Review: Hollywood Blue Flames – Deep in America
Posted on: Friday, Mar 5, 2010
The roots of the Hollywood Blue Flames stretch back to the 1970s when the majority of the band were in the lineup of the legendary Hollywood Fats Band. Led by the guitar virtuosity of Michael “Hollywood Fats” Mann the band were considered as the fathers of modern West Coast blues. Californian blues would have been very different indeed without a shot of cool of retro grooves into the long hair and denim of the West Coast at that time.
After the very premature death of Mann in 1986 the band separated to follow their separate careers. Many of them playing with a who’s who of modern West Coast legends.
In recent years the band have reformed to include Kirk Eli Fletcher and Junior Watson in the guitar chair and are performing and recording under the name of The Hollwood Blue Flames.
This 2010 release is their third on the high class Delta Groove label and in common with other Delta Groove releases is recorded absolutely beautifully.
The disk covers the spectrum of classic blues from the swinging sounds of the west coast to more down home acoustic tunes and on each tune the band nail the groove perfectly. There are no better rhythm sections anywhere than Richard Innes (d) and Larry Taylor (b). I have praised Fred Kaplan (p) many times on this site and once again he does not disappoint – he is rock solid in the piano chair throughout.
The band is led on harp and vocals by Al Blake with the aforementioned Fletcher and Watson on guitars. Like so many other top end bands comprised of excellent musicians the real strength is the way that the whole band gel and play together, complementing each other perfectly.
Stand out songs for me are “Fly Like The Eagle, Cry Like The Dove” that is played perfectly by all featuring classic Kaplan piano supporting the lead voice and solos. Kaplan is solo on Hushpuppy recreating houseparty mid-tempo blues piano boogie woogie. “Rambler and a Rolling Stone” is a lovely slow blues starting with Blake’s deceptively simple harp intro perfectly backed by the band and a crescendo guitar solo from Fletcher (I think). Great guitar is also evident on “My National Inquirer Baby” with Blake telling of his girl that can be read about in the National Inquirer, the solo on this one by Watson (I think).
Each song is perfectly crafted, the band play together beautifully and the production is simply divine. Not one for the rock blues lovers but if you like your guitar hollow bodied, your bass stand up and your blues West Coast then it’s highly recommended.
The CD also ships with a bonus CD of The Hollywood Fats Band – “Larger than Life V2” a compilation of material live and outtakes from the classic Hollywood Fats Band of the 70s and 80s. Fat’s guitar is just as exciting and fluent as it ever was. The man really was a true genious and reminds us what a terrible loss his early death was at the young age of 32.