The Tel-Star Sessions
(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)
What we have her are the early studio sessions of the band from 1994, put together with input from Allman Bros engineer Bud Snyder and producer Tom Dowd who counselled playing together in one room to capture the nascent Mule punch. So the lineup here is our pal Warren Haynes the play-anything-well cat of them all, drummer Matt Abts and late bassist Allen Woody, a stunning payer who brought the band’s later recording of He Said, She Said to life.
So what did these cuts made out in Bradenton, Florida unleash?
‘Blind Man In The Dark’ clatters into your ears before a stomping Z Z Top style song shapes up with guitar and voice unison passages and subterranean bass runs as guitar runs zip across the beats. Quite a tricky tempo, this which doesn’t altogether settle; ‘Rocking Horse’ has a staggered chug and a mean beat with guitar howling out over the gruff vocal.
‘Monkey Hill’ has a filthy wah-fuzz axe sound and a Texas grind with distorted vocal; ‘Mr Big’ is the Free gem – as heard in several films – played straight; ‘The Same Thing’ is emphatic bubbling blues with singing axe figures and a fine rhythm section sound eventually coming though with the Muddy/Willie lyric – a song I always play slow in open D so this sounds very different; ‘Mother Earth’ is a song I know best from the band Mother Earth and Haynes wrings every ounce out of the lyric over an evil ascending bass figure
‘Just Got Paid’ is the Z Z Top cut, played straight. The best version ever of this is by Montgomery Gentry imho; ‘Left Coast Groovies’ is a chunky guitar workout where the empathy between players is stunning and a convincing vocal performance.
‘World of Difference’ appears in two editions, to close the collection – one bass-led slow funk job with flanged guitar on delay evoking The James Gang with Paul Rodgers singing, I kid you not readers! A great song. The other take seems slightly slower, to these ears
Always solidly played, there are a lot of flashes of the inventive music to come from these cats in the future, one for fans for sure.
Gov’t Mule’s ‘Tel Star Sessions’ is out now on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group. For more information visit their official website here: http://bit.ly/2bPJVIG
(Many thanks to Lee for helping with this review)