Peterborough’s Red Dog Tavern has been a local institution for a very long time - they’re about to celebrate their 125th anniversary - so you know they’ve seen some very good shows there. But it’s hard to imagine many that would top the night of December 20, 1995, when Buzz Thompson led a very tight band through a set of smoldering R&B and soul!
Fortunately for those of us who weren’t there, the performance was captured on tape, and we can all share in the excitement through Buzz’s debut disc, "Find Out For Yourself!"
Buzz, who now calls Peterborough home, has been around - liner note photos show him sharing the stage with Ronnie Hawkins (with whom he’s toured for a number of years), Levon Helm, and Lonnie Mack among others. So, yeah, he knows his stuff - but how does that come out on disc?
In a word - smokin’! This set cooks big time! There’s lots of classic soul (yes, Mustang Sally’s there, some Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and lots of James Brown). There are two impressive originals that fit in well with the rest of the material. The band is excellent, with exceptional bass work from JP Hovercraft. There’s lots of energy and enthusiasm, tight grooves, and Buzz’s vocals achieve just the right balance between singing and shouting. (When it comes to soul, you gotta testify - and Buzz will have you believing!!!)
So everything’s there, right? A perfect disc? Well . . . if you want soul, you need horns. Think of the Memphis sound, or the classic Stax sides - they’d be limp without that brassy punch. But it’s not cheap to travel with a horn section, and it’s rare to find one that really works. So you do without, or - (gulp) - you synthesize. Now my personal prejudices make me cringe when I hear anything synthesized, so I had a hard time getting past the (to me) cheesy sound of the "fake horns." George Bertok, a very fine keyboard player, does his best with it, and I’m sure it was okay in the club, when the band was hot and the crowd was pumped. And again, horn sections ain’t cheap. But it weakens the disc - live’s one thing, but a permanent record deserves the real thing.
Energy, enthusiasm, a tight band, great material, talent and taste - everything you need for a top notch recording. Except the horns. Still, there’s so much to like about this disc, I’d have to recommend it to soul and R&B fans. It’s a fun party record, and I thoroughly enjoy (almost) everything about it. But please, Buzz, next time out, get some real horns!!!
This review is copyright © 2000 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.