Saturday, May 15, 2010

CD Review: Addicted To The Blues

Addicted To The Blues

Phil Gates

(Setag Music, 2010)

by Steve "Fly" Klein

A funny thing happened when I was preparing to write this review; I was looking over the credits on the CD booklet and noticed a lack musicians on this disc. Without fanfare, Mr. Gates recorded an album of 12 original songs with only single musicians (or in the case of "The Wisdom", two female background vocalists) contributing on only five of the selections. In other words, a real solo album.

I remember back in the day when the term "one-man band" evoked images of a gaudily dressed man with a bass drum strapped to his back, cymbals between his knees, an accordion under one foot, bagpipes under an arm, and a clarinet and saxophone strapped around his neck so he could play them simultaneously while strumming a banjo. Les Paul pioneered overdub recording on acetate disks in the 1930s and released his first commercial success in 1948. But it wasn't until Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, and Emitt Rhodes had success in the early 1970s with multitracking themselves on tape that the one-man band reached its height of notoriety.

Mr. Gates sings all of the lead vocals, plays all the guitars, plays bass, keyboards, and edited the drums (I might call it drum programming). While this could mean something was laking, it wasn't. In short, if you didn't read the credits you might not realize it was performed by basically just one guy.

To give you a little background, Phil Gates was born in Chicago, served in the Air Force, played as guitarist in the USAF "Tops in Blue" World Tour that performed at Superbowl XIX, was a sound engineer at a Texas jazz club, and moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to work in the aerospace industry. While in LA he had the opportunity to produce and do session work. In 2006 he created the film score for "My Normal Life".

This is the fifth CD by Phil Gates. Addicted To The Blues is an album of blues and funk with touches of smooth jazz and a little Nashville twang. Phil is a wonderful, soulful guitar player who understands his way around the fretboard as well as a multitude of other instruments. The songs here show real craftsmanship.

"Get Around Me" (with Eddie Baytos on accordion and additional percussion) is a smooth New Orleans type funk song. Nice blues riffs with fun chord changes. Very good arrangement and production perhaps due to the contributions of Matt Forger as engineer on this number (known for his work with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones). Gates can play a smooth slide guitar as in "Sexy Little Cool" (with Mark Justin on keys) or a grinding, screaming slide like in "Used Me Up". "Evening Train" (with Byron Gaither on keys) shows Phil's guitar prowess with some Nashville pickin', while "The Wisdom" (with Elizabeth Hangan and Gedina Jean background vocals) finishes up the CD with a nice change up as he features a New Orleans second-line syncopation in a song about learning from the wisdom of his departed family and friends. One of the CD's single worthy songs accompanied by a nice, understated guitar solo from Gates.

He grooves ya', he moves ya'; Phil Gates is a big time artist who deserves a listen for his outstanding work on this album.