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Album review for 'Good Times'

Exactly 40 years ago, in 1973, a record was released that featured many British artists - most of whom went on to become legends in several music genres, all while keeping in touch with their blues roots. That recording was called the "History Of British Blues" and Long John Baldry, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and Steve Windwood are just a few of the approximately sixty musicians who participated on the recording

Now I'm not quite ready to put Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion in with those music masters just yet, but "Good Times" is surely some of the best blues I've heard come out of Great Britain in decades. As a matter of fact, this group would certainly fit into the category of the "Future Of British Blues"

The band consists of Zoe Schwarz on vocals, Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ, Is Genaro on harmonica and backup vocals, Rodney Teague on bass, Paul Robinson on drums and percussion, and Rob Koral on guitars. Several tracks also include Ian Ellis on saxophone and Andy Urquhart on trumpet. "Good Times", the bands debut recording, contains fourteen tracks of which nine are band originals

One of the few covers is a nicely done version of Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow". It's six minute length is the perfect amount of time for featuring everyone in the band. Being rich in rhythm with a mind blowing organ lead by Pete, with piercing harp and horn interjections, amazing guitar riffs and vocals by Zoe that are sometimes soft and sultry and at other times powerful and commanding, this is easily one of the discs best. Hearing this as an audition song, I'd immediately hire the band

The appropriately titled "Beatitudes" is the most beautiful song of the bunch. The song's moving lyrics, Pete's heavenly sounding Hammond and Zoe's angelic voice come together and just carry you away. The notes she hit closing out the song gave me goosebumps. This track’s proof that you can get high on music - I just did

Unfortunately, I'll never know if there's such a thing as being "Too Darn Rich To Be Happy". Then again, the way Zoe tells it, I may actually be quite fortunate in not knowing. The rhythm section smokes on this one. Rodney, Paul and Pete - as he's been on every track so far - are all on their mark, and Is' right with them wailing away on harp. Great dance song

It's been so long since I heard Koko Taylor's version of this song I just went and gave it a quick listen to on You Tube. I was curious as to which version of "Voodoo Woman" was more funky - this cover or the original. And the winner is......Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion, by way of Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ. Give him the chance and I'm betting he could funk up Irish folk songs - what a talent!

Zoe's best vocal performance can be heard on "I'm Leaving You". The range she covers, along with the style changes she makes are remarkable. Be it soft, high notes or low down, growling low one's - she's all over this one. Lots more great organ, guitar and harp leads highlight this one as well

"There's Only You" is another of the disc's best. It features the rhythm section tightly tuned in while Rob and Is get in several strong harp and guitar leads. Of course, Zoe's doing what she's been doing all disc long - belting the hell out of some blues

Other tracks on "Good Times" include: "If I Didn't Sing I'd Cry", "Take Me Back", "You Shook Me Baby", "I'll Do Anything", "That's Why I'm Crying", “Blues Get Off My Shoulder", "Give Him Up Girl" and a shorter radio friendly version of "Beatitudes"

Take this statement to the bank - Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion are about to create a big commotion on the blues scene.

words by: Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, editor