" Inside Out "

Hard to believe that this is only the third recording for the Phantom Blues Band. These guys are such in-demand players, so they're busy with other projects as sideman. Because each member of the band is a quality musician, it's no wonder that Inside Out is so strong, as this band could make strong recordings in their sleep. All in all there's thirteen tunes included, six originals, the balance are covers.

The grooves flow right out of the box on Smokey McAllister's "I Can't Stand It" with solid vocals, an in the pocket rhythm section, and concrete horn charts that have a Crescent City vibe. "Having A Good Time With The Blues" by Charlie Musselwhite, Barry Goldberg, and band-member Johnny Lee Schell rolls as a rock-solid jump blues track that could easily fit into B.B. King's live shows. "Boogah Man," written by most of the band members, rolls fast with percolating B-3 from Mike Finnigan and dynamite horn charts with Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard. "So Far From Heaven," by Larry Fulcher and Sublett features keyboards from the great Crusader Joe Sample. It's a soulful cooker reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield's "Trouble Man." Dave Bartholomew's "Little Fernandez" is a calypso delight. "Where Did My Monkey Go?" by the band's trumpeter Leonard is a cha-cha instrumental that swings smartly. "Change" (authored by most of the band) segues nicely from "Where Did My Monkey Go?" Lyrically political, it's a good soulful tune, though I could have done without the news-like announcer talking about leftist/rhetoric spins on current events. Doc Pomus' "Boogie-Woogie Country Girl" is (as expected) an enjoyable romp. Though there are Charlie Rich and Jimmy McCracklin covers that are just so-so, the album closes with the prolific David Egan's "Stone Survivor," (previously covered by Irma Thomas,) that leaves a lasting impression.

The Phantom Blues Band has also been touring (sans Mike Finnigan) with Taj Mahal again, so after a five-year hiatus it seems like they're getting active again. With Inside Out I am already looking forward to their follow-up album that hopefully won't take another five years to complete. (Disclosure: Inside Out is issued by the VizzTone Label Group, co-owned by Blues Revue's parent company, Visionation.)

Bob Putignano: