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CD Review
Sugar Ray (Norcia)
"Sweet & Swingin'"
Bullseye Blues & Jazz CD BB 9607, 11 tracks, 45 minutes
Former lead singer and harp player with Roomful of blues, Sugar Ray Norcia has released his first post Roomful solo CD on Bullseye with some excellent backing by Kid Bangham, Bob Nelson, Marty Ballow, and Mat McCabe. This album is an unusual and pleasantly surprising outing covering a variety of musical styles. If you are looking for Roomful of Blues type music or all blues, you won't find it here. What you will find is a mixture of swing, minor key blues, R&B and soul, west coast blues, country, jazz, ballads, calypso, and Cajun. At first glance you might think how can something this diverse work? Well, it does work and work very well, simply because of the excellent, sweetly soaring and very easy to listen to vocals of Sugar Ray. His distinctive vocals are the focal point of every song on the album with some strong support on harmonica (provided by Ray) and outstanding guitar and keyboards by Bangham and Matt McCabe.

The slow, swing ballad "Tomorrow Night" has a sound right out of the 1940's. The Arthur Alexander song "You Better Move On" has a retro Caribbean flavor to it. The Jimmy Rogers "Money, Marbles and Chalk" is classic 1950's blues. If you listen to the original version by Rogers (from 1951) on "Chicago Bound" you will notice some very strong similarities in the vocal styling of Norcia. Sugar Ray also adds some passionate, uncluttered, Big Walter Horton style harp work and Bangham's guitar is right on the money.

There are some interesting song selection comments by Ray on the CD jacket and the album's title is very appropriate and descriptive of the content. This IS definitely one "sweet and swinging," easy to listen to CD that may surprise many listeners.

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Copyright 1997, 1998 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved.

Copyright 1997, 1998 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved.