Saturday, December 31, 2011

Phantom Blues Band Comes Out of the Shadows

Best known as the band that backed Taj Mahal on several award-winning recordings, The Phantom Blues Band finally has a handsome disc of its own, Out of the Shadows (Delta Groove) that will certainly will make even more aware of this superb group.

The seven members of the band have a wealth of experience playing with a who’s who of pop and rock music ranging from keyboard whiz-vocalist Mike Finnigan who was on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album and toured with Dave Mason to guitarist Denny Freeman who was share guitar duties with Stevie Ray Vaughan before being part of the Antone’s House band and currently is in Bob Dylan’s touring group. Saxophonist Joe Sublett and trumpeter Darrell Leonard are known as the Texacali Horns, guitarist-vocalist Johnny Lee Schell had a lengthy tenure with Bonnie Raitt starting in the late seventies, bassist-vocalist Larry Fulcher had stints with Smokey Robinson and the Crusaders as well as reggae groups Third World and Andrew Tosh while drummer Tony Braunagel has too many credits as a producer to list.

Producer John Porter has let them wax a number of classic R&B numbers with a dash of reggae added that should go down easy. From the opening funk groove of The Meters’ Do the Dirt, the Memphis Hi Records groove of I Only Have Love, the rocking reworking of Don & Dewey’s Big Boy Pete, a fresh reworking of Chuck Berry’s Havana Moon, Fulcher’s handling of a reggae classic, Book of Rules, and solid takes of blues from Jimmy McCracklin, Bobby bland and Ray Charles. Finnigan especially is a terrific vocalist and Schell and Fulcher are very good with some terrific playing (listen to Freeman solo on Part Time Love).

Perhaps the only shortcoming is that this album is the prevalence of covers, although few acts can perform the range of material they do sand at the same time inject the band’s personality into the material. Few will be disappointed in this recording of solid blues and rhythm numbers masterfully played.

This review originally appeared in the May-June 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 293) and I have made some corrections to the published review. I received my review copy from either Delta Groove Records or a publicist for the label.

Here is the Phantom Blues Band doing "Part Time Love" from the 2008 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.

And here they are with Taj Mahal

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