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PHANTOM BLUES BAND Footprints Wienerworld DGPCD119 (2008)

Phantom Blues Band

This is simply a great, almost unique record in that everyone lives up to their name and fulfils their collective potential. Mike Finnigan alone must have recorded over 50 albums and this one must surely be in his personal top 3.

For while The Phantom Blues Band's 'Footprints' is a reverential journey through soul, blues, r&b, gospel, funk, Latino and even ska styles, the band thrillingly manages to breathe fresh life into all the niche musical genres. More than that, they add their own take on things with 4 self-penned songs that stand out as being the equal of some of the other classics and standards explored here.

Finally there is the judicious choice of material which is both well thought out and covers a definitive span of American roots music. Where else would you find such a wide array of songs ranging from the Billy Eckstine favourite 'Cottage For Sale' - given a Lou Rawls treatment by the excellent vocals of Mike Finnigan - to a reprise of Billy Gray's 'Chill s & Fever' (a Tom Jones favourite back in the 60's) and even a couple of gospel efforts of which the excellent Larry Fulcher penned 'When Malindy Sings' is a highlight;

Aside from some stellar collective playing and a raft of sumptuous horn arrangements which jump from the grooves rather than weigh them down, there is also the remarkable three pronged vocal attack featuring heavyweight soul singer Mike Finnigan. To find three front line vocalists of equal stature in one band such as this is a revelation.

Texan Johnny Lee Schell matches Finnigan all the way in terms of range, feel and real presence while Larry Fulcher add his own expressive phrasing over a wide array of material. His vocal line on the closing Ska number 'When the Music Changes' is the equal of his earlier reggae inflected 'Leave Home Girl'.

Better still all three vocalists combine superbly on the horn led ballad 'Your Heartaches Are Over'. Producer Randy Chortkoff makes a reference to 'old school nostalgic music', but the truth is that this that 'Footprints' is more than a celebration of the past and should be seen more as a bridge to the future. And it comes as no surprise to realise that this band used to play with Taj Mahal.

On the evidence of this CD the band has not only emulated his efforts but they have stepped out in their own right with a highly recommended effort.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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