Rodd Bland is the son of Bobby “Blue” Bland, the godson of B.B. King and a damn good drummer too. That is reason enough for me to give this album (well, strictly speaking, EP) of six tracks and twenty-five minutes a hearing. It Is called, rather lengthily, but extremely accurately Rodd Bland and the Members Only Band Live On Beale Street, a Tribute to Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland.
If, when you think of Rodd’s father only in terms of Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, then this release will educate as well as entertain: it is a carefully selected but not obvious set from his father’s remarkable career. Add to that the fact that Rodd, who got his first drum kit aged five, was taught by his Dad’s drummers and became his Dad’s drummer! Incidentally, all of the musicians have a connection to Bland the Elder, and the title (well, part of it) comes from an album called Members Only by Bobby and the cover picture of Rodd reflects that album too…nice. Although not a full-blown composer, Bobby had the knack of taking an OK song and making it memorable… the more famous examples: the aforementioned Ain’t No Love, I Pity The Fool, Turn On Your Lovelight and Stormy Monday to name a few. Oh, by the way, Bobby was also an accomplished guitarist. For this tribute to his father, Rodd has gone for the lesser-known, but no less powerful songs and opens the affair with Up And Down World, written by Vernon Morrison: it’s a classic and class, soul song and the backing is excellent with clarity and audibility for all of the instruments…his Dad was right…Rodd is a damn good drummer with an innate sense of swing. St James Infirmary is one of those blues songs whose origins are a mystery, but luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway through to The Animals and The White Stripes have all covered it: Rodd and the band turn it into a cleverly constructed New Orleans jazz/soul amalgam. The timings in the backing are seemingly at odds with the melody but it works really well. Sittin’ On A Poor man’s Throne a song by the early 70s Canadian rock band, Copperpenny. Rodd gives it swing and funk with a dash of blues behind the soulful vocals…I don’t think the throne in question is lavatorial, but it is a great interpretation. I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me) written by Steve Barri, Michael Omartian, Michael Price and Dan Walsh (Price and Walsh also wrote Ain’t No Love) is a much-covered song that here gets the soul tinge with horns and a killer bass line. Soon As The Weather Breaks was a Bland co-write with Margie Evans and Vee Pea (who is sometimes known as Virginia Bland but her husband is Monk Higgins…so I’m fairly sure it’s a no relation situation.) Jazz is writ large with the screaming horn start as it dissolves into soulful blues with some neat guitar and Hammond work pinning the melodies brilliantly…there’s also a neat, picked guitar solo that makes this a standout for me. (Get Your Money) Where You Spend Your Time was written by Tommy Tate wraps the EP up with a fast, horny, Hammondy, bassy, soul song that is really well constructed.
As always for me, a soul biased set will always be one I dip into when the mood dictates; this is soul that screams class as well as classic and it is a stunning tribute to an accomplished musician by some extremely accomplished musicians…and a damn good drummer.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen when your soul craves some soul; this is a fitting tribute to a great performer and obviously assembled with love.
Up And Down World
St James Infirmary
Sittin’ On A Poor man’s Throne
I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)
Soon As The Weather Breaks
(Get Your Money) Where You Spend Your Time
Rodd Bland drums, vocals
Jerome Chism, Ashton Riker and Chris Stephenson: vocals
Jackie Clark: bass
Harold Smith: guitar
Chris Stephenson: keyboards
Marc Franklin & Scott Thompson: trumpet
Kirk Smothers: saxophone
(iTunes served up some serious heavy metal with The Rods album, with the descriptive title of Brotherhood Of Metal…famed for David ‘Rock’ Feinstein who is the cousin of Ronnie James Dio.)