|Once Upon a Time||Rico Nasty||2:23|
|Mad at Me||Rico Nasty||3:12|
|Block List / Maria Kelly||Rico Nasty||2:23|
|Glo Bottles / Michael Dobbins / Maria Kelly||Rico Nasty||2:57|
|Watch Me||Rico Nasty||2:28|
|Do What It Do||Rico Nasty||3:15|
|Cash Hoe||Rico Nasty||3:09|
|Wanna Know||Rico Nasty||2:43|
This may be Freddie Hubbard's finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. On Red Clay, Hubbard combines hard bop's glorious blues-out past with the soulful innovations of mainstream jazz in the 1960s, and reads them through the chunky groove innovations of '70s jazz fusion. This session places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White. Hubbard's five compositions all come from deep inside blues territory; these shaded notions are grafted onto funky hard bop melodies worthy of Horace Silver's finest tunes, and are layered inside the smoothed-over cadences of shimmering, steaming soul. The 12-minute-plus title track features a 4/4 modal opening and a spare electric piano solo woven through the twin horns of Hubbard and Henderson. It is a fine example of snaky groove music. Henderson even takes his solo outside a bit without ever moving out of the rhythmatist's pocket.
"Delphia" begins as a ballad with slow, clipped trumpet lines against a major-key background, and opens onto a midtempo groover, then winds back into the dark, steamy heart of bluesy melodicism. The hands-down favorite here, though, is "The Intrepid Fox," with its Miles-like opening of knotty changes and shifting modes, that are all rooted in bop's muscular architecture. It's White and Hancock who shift the track from underneath with large sevenths and triple-timed drums that land deeply inside the clamoring, ever-present riff.
Where Hubbard and Henderson are playing against, as well as with one another, the rhythm section, lifted buoyantly by Carter's bridge-building bassline, carries the melody over until Hancock plays an uncharacteristically angular solo before splitting the groove in two and doubling back with a series of striking arpeggios. This is a classic, hands down.
The concert medium particularly suits an energetic gospel performer like Smokie Norful, as was apparent on his 2003 release Limited Edition, but this album really shows off his rapport with his audience. Norful's primary influences are the pop-soul music of '70s Stevie Wonder and '80s Lionel Richie (Richie's "Jesus Is Love" is performed here in a duet with Heather Headley), and like those singers he has an expressive tenor.
He uses it in call and response choruses with a small gospel choir over dense, keyboard-dominated arrangements, repeating phrases praising God as he whips up the crowd. "God's gon' do it!," they intone over and over on the opening track, "He's Gonna Come Through," and similar sentiments pervade the rest of the album. Norful stays timely in his lyrics. "I thought we'd never see the White House, but I'm claimin' it!," he declares in "Justified," while acknowledging, "The economy's down," at the start of "Don't Quit." As those titles indicate, whether he is pleased or dismayed by the state of the nation, it's all fodder for the basically upbeat, inspirational message he has to convey. The recording shows signs of being edited, with several tracks fading out instead of ending in applause, which quells the excitement now and then. But Norful is in his natural element before an audience, and he shines on this disc.
Few pop groups were as irrelevant in 1966 as the New Christy Minstrels' extended acoustic folk aggregate. Although the title New Kick! (1966) projects an optimistic future, internally the combo was split between its consistent demand as a live act and creatively disappointing outings such as this.
By the mid-'60s none of the founding Christys remained in the fold.
The lack of a central musical force or direction left them at the collective mercies of their management team, who owned the name and admittedly knew more about the Christys' payroll than their play list. The steady stream of new talent infuses the material with a fresh perspective, although some arrangements are inevitably better than others. Unfortunately, the album opens with a less-than-inspired overhaul of Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound." The melodramatic ensemble reading all but removing the intimacy of the original and is certainly incongruous given the introspective lyrics. Here, it is akin to a Mitch Miller singalong or an Up With People presentation.
A slow and moody cover of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" follows to equally erratic results, recalling the Sandpipers' swipe at "Things We Said Today" -- the latter of which would be considered comparatively successful. The tide turns however for an affective "Highflyin' Bird" (aka "High Flying Bird") as Bob Buchanan's husky lead harks back to Fred Neil or Hoyt Axton and similarly shines on "A Corner in the Sun." Sadly, any goodwill is rescinded by the inappropriate galloping pace and feigned drama on the overhaul of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" or the worst (or best, depending on how you're keeping score) offender, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." So unconvincing is the Christys' borderline farcical and socially out-of-sync interpretation, it easily makes a case for co-dependant relationships. The New Christy Minstrels continued for several more years, even scoring a final entry on the Top 200 LP chart as late as 1970.
Yet undeniably, the soul of the Christys had dissipated to the point of the unit becoming nothing short of a caricature of its former glory less than a half-decade earlier.