From the label - Basowski Records - to the packaging, adequate but obviously not done with a big budget - it's eminently apparent that "Good Thing" is an indie release. But while cheap and easy recording has resulted in far too many 'vanity projects' of late, in this case it means honest, no-frills music of the highest caliber.
With the bulk of the tracks written by the band - the twin guitars of Michael John (Basowski) on rhythm and Howard "Preacher" Ward on lead, augmented by Eddie Zelaznik's sax, Hammond/Piano from Harlan Spector, with bassist Chuck Lee Basowski and drummer Tom Broderick holding things together - this is a meat-and-potatoes outing, unpretentious and real.
Michael sings with a huge dose of blue-eyed soul, amply evident on the disc's opener, "Angel Muffin." Driven by Mr. Zelaznik's sax, it's anchored by burbling organ that adds immeasurably to its rhythmic drive. The changes in "Dirty Tricks" (stop-time to reverse-shuffle, with a few extra surprises) show significant songwriting craft, giving the boys a chance to exhibit some tight ensemble playing. "It's a Good Thing," sort of a cross between country and R&B, shows Michael's no slouch on harp. The band's take on John Hiatt's "Feels Like Rain" (surely one of the most frequently covered songs of the last few years), while adequate, doesn't really add anything to the tune, but "Gonna Stay The Same," a grinder propelled by snarling slide, again shows the band capable of much more than recycling the same-old-same-old. "Understanding Woman," taken at a breakneck pace, is a short, perfect blast of slide-driven shuffle. The medium tempo "The Way That I Do," has an irresistibly breezy beat. Mr. Ward's "Blues Party" won't win any poetry awards, but could get even the dead to dance; the rhumba-flavoured "All Hell's Breaking Loose" is equally catchy. "How 'Bout You" is as much rock as blues, but with its determined optimism it's unlikely even purists will be offended. "Another Bridge To Cross" is a smoky ballad, again not "pure blues," but gut wrenching in its emotional intensity nonetheless. "You Can, You Can," another shuffle (more or less, but more more than less) lays down a challenge to an errant lover; things wrap up with "My Baby's Sweeter," with Michael laying down more fine if unspectacular harp over a throbbing foundation.
Michael is a powerful, gutsy vocalist, the band is uniformly excellent, and production is top-notch, with clear highs and deep bottom. The arrangements avoid cliché; indeed, there's almost as much blue-collar rock as there is blues (technically, anyway), but it's all done with a great deal of energy, and somehow just feels bluesy. Purists may think it strays too far, but anyone who doesn't mind a bit of rock in the mix, and those who are looking for something beyond the standard progressions, will find much to like indeed.
A fine effort, highly recommended!
P.O. Box 782, Simi Valley, CA 93062
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