With technology rendering recording a relatively commonplace occurrence these days the idea of a 'CD Release party' has lost some of its cachet of late. Many pass virtually unnoticed by all but a handful of friends and family - there's just too much going on to keep up with everything.
Some, though, still attain 'event status.' Such was the case for Bill King's CD release party at RD's in Toronto on July 16th, 2003.
Now, Bill has a resume the likes of which most musicians can only dream of. He's acted as musical director for both Janis Joplin and Ronnie Hawkins, backed artists as diverse as Linda Ronstadt and the Pointer Sisters, and shared stages with legends too numerous to count. Yet despite a lifetime in music, he still plays with the exuberance and energy of a kid discovering for the very first time the joyous release of rock 'n' roll. (Those years of experience, however, result in some serious chops that add a great deal of depth to all that enthusiasm).
The Rockit 88 Band - in addition to Bill and guitarist/showman extraordinaire Neil Chapman, it features Artie Roth on bass and drummer Kevin McKenzie - is the pared-down rhythm section from Bill's Saturday Night Fish Fry band, the house band at RD's for some six months until the club's music policy changed as a result of, shall we say, economic reality.
The playlist is strictly standard blues covers; in lesser hands that often indicates a lack of imagination, but these gentlemen choose to give 'em a fierce rock kick, thankfully free of the excess almost endemic to most bluz-rockers. This is music with both energy to spare and some serious musical thought behind it, with its success owing much to the prominence of Bill's piano - it's not a typical approach to the material, and it casts these sturdy chestnuts, songs like "Key To The Highway" and "Rock Me Baby," "Dust My Broom" and "Drifting Blues," in an entirely new light. It's not retro, nor is it about nostalgia; rather, it's a re-appreciation of timeless works in an innovative yet respectful manner.
It bears mention that the club was packed, this on a Wednesday with an advertised 7:00 start time (okay, they were a little late); sure, Mr, King is a known draw, but there are other bands out there with equally devoted followings; doesn't this prove that live music can indeed draw an audience if promoted properly, and the start time accommodates a demographic that for the most part has to get up in the morning?
The Rockit 88's Band's CD, "Too Much Fun," is just out on the 7 Arts Entertainment label (www.7artsmusic.com). It's a delight from beginning to end, definitely worth tracking down. But you should also, should the opportunity arise, catch the band live. A smokin' good time is unequivocally guaranteed. A word of advice, though . . . prepare to have your socks blown off!
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