This release can be called a "second generation" project for two reasons. The first is the 29-year-old artist -- the guitar-playing son of jazz-rock fusion guitarist pioneer Larry Coryell. Whether it be the gene pool, home environment, or some other influence, Murali is just one of a number of current blues artists with a parent who is also a well known musician.
The title "2120" gives a clue as to the other reason. One more hint - 2120 Michigan Avenue. Got it yet? That's the address of the legendary Chess Recording studio -- now restored and the home of Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation. The inside jacket of Murali's CD is a photo of the Chess studio with notes super imposed. So what's the connection of Chess Records to this New York artist's CD? CZYZ Records is a new label created by Marshall and Kevin Chess, sons of Leonard and Phil Chess respectively, cofounders of the historic blues label. Czyz is the original Polish family name, in fact. Marshall has stated he chose Murali to kick off their new label because he fit the format of "a heavy electric-guitar kind of blues, which I was always inspired by..."
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the songs done by Murali's guitar-fronted trio are blues standards that were at one time done by Chess artists. The CD is 55 minutes long and has fifteen cuts: I'm Satisfied; Louise; Who Told You; Hidden Charms; All Your Love; She's Into Something; I Can't Hold Out; So Many Roads, So Many Trains; That's How It Is (When Your In Love); Who's Been Talking; Pills; All My Whole Life; Stop (a Murali original); Bright Lights, Big City and Sexual Healing (a Marvin Gaye tune). Murali is accompanied on all cuts by Bill Foster on bass and Rod Gross on drums.
Although a trio, this is not your typical "power guitar" band. While preeminent, the guitar is restrained enough to allow the other tracks to shine through. The band is playing together -- rather than trying to outdo one another. Murali plays a gritty guitar and has a soulful voice. He does well with both the vocals and instrumentals. The arrangements moves nicely. The mix is balanced and uncluttered. While a studio recording, the release sounds almost live. Sort of like the Chess blues recordings. Just the artists giving it their best shot without "over production." Particularly given the material chosen, one would have to categorize the genre as Chicago Style blues with a bit of a rock edge and a touch of soul.
I liked most of the songs on this release, finding a couple exceptional. Murali rises to the challenge of covering as many well known blues tunes as he does, giving them a refreshing twist. While the release may not be a musical breakthrough, it does provide some basic good--listening blues.
Info about Murali is available at: www.wild-rose.com/blues/murali
The record label's home page is found at http://czyz.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Mark Halverson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.