Review: Big Dez – “You Can Smile”

Posted on: Monday, May 26, 2008

“You Can Smile”
(Why Note – WHY 016)
Without doubt the best blues band in France, this latest release from Big Dez – aka Phil Fernandez, on great guitar and vocals – is a delightful mixed bag of all things blues, with some horn-flavoured soul and greasy jazz, enjoyed very much their show last year and we were very happy to see this latest release pop through the letterbox.

Apart from Fernandez, the main man is Bala Pradal, whose sparkling keyboard work is very prominent – on piano, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 – special guests again, as on the previous album, are the legendary ex-Fabulous Thunderbirds bass player, Preston Hubbard, and the in-demand tenor sax of Gordon Beadle, from the great Roomful of Blues horn section.

A generous thirteen cuts kick-off with the rollicking title track, “You Can Smile”, with lovely backing vocals from Margaret Bianchetta and Debra Batey; the bluesy funk of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” rides on a great groove, with Fernandez and fellow guitarist Radolphe Dumont on top form, with customary sax solo from Gordon Beadle.

“Low Pressure” sees the band in funky mood again, with “Why She Stays” featuring the horns again – apart from Beadle, John Wolf on trombone and Allen Beeson on trumpet – with a blistering guitar solo for good measure; “Hypnotize Me” gives harmonica man Marc Schaeller a chance to show his talents on this uptempo rocker.

The great soul tune “Anywhere Please” is one of the album’s highlights, with an impassioned vocal from Fernandez, and overall a big Stax feel. Bala Pradal is given the spotlight on the instrumental “Good Arrow”, with it’s greasy Jimmy Smith jazz feel and some quite delightful Hammond.

The Elmore James chestnut “Shake Your Money Maker” is given a big swing treatment, a change from the usual slide-driven covers, followed by another of the best cuts, the dark “Freaksville” – more top notch harmonica and sublime guitar work.

A great album, from a top band who have nearly made it to the North West before, let’s hope we can catch them live in our area sometime soon!


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