Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mighty Manatees hit all their Bobs with "Medicine Show"

Area band The Mighty Manatees used to have a mission statement of sorts -- which has since disappeared from their website -- that they were equal parts Bob Dylan, Bob Nesta Marley, Bob Weir, etc. So longtime fans of the group, no doubt, instantly got a chuckle out of a song titled "Yesireebob" on their latest disc.
According to The Mighty Manatees Wikipedia page, "Medicine Show" is their 17th album since 1988. That's counting the cassette-only releases and all of the live recordings.
Stylistically, the Manatees can expertly switch between reggae, country, folk and rock. On this collection of Will Hodgson songs, they even dish a dollop of jazz! They channel The Grateful Dead throughout the album. The opening track "My, My, My" is like something out of -- yesireebob -- Robert Hunter's lyric book:
"Free to play on Mothers Day/on a Sunday afternoon
We while away the month of May/leaving it too soon
Grooving through the universe/living a life of song
 Searching for another verse/that we could sing along."
The Dead's fingerprints are also all over "I'll Let You Know" and "Rainbow."
They get their Bob Marley on with "Yellow Sun, Yellow Moon" -- with a singalong-friendly "hey, hey, hey/what I say" refrain -- and a reggae re-telling of a Gospel parable in "Samaritan's Day." Hodgson turns into the protest storyteller-wordsmith Bob Dylan circa 1962-63 in "Ballad of Leonard Peltier." The song makes you want to look up the story of the incarcerated Native-American activist, and wonder what really went down June 26, 1975.
The Manatees are known for being a fluid musical cooperative that can be as small as an acoustic duo or as large as a 10-piece orchestra. Adding to that mythos is an arsenal of guest musicians on "Medicine Show." The female blues/gospel lead vocal on "I'm On My Way" is a standout moment. Also noticeably augmenting the Manatees' core band are the album's producer, Jason Crosby, on violin, marimba and xylophone; Walter Tates Jr. on saxophone; Brian Herder on pedal steel and dobro; and Chris DelSordo on flute. There are sone tasty solos on "Medicine Show," gutiar and organ in particular.
Hogdson turns a few attention-grabbing lyrical phrases. "Gonna do it for the money" from "Fast Money" seems out of character for the hippie Manatees ethos. In that song, he also sings:
"She's smoking a pack and a half a day
And after the first shot/the shaking will stop
And that's when all the night was over/and everybody was gone
She sat alone
The winter came too soon."
From "Hold On To Your Dreams":
"It doesn't matter whatever they say
They sure do change their minds after Election Day ..."
"So many futures being bought and sold (which has a double meaning that could be a reference to stock futures) ..."
"I read the papers/and I watch the news
But I don't believe that they're entirely true ... do you?"
 Listen to the tracks from "Medicine Show."

And don't forget, local bands, you too can get your music reviewed here on Talk About the Passion. Email me your Soundcloud, etc. links to, or mail your CD to:
The Reporter 307 Derstine Ave. Lansdale, PA 19446.

Friday, October 11, 2013

One bad MFSB to be honored by Philadelphia Music Alliance

The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame induction ceremony is set for Oct. 24 along the Avenue of the Arts.
This year's inductees are MFSB; The Salsoul Orchestra; John Davis and the Monster Orchestra; WXPN folk DJ Gene Shay; Grammy-winning producer Joel Dorn; arranger, producer and conductor Vince Montana Jr.; songwriters, producers and artists Madara & White; songwriter, producer and record label entrepreneur Jerry Ross; and Wanamaker organ maestro Peter Richard Conte.
For a couple minutes I got to chat with a drummer that was a member of not one, but three, of these inductees (the first three listed) -- Charles Collins.
As part of MFSB (Officially that stood for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, but was rumored to also be a profane acronym) he played on this hit song, which became the theme song to "Soul Train."

"We were like the Funk Brothers," the 66-year-old Collins said of his fellow '70s pop orchestral brethren. "In most cases we played on all the (Philly R&B recording sessions)." Collins' playing can be heard on recordings by The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass' first three solo albums, Ashford & Simpson, Herbie Mann, and Bobby Eli.
Collins' distinctively active percussion part on this hit by mellifluous Philly singer Lou Rawls came from rapping on the rim of his floor tom drum.

 When orchestral arrangements in R&B reached a zenith in the '70s, Collins lived in Princeton, N.J. because it was a midway point between the two cities he was called upon to travel to for recording sessions -- Philadelphia and New York.
In the '80s, when drum sounds could be electronically programmed, "that cut into our workload quite a bit," Collins said.
Now living in north Texas, and still drumming, Collins says today's recording technology "is finally catching up with the creativity." In fact, he even has an endorsement deal with Yamaha.
"I'm very, very fortunate to be surviving in what's going on now," said Collins, adding that he's willing to "work with anybody that can send a Pro Tools session." Musicians can reach out to him at
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