Lloyd Price’s early hits earned him a well-deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Smashes like the chart-topping “Stagger Lee,” “Personality” (which reached #2), and “I’m Gonna Get Married” (#3) were all radio bright spots in 1959, and lesser hits like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Lady Luck,” “Just Because,” and “Where Were You on Our Wedding Day” were just as amiable.
Unfortunately, little of the charm of those recordings comes across on the new This Is Rock and Roll, which Price co-produced. There are a few decent oldies covers, including the Isley Brothers’ “I Can’t Help Myself” and the Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” But readings of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” and “I’m Walkin’” sound Vegas-ready; and throughout much of the rest of the program, “Mr. Personality”’s personality is smothered under anonymous-sounding '70s- and '80s-style funk/R&B, heavy beats, female backing vocals, and what sounds like synthesizers. (There are no musician or songwriting credits.)
The now 84-year-old Price is a talented guy who clearly loves what he does, and the Shirelles cover in particular leaves no doubt that he hasn’t lost his voice. But he needs to forget about trying to update his sound and find a producer who knows what to do with him. Until he does, pick up a copy of one of his many available oldies packages, such as the three-CD Singles Collection. That is rock and roll.
Kim Wilson, Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1. Singer and harmonica player Kim Wilson, a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, kicks into high gear on the opening track of this solo release—an instrumental called “Bonus Boogie”—and stays there for 16 tracks and 53 minutes. Featuring kinetic backup by a terrific band that includes several guitarists and drummers, plus piano, bass, and horns, Wilson sings and plays his way through a blues program that mixes originals with classics from the likes of Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Walter. After listening to this self-produced effort, which has a live-in-the-studio sound, you’ll be fully primed for the followup that the album title suggests is coming.
Dori Freeman, Letters Never Read. Dori Freeman follows up her eponymous 2016 debut with an even better sophomore effort. Once again, the star of the show is her unadorned, intimate vocal work. While the last album evidenced a bit of pop influence, most of the songs here are just what you’d expect from someone who grew up in rural Virginia in a family of bluegrass musicians and who admires Doc Watson and the Louvin Brothers. Teddy Thompson, who seems to know exactly how to bring out the best in this artist, produced again. Highlights include the melancholy “Cold Waves,” the a cappella “Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog,” and a gorgeous, fiddle-spiced cover of the classic “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” by Teddy’s dad, Richard Thompson, who guests on the album.
Gareth Sager, 88 Tuned Dreams. British multi-instrumentalist Gareth Sager is best known as a member of several 1970s and 1980s post-punk bands, including the Pop Group and Rip Rig + Panic. But you won’t find a whole lot of hints on those groups’ albums that one like this might issue from Sager. In fact, when 88 Tuned Dreams opened with solo piano, I kept waiting for it to transition into some sort of rock and roll, but that never happened: as I belatedly realized that the CD’s title suggests, this is solo piano throughout. Not only that—it’s introspective, mellow, and influenced by classical music. Think George Winston meets Frederic Chopin. It’s a surprise, and a good one.