The name Murali Coryell got a major boost in blues circles when the album
"2120" was released by the Czyz label, largely because it marked the
re-emergence of the Chess family: the label was started by the sons of the
Chess brothers Leonard and Phil. For his latest album, however, Coryell has
gone down the DIY route, releasing it on his own label.
The title track jumps straight in without any warning and sets things off
on a high note. Coryell has a good soulful voice, and there are some nice
harmony vocals, which feature throughout most of the album. It is almost a
country/soul crossover in the same sort of vein of some of the songs that
Solomon Burke has tackled over the years. It would be interesting to hear
him do this one.
A lot of the music on "Strong As I'll Ever Be" has a light, almost pop like
feel to it. The influences--mostly soul and funk--are never too far away,
however. "Hi Charlie, I Love You Charlie," for example, has an air of the
Jacksons at their best (or even early Hanson!) about it, while the vocals
on "Strange Eyes" call to mind the Lighthouse Family.
Most of the songs appear to be originals--there were no songwriting or
playing credits on my copy--with the exception of "Change Is Gonna Come," a
song made famous by Sam Cooke. Coryell uses a lilting reggae-like guitar
sound on it, and ups the tempo a bit. The end result does not sound as bad
as the written description suggests it might!
The band get really funky on "Karl Rox" which sounds like it might have
been improvised in the studio. The bass player earns his keep on this one,
and Coryell plays some fine guitar, without ever letting things get out of
hand. It is followed by the simple refrain of "Beautiful Morning" which has
a sort of gospel/dance feel to it, before they close things out with "Ghana
E." This instrumental starts off with some high life influenced guitar,
before the band flip into a Latin American mambo to finish off.
"Strong As I'll Ever Be" is one of those albums that can quite easily pass
you by. There is nothing that ever jumps out to make you listen, but if you
do not pay attention to it, you will miss out on some fine music. Coryell
has a good voice, and writes some good songs, and has put together a tight
band (bass and drums). All in all a pretty solid all round effort.
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