians at his disposal. With a full horn section backing, this instrumental piece is a nice mixture of swing and blues giving it a big band feel. Upon first reading the title of the next song, “On The Road Again,” one might expect to hear a cover of the Willie Nelson tune about life on tour. Two bars in, we discover it is the version made famous by Canned Heat during the 1969 Woodstock musical festival. Abrahams had said about his choices for what to include on the album, “There are some lovely old songs which I’ve just taken with no rhyme or reason other than the fact that I like them…” This song must be one of those. The distinctive bass and harmonica line catches the listener immediately, but the lyrics seem to follow notes selected at random with little regard to those being laid down in the background. It is a classic song, covered well by Abrahams.
Moving right along, next is a cover of “Nadine,” an old time Rock-n-Roll born of the Blues at its finest. The guitar solo evokes memories of Chuck Berry skip-walking across the stage. The sax work is exemplary, a perfect homage to the early rocker whose background was in the Blues, and is a perfect lead into the next song. “Remember” is a rocking good Blues song. With only three lines of lyrics, sung only once, the music lets a virtuoso harmonica, and a lead guitar sing the rest. A good harmonica player is like a magician. There is no earthly way that a small box made of wood and metal should be able to produce music that can be so soulful. But it does, and the magic happens here, making it one of the best songs on the album.
Another good Blues song is a cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirate’s, “I Can Tell.” More up-tempo than the last song, the lyrics are pure blues with a beat to match. “I’m A Hog for You” is up next and it is one of two songs on the album sung beautifully by the talented Beverly Skeet, a singer in Bill Wyman’s band, Rhythm Kings. Although the words to the children’s nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy” are drastically different than anyone has ever heard, it does not distract from the enjoyment of the performance. The bluesy “Bright Lights Big City” has a slow, almost dragging pace which emphasize a deep feel to it that is punctuated with more excellent soulful harmonica and guitar work.
This is followed by the string instrumental “Dragonfly.” The slow, perfectly executed, guitar picking is a wonderful addition to the album. There is applause at the end which is richly deserved, although the tune is a bit short. The next few songs are covers of old Rock songs. Larry Williams’ hit from 1957, “Boney Moronie” follows and it has a sax heavy ’50s vibe that fans of Swing style music will enjoy this tune. Originally written in 1908, the folksy “Goodnight Irene” slows down the tempo with nicely melded harmonies accentuate this rendition of a classic staple. From 1959, the audience is then hears Skeet’s return for The Coaster’s hit “Poison Ivy.” Coincidentally, the B-side of the single was Skeet’s other contribution to this record. The arrangement is refreshing, Skeet is the perfectly singer for this version with back-up singers adding the icing on this musical cake.
The twangy guitar and harmonica instrumental opening of “Red River Rock,” transports the listener to a campfire in the old west, eating beans from a tin cup with Mongo and the rest of the posse. The song’s main theme builds to a crescendo, breaks, and the repeats. Build to crescendo, repeat, Build to a crescendo, repeat… Listen to it once and one is set for life. Although it does sound like it was a lot of fun for the players, it does get tedious for the casual listener. Another well played and nicely arranged Blues song is the slow-tempo instrumental “North By North West.” The guitar work is masterly performed by master musicians. The final cover is from the 1963 Johnny Kidd and The Pirates hit “Hungry For Love” and it It has an R&B Country feel that melds lyrics and guitar seamlessly together in a song. This evokes memories of the early days when rock was still forming into the music that has changed a generation. Revived! closes with the better of the two versions of Blodwyn Pig’s “Summer Days,” which includes the Hammond organ.
Revived! contains an incredible mix of Rock and Blues that fans of this music will love. It may very well change the mind of those who are not already enchanted by the sound of musicians at the top of the food chain. Music lovers should just close their eyes, sit back, and lose themselves in the music and rhythm. CrypticRock gives Revived! 4 out of 5 stars.