BY PETER "BLEWZZMAN" LAURO, © APRIL, 2006
Just about a week ago, I did a review of a CD from a band called BLUE VOODOO, now here I am doing a review of a CD, by THE MARK COOK PROJECT, called "BLUE VOODOO". Is this a coincidence or should I be expecting to receive a doll called BLUE VOODOO soon? Hmmmm!
I must admit that when MARK COOK contacted me recently and asked if I'd give his latest release a listen, I was ECSTATIC! I immediately thought back to one of his prior releases that I had reviewed in 2003 and found myself hoping that this new disc would be as good as that one was. As a matter of fact, it was that earlier release - "AN EVENING WITH THE BLUES" - that won the very first BLEWZZY, the award we give annually to Blewzzman's favorite CD of all the CD's reviewed that year.
As Mark usually does, when he assembled this band, he chose from some of the finest musicians in his area, and he chose a lot of them. His ensembles are generally the size of a small audience. Hence the word "PROJECT". The members of this MARK COOK PROJECT, in alphabetical order, are: MIKE BARRY, trumpet; CHUCK BITHORN, percussion; ANDREW BLACK, vocals; MARK COOK, guitar, bass and keyboards; WENDY COOK, porch board; HEAVEN DAVIS, vocals; TOM GIBSON, trombone; LARRY GRIFFITH, vocals; LOLA GULLEY, vocals; JOEY HUFFMAN, B3 organ, STEVE MAYS, bass; BOB MOBLEY, B3 organ and piano; SEAN O'ROURKE, drums; STEVE RUSIN, harmonica; RIC SEYMOUR, vocals; SAM SKELTON, alto, tenor and baritone saxes; TIM YOUNG, bass.
"BLUE VOODOO" is a very tasteful and versatile mix of Funk, Soul, R&B, Roots Blues, Blues Rock, Big Band Blues and good old straight up, lowdown Chicago Blues. The disc contains 15 excellent tracks of which all lyrics and music were written, produced, recorded and mixed by MARK COOK. Amazing!
Although it will be difficult to not name them all, here are some of the tracks that particularly got my mojo working.
If you've got any speakers near a smoke alarm, be very careful as the opening track, "NO ONE LIKES A GOOD WOMAN (WHEN SHE'S DOWN)", comes on. This one's very hot and full of fiery funk. The rhythm section of SEAN, TOM and JOEY is rippin', the horns of SAM, MIKE and TOM are howlin', STEVE'S harmonica's hummin' and LOLA's vocals is the fuse that sets it all off.
There's no indication of anyone letting up, as the heat continues to spread into the next track, "GONNA FLY THE COOP". This one features ANDREW singing his heart out and mixing in lots scintillating scat. The horn section, once again - and as usual - are right there, and MARK and BOBBY are tearing up the guitar and keyboards. What a hell of a one-two punch for opening tracks.
"MOONLIGHT BLUES" brings things down a bit, but certainly not in quality - only in tempo. Once again, LOLA is featured on the vocals but this time she's belting out some good old down home blues, and damn can she belt it out. As you'd expect, there are lots of great blues guitar licks by MARK.
"BACK TO TENNEESSEE", is a very Sonny Terry & Brownee McGhee / Cephas & Wiggins sounding roots blues track which is all about STEVE on harmonica and LARRY on down home vocals.
"DON'T PULL ME DOWN" is another one of those tracks that everyone's tearing it up on, with RIC, one of a slew of excellent vocalists who have sung on this disc, leading the way. MARK, STEVE & JOEY are at their best on guitar, harp and organ.
"TOMORROW'S COME AND GONE", is a steamy and sultry vocal virtuoso performance by HEAVEN & LARRY. This wonderfully done 5 minute track added 75 minutes on this review because I literally listened to it 15 times over. It's songs like this that create a need for "Song of the Year Awards".