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Arlen Roth & Jerry Jemmott – Super Soul Session!

Arlen Roth & Jerry Jemmott – Super Soul Session!

Blue Heart Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © 2023

I don’t like to say too much in my reviews that can be found at websites, and I try hard to not get too biographical, as well. On the other hand, sometimes a release is so unique that it mandates doing so. That said, since my friend, blues writer Rick J. Bowen, so perfectly laid it out in the one sheet accompanying the disc, I’m going to take the liberty of quoting him:

“It is such a gift and hard-won privilege when an artist reaches the point in their career when they can make art for art’s sake. The new album “Super Soul Session!” from Arlen Roth and Jerry Jemmott reflects that joy and status. Guitar hero and music education pioneer Roth, aka “Master of the Telecaster” and Grammy winning bassist, Jerry Jemmott, aka “The Groovemaster”, were both chief session and touring musicians of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, working with many of the periods well-known Rock, Pop, Soul, Blues and Jazz artists. The longtime friends join forces on a baker’s dozen of iconic tracks from their career discography in celebration of over 50 years of making great music. The pair invited A-list players to join them for the New York sessions enlisting the talents of keyboardists Bruce Katz & Alex Salzman, rhythm guitarist Tom Gage, drummer Chris Parker, The Uptown Horns and special guests Joe Lewis Walker and African vocalist Mukamuri. The collection of cover songs is not only a trip down memory lane, but also a loving exploration and deep dive into some of the duo’s favorite songs, many of which they had a hand in creating originally.” Thank you, Rick.

Although this performance of the song is an instrumental, you’ll still be singing along anyway. C’mon, join me…..”Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer’s here and the time is right, for “Dancing In The Street” (M. Gaye, I. Hunter, W. Stevenson)…..Can’t you just hear Martha and the Vandellas belting out the rest? Of course, you can. So, stand up, grab your air mic and have yourself a ball as Arlen’s fabulous lead and slide guitar runs; along with the thunderous rhythm and percussion (which will have you dancin’ as well) from the rest of the guys – including the five-piece horn section; provide you with the vehicle to rock out with. That was fun, right? Of course it was, let’s play it again.
Arguably, I doubt I’ll ever hear a cover of a song made famous by B. B. King that will ever sound better than the king’s version. However, on his rendition of “The Thrill Is Gone” (R. Darnell, R. Hawkins), Joe Louis Walker, may have just joined the argument. It’s no secret he can belt the hell out of a blues song, but I personally don’t know that I’ve ever heard Joe sound this good. I guess a song of this caliber causes even the greats to be greater. Along those same lines, Arlen may not call his guitar “Lucille”, but I don’t know if the guitar knows that. Add with the heartbeat the song’s being given from Jerry (bass), Chris (drums) and Bruce (organ), if B. B. is listening, he’d be ‘thrilled’.

Another ‘super soulful’ classic the guys more than do justice to is Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” (G. Jackson, R. Miner, C. Smith). It features Mukamari – an artist I’ve not yet heard of but will be looking into – putting on quite the powerful, soulful and range roving vocal performance. Musically, it’s like the Daytona 500 of rhythm instrumentalists, with the lead cars being the roaring drumming of Chris and the thundery bass lines of Jerry. On the other hand, Crispin Cioe and Arno Hecht, on saxophones; Bob Funk, on the trombone; and Larry Etkin & Tony Gorusso, on trumpets; all have no intentions of losing this race while leaving a trail of dust of their own. Kudos to Lexie Roth as well – she took a song sung so well it didn’t need backup vocals and made it better by adding them. This one’s an all-out SMOKER!

More of Mukamuri’s fabulous vocals can be heard on Dobie Gray’s biggest hit, “Drift Away”. The dual keyboard work of Bruce on the organ and Alex on the piano are just two of the tracks’ many musical highlights.

As horrible as the opening lyrics of: “Lord I swear the perfume you wear, was made out of turnip greens; And every time I kiss you girl, It tastes like pork and beans;” sounds quite unappetizing, Arlen Roth does quite a tasteful job singing them. Of course, you probably now know that the song is The Rolling Stones’ “Down Home Girl” (J. Leiber, A. Butler). Also tasteful is his killer slide work and his partners’ deep bass lines. Indeed, another of the disc’s many bests.

No, this is not a song from Archie Bell and the Drells, but it’s definitely gonna tighten you up. It’s called “Memphis Soul Stew” and it is a reproduction of a song of his called “Cookin’ Memphis Soul Stew” that Jerry originally did back in the day with Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree, Truman Thomas, Warren Smith and King Curtis. It features Jerry narrating the recipe of necessary musical ingredients to create the most perfect batch of Memphis soul stew. Then, for the next nine minutes, as he introduces the many players, each one adds their music to the mix. Ultimately, one of the tastiest, funkiest, dance floor fillers that has been created. Bon Appetit!

The disc closes with another instrumental that I sure do hope you all know the words to, it is the beautiful “America The Beautiful” (K. L. Bates, S. Ward). Although there’s no questioning that these days, “God needs to shed a lot more grace on thee” and “Mend a whole lot more of thine every flaws”, but there is still no greater country in the world and I personally thank Arlen and Alex Salzman (Producers) for not only including this wonderful and patriotic song but for dedicating it to “every veteran who has ever served”, as well. Magically using his guitar to perfectly sing, and articulately pronounce the missing words, Arlen Roth was absolutely masterful. You guys owe me a box of Kleenex.

Other tracks on Super Soul Session!, a disc that should surely draw some attention in the soul categories of various awards ceremonies, include: “I’m Just A Mortal Man” (B. Miller); “Sweet Sweet Baby, Since You’ve Been Gone” (A. Franklin, T. White); “Chain Of Fools” (D. Covay); “Shake” (S. Cooke); “The Weight” (R. Robertson) and “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” (D. O’keefe).

To find out more about the guys just go to – www.arlenroth.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.

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