Ronnie Baker Brooks
Times Have Changed
(Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group)
This artist’s father is the great Lonnie Brooks of warm voice and fluid guitar fame and his albums were essential purchases in earlier decades. Big shoes to fill. But R&B seems to come naturally to Ronnie Baker Brooks. Producer Steve Jordan (Mayer/ Clapton/ Stevie etc) has no struggle on his hands making this performer sound good, he is good. Brooks has the admirable aim of making his own musical efforts appeal to all age groups and blends the traditional and newer elements. From Al Green’s crew we have Teenie, Charles and Leroy Hodges on some numbers. In fact the songs were cut at Royal Studios in Memphis.
Show Me featuring Steve Cropper on guitar brings back memories of the great Joe Tex, with its relentless beat though Brooks doesn’t do any radical with the song, even down to the same brass inserts although it’s a good vocal performance. Doing Too Much has Big Head Todd aboard with the tune being a cruise over a Hi Studios beat with the guitars playing NO off against Colorado, to great effect. Ronnie has a natural story-spinner’s voice, like a mellower Bobby Rush and doubtless honed over many live performances.
Twine Time includes Lonnie Brooks himself and has an infectious guitar groove and party vibe, like those old Ramsey Lewis Chess 45’s such as Wade In The Water; then Times Have Changed brings in rapper Al Kapone over the sinister bass-heavy solemn groove. The song which has beautiful guitar runs reminds me of the early Chicago work of Curtis Mayfield. Long Story Short is a playful cut and isn’t too far from Johnny Guitar Watson in style and delivery. Give Me Your Love stars Angie Stone and is the old Curtis Mayfield gem. Its airy arrangement here is well-judged and the Between The Sheets atmosphere works a treat. Good work, Brooks and Jordan!
Give The Baby Anything She Wants again features my old friend Big Head Todd Mohr – remind me to tell you the BHT and George Thorogood story – the damped guitar intro is moody as can me and the tremelo’d axe sounds potent. Brooks gives his best vocal on the set here, leaning to early James Brown with style and conviction ; Old Love is the Bobby Bland tune as covered by Clapton and must be ancient as Bland appears here….
Come On Up was written by the interesting combination of one-time Young Rascal Felix Cavaliere and ace country rocker Lee Roy Parnell and is a lively dance tune that is hard to resist ; Wham Bam Thank You Sam is steady and effective, horns and guitar spot-on..such a Memphis sound, lads ! The bass here is killer; When I Was We is the last song and as relaxed as it could ever be, cooing Hammond and plucked strings, with electric piano seeping in and a singing performance that suits.
The album is pretty much a celebration of blues, r&b and funk styles and what it has over many ‘efficient’ releases in this vein is…warmth.
(Many thanks to Lee for help with this article)
Ronnie Baker Brooks’s new album ‘Times Have Changed’ is out now on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group.
For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2mg0i6o