Sterling Ball, John Ferraro and Jim Cox

The Mutual Admiration Society

(Mascot Label Group/Favored Nations Entertainment)

In which these three gentlemen – BFC as I am now naming them, to save time – create an album called The Mutual Admiration Society. Tongue in cheek title? Or straight? A lot of familiar numbers, a lot of familiar guests. The collection turns out to be a set of instrumentals of quite staggering variety, on which BFC make everybody sound fine. Skill of this strength is always going to make for an entertaining listen.

Everything kicks off with Payday Song which is pacey cut with cool electric piano, steady drumming and a fat bass sound. A nimble guitar dances through the changes.

The In Crowd has been attempted by a fair number of artists recently. It’s a durable song. Here Steve Morse is the guitar guest and this shows off his funkier side on a snappy take on the Dobie Gray hit, taking the topline whilst the bass digs deep. Next up is Checkin’ Up On My Baby the Sonny Boy Williamson warhorse, here all Hammond and biting guitar. It’s hard to top that great loping Taj Mahal version of this song, though. Lighting Hopkins’ urgent Baby Please Don’t Go finds Steve Lukather on guitar and nodding to the Them edition. Van used to send his lads on one at a time, bass man first, for this as Them’s opening number in Hollywood. Lukather keeps the tension up, starting a liquid solo @ 1:28 and adding something fresh.

Treat Her Right is the old Roy Head tune and is pleasant enough; Sugar Shack is a real throwback number and brings in Steve Vai, in curly wah mode. His Favored Nations label is linking with Mascot on this and other projects, as I understand it. Memphis is a nod to the late Chuck Berry and a real foot-tapper with exquisite drumming, driving music. Cryin’ Time shows Albert Lee off on a country weepie so the band switch to a Nashville ambience.

I Want You Back sticks pretty closely to the Motown original and to be frank I can’t see the point of it.maybe they just like the tune. The Disney Medley stars John Petrucci of Dream Theater a band I have seen and vowed to avoid. However his languid wobble sound on When You Wish Upon A Star is quite beguiling, if a tad flashy. He seems to use it as a chance to show off licks but it’s still fresh-sounding. Hey Good Lookin’ has Albert Lee back in the lineup for a 50s jukebox rendition, you can just see the line dancers ! Strip Mall Gourmet features the great Jay Graydon and is my favourite track on the release by far, the Wes style guitar treads lightly over the bossa nova beat and the tune is lovely. The arrangement is full of wonderful cadences and subtlety. Fantastic stuff and I keep paying it.

Heartbroke closes the record with a jaunty trot full of melody – if Green Acres was still on TV this could be in the soundtrack.

Not an essential listen by any means, but an album full of very listenable performances by top notch players where their own enjoyments has been captured in the recordings. Fine engineering by Bill Evans, btw.

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks to the Mascot crew)

You can listen to 'The In Crowd' featuring Steve Morse in this article. 

Sterling Ball, John Ferraro and Jim Cox's 'The Mutual Admiration Society' is released on Friday 2nd February 2018 on Mascot Label Group/Favored Nations Entertainment.

To pre-order the album go here: