Mainline, (formerly McKenna, Mendelson Mainline), have come out with their first live CD, (and their first CD in decades), called The Last Show @ the Elmo. Mainline were and still are one of the finest and hardest driving blues bands. This CD captures their energy the way a great 'live' CD is supposed to.
Jim Zeppa, the band's director and constant friend, says a few words appropriate to the closing of a true blues landmark, such as the El Mocambo was to the city of Toronto. From then on the blues take over in the best way possible - with Mainline giving it their all, and the audience responding likewise
All Mainline members are original except for harp guy Bob Adams, who has excellent technique and style. Mainline co-founder, Mike McKenna plays mouthwatering guitar licks, backed up by Tony Nolasco's energized drumming and inspired vocals. Mike Harrison's hypnotic bass lines I feel are the real heart of the band. Ted Purdy's rhythm guitar and background vocals, complement the rest of the band, and help give it substance.
Mainline takes hold of the audience right from the start, with "Blind Girl". Nolasco's strong vocals and drumming, along with McKenna's incredible leads, work well together. Harrison's mesmerizing bass lines, groove with Adams' playing harp like nobody's business. "Beltmaker" is one of my favorite tunes on the CD. It features Purdy's raw vocals, which along with some scorching leads by McKenna, are driven home by Nolasco's uncompromising percussion technique.
"Mainline" is a self-titled and rousing blues tune, which features more of Nolasco's superb vocals and driving drum beats. McKenna really outdoes himself on the guitar work here. His guitar idol is Muddy Waters - understandably his slide guitar riffs display hints of "Honey Bee" on "Mainline"; making it a real winner in my books.
"Wine, Women and Whiskey", a Johnny Young composition, features Nolasco's intoxicating vocals, along with Adams' equally inspiring harp playing. Guaranteed to get the feet tappin', the hands clappin', and the dance floor packed - this one can send you there, and keep you there. "Get Down To" is given a heartfelt intro by Nolasco, who mentions old Mainline friend and alumnus Zeke Sheppard. He echoes the audience's sentiment that Zeke "is in that ultimate blues band in the sky." A rarity from the equally rare Mainline Blues album from 1969, is "Toilet Bowl Blues". The new CD calls it "T.B. Blues" … same song, and just as rousing as it was when first performed in '69. Adams' strong, full harp tone complements Nolasco's vocals well on this one. The humor, intended or otherwise in "T.B. .. " is always an upbeat tune to 'experience'.
A word or two should be mentioned regarding Mainline's "Live @ .. " cover art. It was designed by famed artist David Andoff, who designed the original Mainline posters and artwork back in '69. He's still active today designing CD and poster art, and continues to be well-respected for his artistic genius. The amorous 'ape' and turned-on 'girl' images in his poster art from the 'free-love' days of late '60's hippy-dom, is still prevalent in the CD artwork and packaging on this fine blues CD today!
"Drive You" is, like its title suggests, a hard driving blues tune, with more than enough 'gas in it's blues tank', to get you where your musical desires want to be 'driven'. Adams' harp playing, as always is superb. It's supported by Purdy's fine rhythm guitar work, complementing Nolasco's raw vocals and driving drum beats. "Brain Damage" follows, played with all out abandon by the whole band. Nolasco dedicates it to Andoff; referring to him as "our artist then and now." "I Am Normal", follows "Brain Damage" and is accented with 'apey', 'nutty' utterances by the band, who really ham this one up to a 'T'.
The final tune on this final night of 'live' music ever at the good old El Mocambo, is called "Going to Toronto". The band decided to rename it "Going to the Elmo", to commemorate this historic and very important event in Toronto's musical history. "Going to .. " seems to go into a 'drugged stupor' which adds atmosphere - then picks up the pace with riveting guitar riffs, to let the listener know that Mainline is indeed back -- with all the raw energy they had, as if they've never left.
I should mention one important fact -- that the Elmo downstairs, is now open for business again, booking acts under new ownership -- although the upstairs El Mocambo concert hall (where the Mainline concert was recorded), is no longer a venue, and is being used as a dance studio at this time. The new owner has beautifully restored the downstairs, and is booking local acts; ie: Brian Gladstone's recent first-ever Winterfolk folk festival. Added to this happy series of events, is a new book that'll be coming out sometime this year about the El Mocambo. It's entitled Under the Neon Palm - The El Mocambo Story. This book when available, as well as all Mainline-endorsed merchandise and CDs, can be purchased direct from Jim Zeppa, of Minor Miracles. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Label: Bullseye Records of Canada, Inc. # BLR-CD-4066
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