Friday, December 16, 2016

Mike Wheeler Band Turn Up !!

Mike Wheeler Band
Turn Up !!
Delmark Records

The Mike Wheeler Band follows up their Delmark debut "Self Made Man" with "Turn Up !!" Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Wheeler's band has not changed with Brian James on keyboards, Larry Williams on bass and Cleo Cole on drums with Kenny Anderson's trumpet and Hank Ford's tenor sax adding musical seasoning to the proceedings. Wheeler wrote 12 of the 13 songs (two in collaboration with bandmates) and there is one cover of a Little Milton number. About "Self-Made Man" I wrote that Wheeler's performances had quite a bit of fervor with "plenty of drive in his playing and urgency in his impassioned vocals."

His range as a writer and performer are displayed on the opening selection "Sweet Girl," and then contrasting "You Don't Do Right," with an insistent groove supporting his fervent vocal complaint,  the punching horns and blistering guitar to close this. Brian James also adds considerable musical coloring under the vocal. "Yeah!" is a hard driving funk-blues followed by the heavy metal of "Brand New Cadillac." Others might disagree, but I found the backing and playing here overbearing and the vocal sounds strained. To these ears, that is the only misstep on this recording. It is a relief after that track to hear the swinging shuffle "Talking To Myself," followed by the driving groove of the title track as he celebrates being turned up when around his girl.

Other standout tracks include the marvelous blues-ballad, "Nothing Lasts Forever," the hot funk-blues of the celebratory "Living the Dream"; the early in the morning slow blues, "A Blind Man Can See," with terrific guitar; a funky interpretation of Little Milton's "That's What Love Will Make You Do," and the closing topical blues about wanting to cry watching the TV news, "Sad State of the World," with James' gospel-tinged piano adding to the mood. Once again, Mike Wheeler, and his outstanding band, has delivered a terrific set of straight-ahead, soul-rooted modern blues. 

I received my review copy from Delmark. I have made minor revisions in the review that originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 367). Here Mike Wheeler is performing Little Milton's "That's What Love Will Make You Do" from several years ago.

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