Review: Raoul and The Big Time – Hollywood Blvd
Posted on: Thursday, May 29, 2014
Raoul and The Big Time – Hollywood Blvd
(Big Time Records: BTRCD006)
Here’s a release that has been around a little while now, from the Toronto-based outfit Raoul and The Big Time – namely Raoul Bhaneja (harmonica and vocals) – who is also a well-known and accompished actor in his native Canada – Darren Gallen (guitar), Terry Wilkins (upright bass) and Tom Bona on drums – and on “Hollywood Blvd” they are joined by a host of some of the modern blues biggest names, including Curtis Salgado, Rick Holmstrom, Jeff Turmes, Junior Watson, Fred Kaplan, Richard Innes, Larry Taylor, Rusty Zinn and Johnny Sansone . . . phew!!
Needless to say the music and the sound of the album are of the highest order – my only slight criticism would be that Bhaneja isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but a great harmonica player with excellent tone, and the pure class of the whole ensemble make this a very listenable release. However the bulk of the 12 tracks feature the stellar guests with the regular band taking somewhat of a back seat, on the eight originals from Raoul Bhaneja and four covers.
The album was recorded on home ‘turf’ in Toronto and also Burbank, California and captures a traditional style of West Coast jump blues but with a thoroughly modern twist. Although the originals are strong standouts are a superb horn-filled take on Allen Toussaint’s evergreen “Get Out Of My Life Woman” and also The Staple Singers “Why Am I Treated So Bad”, with spoken introduction – kudos to the Canadian horn section on the former, namely Pat Carey and Alison Young (saxophones) and Jake Williamson (trumpet).
The four instrumentals here are greatly varied, with perhaps the pick of them being the West Coast swing of “Left Coast Fred”, with Bhaneja’s finely-toned harmonica backed by the crack outfit of Messrs Watson, Kaplan, Taylor and Innes . . . it doesn’t get any better than those gentlemen. The second ‘guest band’ are prominent on “Amphetamine” . . . with Messrs Holstrom, Hodges and Innes creating a 50s Chicago blues storm behind more great harmonica.
This recommended album ends on a slight ‘curveball’ with a cover of a very early bluegrass tune, “In The Shadow Of The Pine”, with Johnny Sansone guesting, as well as Terry Wilkins from The Big Time and John Showman on violin – a lovely finale indeed! This could be the release that spreads the name of Raoul & The Big Time outside of their native Canada – check it out!