Born and raised in Chicago Gerald McClendon really loves music; rock, soul, blues, and country, as well as jazz all, inform his music and he has been active on the scene for over twenty years. With influences such as Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding his songs tend more toward the soul side of the blues and his latest release, Let’s Have A Party, he delivers twelve songs that show, through his Motown/Stax infused vocals why unsurprisingly he is known as “The Soul Keeper.”
The format is similar to his 2020 release Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now, as the songwriter, drummer, and producer Twist Turner wrote all of the songs as well as drummed, produced, mixed, mastered and stringed! A very busy man who has appeared on over fifty albums over the last forty-odd years and that is despite a five year battle with kidney cancer that he won in 2017.
To the music and opener, Keep On Keepin’ On, and his moniker is more than justified on this Gaye sounding tune, backed by superb musicianship; I love the bass line. If It Ain’t The Blues is a neat shuffle with the guitar and bass lighting up a familiar structure…the lead solo is genius with its imaginative picking and runs. Let’s Have A Party brings a bit of funk to the party and, although, you can’t help but tap the foot, it is a bit generic…very good generic.
Pretty Girl is vintage soul and would have been a massive hit back in the day when artists such a Harold Melvin reigned. Pack Your Bags And Go is a slow, dancing cheek to cheek sort of song despite the fact that it is about a break up rather than being in love and the lyrics even discuss the dirty draws beside the bed…and I’m sure he isn’t singing about the bedside cabinet!
Ghetto Child recalls the days when R’n’B meant something, rather than the genre of recent times that hijacked the phrase…again, the musicianship is stunning: listen to the bass, the Rhodes and the “shaft-y” chord work as Gerald does a great Soul Keeper performance has the guitar solo is a study in tone and picking.
You Got To Be Strong is more classic soul but with some neat piano work and a clever reflection on the opening track’s sentiment with a few shared phrases in the lyrics. Throw This Dog A Bone is one of the best; them blues is strong, grasshopper! Lead and bass guitar again show remarkable empathy and emotional connections to the vocals with the lead solo a high-quality example of just the right number of notes.
Start All Over Again is a pure soul song that, for blues boy me, is a bit too soul…for a soul tune, however, it is exceptional and the guitar solo nearly rescues it. I Just Can’t Help Myself opens with a minuscule bass solo…brilliant! it then becomes a well structured soulful blues with yet more great bass and lead guitar.
I Just Can’t Take Anymore is one of those soul tunes that regularly conquered the charts; slow-rolling rhythms backing Gerald’s soulful passion and a lovely guitar solo to keep it different and interesting for me. Funky Stuff closes the album in good old Chicago style; not as funky as the title suggests but still a strong song with vocals, guitar and bass yet again lifting it higher than so many of this ilk.
So, if your blues bias tends toward the soulful, you’re going to love this. Even if, like me, you’re blues bias is just that, there is still plenty to enjoy with Throw This Dog A Bone being the standout.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen, especially if your blues lean toward the soulful spectrum, backed by superb musicianship throughout.
Keep On Keepin’ On
If It Ain’t The Blues
Let’s Have A Party
Pack Your Bags And Go
You Got To Be Strong
Throw This Dog A Bone
Start All Over Again
I Just Can’t Help Myself
I Just Can’t Take Anymore
All songs written by Twist Turner
Gerald McClendon – Vocals
Rico McFarland – Guitar; 2, 8 & 10
Melvin Taylor – Guitar; 12
Rusty Zinn – Rhythm Guitar; 11
Joe Burba – Guitar; 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 & 11
Tony Llorens – Fender Rhodes: 1, 2, 3, 6 & 10
Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi – Fender Rhodes; 4, 5, 7, 8 & 11, Piano; 4, 7 & 9
Brian James – Keyboards; 12
Jim Pugh – Hammond B3; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 8
Skinny Williams – Sax; 1, 3, 4 & 5
John “Boom Brumbach – Sax; 7
Delta Roots Horns – Horns; 6 &12
Johnny B. Gayden – Bass; 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 & 11
Dave Forte – Bass; 10
Harlan Terson – Bass; 2 & 9
Art Love – Bass; 4 & 12
Twist Turner – Strings; 6 & 7
Twist Turner – Drums all tracks
All tracks recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Twist Turner at Delta Roots Sound Studios, Chicago.
(iTunes ran on to a 2018 album by the adventurous Gerry Spehar: Anger management is the album and apt is the title and Thank You Donald (explicit content) sums it up very neatly with some superb banjo proving how versatile that instrument can be in the right hands.)