Okay, I had no idea at all what to expect when I was sent this one!
Way Ahead’ is a groundbreaking blend of 21st century blues forged by Mick Pini, the German based British blues guitarist, and contemporary producer Craig Marshall (aka Audio54). It is out and available now. You can download it here.
As contemporary producer Craig Marshall (aka Audio 54) explains: “It’s a chronicle of the last three years or so of what we have been doing.”
Both Mick and Craig originally hail from Leicester (and I am absolutely not holding that against them), and it was a relationship that clicked from the start, when Craig called Mick and asked him to put a guitar part on the original version of ‘Papa Voodoo’ (re-recorded here).
“Head North”- It’s like it has this Cuban beat, the sound of a mad police style movie soundtrack, part Axel F and partly this fun instrumental that includes these mad vocal sounds. It’s hard to describe, it’s a nutty track that really blows any cobwebs away.
Mick- This is Craig’s Bootsy Collins number, and it’s got some nice bass on it and all the elements that Craig brings to the party. I just laid the guitar on to.
“Last Night”- A huge change of direction as we enter a sleazy bar, settle down to a cigarette (sod the smoking ban), and watch a late late night blues band. The last few customers nodded and smiled. It’s that old style blues, maybe I would have liked a slightly crisper production on it.
“Light Don’t Shine”- The very start of this one reminded me of “Domino” by Kiss! A little touch of Gene on the lyrics! I liked the vocal harmony on this one, as I love gospel music. It had this nod toward the gospel and the style of those numbers. Again, an interesting take with the drums a little higher in the mix and this really good harmonica that was crisp.
“Make Me Believe”- has a live sound, a touch of funk, and some great guitars. It is more of an instrumental, a smoother one than the opener, with some cool vocal harmony carrying it along. Nicely done.
“Movin On”- Again, someone here can really play that harmonica! An album is always a journey, and, you know, not everyone can hit the mark with the listener. I’m afraid this one wasn’t for me, as I found the vocals not to my personal taste! I moved on.
“New Blues”- This was better. It has a great rhythm and beat. You could dance to this in that little blues club, down in the cellar, with the lights down low.
Mick- Again, we were looking for something funky, and I thought of using the Audio 54 beats within a sort of Crusaders kind of set up.
“Nowadays”- oh, I like this! This one headed straight to my playlist. It again played with the vocals toned down in the production, and the drum sound helped the music in my head! I really liked the background harmony too.
“Papa Voodoo”- Like the title suggests, a traditional blues sound, with little touches of tabla drum that gives it a jungle drum sound. A solid album track.
“Problems”- Another solid enough album track, it has some good guitar work and a decent beat.
Mick- I aimed for a percussive feel to underpin the piece and was thinking of Jerry Garcia, John Khan, and Merle Saunders style keyboards.
“Shadows” – some nice keyboard work makes this one interesting. Again a night time sound, with those weary vocals placed on top of the piano.
“Time after Time” – Loved the guitar work here, a smooth and satisfying sound. Moving toward the end of the album, I would again give the rhythm section a strong thumbs up.
“Trouble” – a great end to the album. confident, and I am sure a song that would do really well in a live set. I liked that harmonica again.
Mick- The title lent itself to the vibe of the song, the feeling out on the street. It’s got an intensity which led me to shout “fire” just before the solo”. That’s how it felt.
Mick and Craig both commented on the album:
Mick explains: “I hadn’t played a show in 2 years because of COVID, so I was busy working in my studio. Craig suggested a new way to work within the blues framework, which basically took me out of my comfort zone, and I thought, why not? Let’s try something new.”
Craig adds: “It seemed that our respective talents complimented each other. Mick’s unrelenting ‘organic’ approach was in line with my own belief in the ‘magic of the moment’.
My use of digital recording technology – new sounds and loops – was enhanced by Mick’s musical spontaneity.”
Mick: “Sometimes Craig would come with an interesting idea, but I’d have to tell him to leave enough space to do a guitar part, or maybe add some wah-wah depending on the feel of the song.”
Craig: “So we gelled and it became clear to me that my job as a producer, writer, collaborator, and musician was to enhance Mick’s unique flair and talent as a blues performer. Mick is a true blues artist, not just in his music, but in the way he lives his life and how he relates to his fellow human beings. He’s a true artist.”
Commenting on the album as a whole:
Standout tracks for me were “Head North” and “Nowadays.”
I would say that, coming to the album with no idea at all what Benny had sent me over, there were some real highpoints. The vocal harmonies at times were really good, the harmonica and rhythm section worked, and the whole album had some classy blues sounds. It is one for blues lovers who enjoy moving to the beat!
By Lorraine Foley
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