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The Former Members - The Former Members (2013) review

The Former Members “The Former Members” (2013)

It’s always a treat hearing from old friends, especially when they’re as great and entertaining as these guys. Consisting of Bruce Barthol and David Bennett Cohen from Country Joe and the Fish, Roy Blumenfeld from the Blues Project and Sea Train, and Greg Douglass from Country Weather and the Steve Miller Band, the Former Members have pooled their collective talents into one tasty stew that will not only send original fans from the sixties and seventies into orbit, but will attract new followers as well. Gripping tight to their roots, while at the same time slipping a series of  fresh and bright strokes onto the canvas, the group spools out sonic bliss that demands widespread appeal.

Here on their self-titled debut album, the Former Members work their way through a mercurial maze of sights and styles sculpted of cracking chops, razor sharp wit and a shrewd sense of observation. Promoting soul and substance, “Stand Up” ripples with slashing rhythms and “Remedy” bristles and bops to the tune of a boogie woogie piano, while a seven minute jam happy version of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” sweeps and soars with fascinating interplay. A cover of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” twinkles and shines to a sleepy casual pace, and the hilariously goofy “Junker’s Blues,” which croons the praises of wacky weed, gives off such a glassy-eyed vibe that you’ll get high just listening to the jazzy vaudeville fashioned song.

Political issues, from both the past and present, are also frequently addressed on “The Former Members.“ Country Joe and the Fish’s ode to Lyndon Baines Johnson, “Superbird,” is rehashed with the same brash and biting humor that allowed the initial recording to be so impressively nasty and critical, and then there’s the wildly infectious shuffle of  “Cakewalk To Baghdad” that recounts the miserable Middle East situation. Continually locked in the pocket, the Former Members reside in an emphatic and electrifying groove. Loose-limbed  instrumentation designed of meaty and majestic guitar licks, rump-shaking piano passages and ready steady drumming cap the material, where the vocals are rough and earthy. Offering a broad scope of moods and genres, ranging from blues to jazz to country to folk to psychedelic improvisations, “The Former Members” blends fun with intense musicianship in a most satisfying manner. How wonderful these legends came together and are keeping the spirit of homegrown sounds alive and kicking. The Former Members are where it is at!

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2013
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