The name Mike Zito occurs a lot when you use the search facility on Bluesdoodles (and in my record collection); his numerous albums as performer, guest, producer and sometimes all at once, (as well as label co-founder) may differ in content but always deliver high-quality blues and blues-rock. I’m delighted to report that he has done it again on his latest release, Resurrection.
The pandemic is never far from our minds and this follow up to Quarantine Blues looks forward to the increased freedom that we (fingers crossed) are beginning to enjoy. With eleven new songs, Mike regales us with his trademark guitar wizardry, his ever-improving vocals and mixes both into the rock, blues and rootsy songs and the odd hint of soul that intermingle brilliantly with three carefully chosen covers from the genii (geniuses) of Cale, Clapton and Dixon (no relation!) Mike explains the ethos behind his latest masterpiece thus:
“Resurrection is an album of feelings, emotions, and is very personal. The title track is how I once almost lost my love, but it came back stronger than ever. I have had this song in me for years, but it only makes sense now to share it with the world. After the year we have had on planet Earth, I believe we all need a rebirth. This rebirth has given me an opportunity to be who I want to be musically and artistically.”
The music backs that up admirably as we start with the JJ Cale song, I’ll Make Love To You; but that electric slide and the staccato bridge lifts it well beyond the norm as the solo shows sensitivity and originality. (The acoustic guitar by the way is Mike’s son Zach) and I prefer this to the EC cover. Don’t Bring Me Down has a few familiar phrases but, ultimately, with the guitar picks and bends it is all Mr Zito and if the solo here had lasted an hour, it would still be too short. His phased (or whatever it’s called these days) works well in setting the tone of the compound lyrics.
Dreaming Of You is mid-paced blues that captures from the first guitar phrase; it has the feel that Clapton used to put into his early, post Cream blues…this is quality. In My Blood has a bit of jazz, soul, gospel and a simultaneous country lilt with brushed snare and subtle bass. It has an immediacy and a few listens to the gentle guitar work in the background is an education in itself and the solo is a lesson in restraint.
The Clapton penned Presence Of The Lord for Blind Faith and the original had Winwood’s Hammond and voice on a song that, for me, doesn’t come to life until the sudden wah solo that EC delivers…in Mike’s hands it is almost orchestral in its build-up and the solo? He keeps the wah and, dare I say this…it is more impassioned than the original studio version (although EC’s Telecaster, non-wah solo on the live recording is superb).
When It Rains has a subtle, approaching primitive, beat as the bass and drums lay down the base for horns, vocals and voice to illuminate. The solo is a very imaginative use of the bottleneck and may be welcomed by dogs: I love it. You Don’t Have Me is the only predictable track; still, a strong blues-rock, southern tinges song of relationship issues…the slide is a bit low in the mix but it still has a lot to say as does the run and bend filled picked solo.
Damned If I Do is a slower blues-drenched song that oozes emotion in both vocals and associated guitar speaks…a Gary Moore approach to blues soloing is always welcome and Mike does it so well; just the right amount of notes in just the right place. Running Man is up next and owes nothing to Stephen King or Arnie…except maybe in complexity and weight! Pure quality blues-rock with added horns and clever lyrics; the star is, inevitably, the genius solo that ranges up and down the strings and neck.
Willie Dixon wrote hundreds of songs for so many well-known names and he is my favourite ever upright bass player and it is one of his that Evil is a remarkable cover of the Wolf did it as Evil (Is Going On) and Mike takes that template, heavies the riff and pours the blues through every note. The Hammond solo is a little low but is damn good and the guitar solo is exceptional. Until I heard this, my favourite version was the 1971 recording by Cactus…not now!
The album closes with the title track: Resurrection is a soul/blues hybrid that, lyrically, sums up the past year or so and looks positive to the future, all backed by a sort of heavy blues Beatles structure and a simply stunning solo of emotion, integrity and style.
This is a truly wonderful album that reveals new layers with every listen as the cover art does with every glance…Mr Zito delivers yet again with his innate sense of the blues backed by serious guitar prowess.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album that reveals new layers with every listen…Mr Zito delivers yet again with his innate sense of the blues backed by serious guitar prowess.
1. I’ll Make Love To You (JJ Cale)
2. Don’t bring Me Down
3. Dreaming Of You
4. In My Blood
5. Presence Of The Lord (Eric Clapton)
6. When It Rains
7. You Don’t Have Me
8. Damned If I Do
9. Running Man
10. Evil (Willie Dixon)
Mike Zito: vocals, guitar
Matthew Johnson: drums
Doug Byrkit: bass
Lewis Stephens: piano, organ
Zach Zito: acoustic guitar
Lisa Andersen: backing vocals
Eric Demmer: saxophone: Fernando Castillo: trumpet.
(iTunes inevitably moved on to More Mike Zito with friends and with The Wheel but I let it continue to the best blues album of 2003…Bluesheart by the inimitable Millar Anderson.)