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CD REVIEW -- Barry Goldberg
GLT blues radio


In the Groove

Sunset Blvd. Records

Barry Goldberg In The Groove CD

By Bill Dahl

          In the Groove is a thoroughly apropos title for this new disc from keyboardist Barry Goldberg. Apart from its hard-charging opening track, it’s entirely instrumental and largely occupies an elegant, easy-on-the-ears space somewhere between blues and jazz with a taste of ‘50s rock and roll. It’s a groovy place where the Hammond B-3 organ that the Chicago native plays so adeptly glides freely over sumptuous grooves provided by an all-star contingent of Los Angeles sidemen.


          By any yardstick, Goldberg embarked extraordinarily young on his musical odyssey, teaming up with fellow wunderkind guitarist Michael Bloomfield in their mid-teens to hit the South Side blues joints where their vaunted heroes dwelled. In 1962, Goldberg joined Robby and the Troubadours, one of the top Twist bands on Rush Street, before reuniting with Bloomfield and guesting with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for a groundbreaking set with a newly electrified Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.


Everything happened fast and furious for the keyboardist after that. He put together a blues band with guitarist Steve Miller, cutting an album with that outfit; backed Mitch Ryder as an extra member of the Detroit Wheels on their supercharged ‘66 medley smash “Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly,” and was a charter member of the Electric Flag in 1967 along with Bloomfield and Buddy Miles. Goldberg went on to wage a prolific solo career, as well as teaming with Gerry Goffin to write Gladys Knight and the Pips’ ’73 million seller “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination.” Settling in L.A., he worked in the TV and film industries as a composer and co-produced Percy Sledge’s Grammy-nominated 1994 album Blue Night.


          The only vocal on In the Groove is provided by another keyboard icon, jazz great Les McCann, who transformed Goldberg’s “Guess I Had Enough Of You” from its instrumental beginnings into a vocal message of less-than-fond farewell delivered over Denny Freeman’s crunching guitars, ex-Chicago standout Rob Stone’s muscular harp, and Goldberg’s dancing organ. The other four originals are delightful workouts; “The Mighty Mezz,” named after jazz immortal Mezz Mezzrow, swings with a joyous drive, while the atmospheric “Westside Girl,” its title a tribute to Mrs. Goldberg, was inspired by Herbie Mann’s “Comin’ Home Baby” but goes its own jazzy minor-key way. The title track delivers on its promise, Goldberg’s fat-toned organ percolating over a cool, flexible rhythmic thrust, and Nawfel Hermi’s stinging guitar cuts through loud and clear on the lowdown grinder “Ghosts In The Basement.”


          Displaying fascinating taste in covers, Goldberg reaches way back for an array of obscure instrumentals that he updates without losing their individual flavor. Milt Buckner’s smoky after-hours “Mighty Low” was apparently the first such organ-led blues theme Goldberg ever heard, so it earned a savory dusting off, Barry’s solo space shared with guitarist Johnny Lee Schell. Doc Bagby’s “Dumplin’s” and Sil Austin’s hand-clapping “Slow Walk” were swinging mid-‘50s R&B hits tailor-made for Joe Sublett’s wailing tenor sax work here. The Cyclones’ “Bullwhip Rock,” where Goldberg switches over to stomping boogie piano and spotlights James Intveld’s slashing lead axe, Johnny and the Hurricanes’ “Lazy,” and the Wailers’ churning “Tall Cool One” came along right after that, so they were part of Goldberg’s rocking formative years too.


          Other than being much too brief, the set’s closer, a rolling treatment of Lead Belly’s “Alberta” that shifts Goldberg back to the 88s once more, provides a classy end piece to a most impressive program. No doubt about it, Barry Goldberg’s still grooving.



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