Phanphest Presents: Turtle Soup—CD Release— LIVE! @ The Saint—Jan. 29
I still enjoy being challenged by musicians who can open my jaded eyes to the wonders of improv. Turtle Soup is a band that’s managing that task lately, stretching the envelope and taking chances on record as well as live.
At The Saint to celebrate the release of their brand new self-titled disc, the boys showcased their songs along with the Amazing Gongzilla and others to The Phanphest crew in fine (and lengthy) manner.
Produced by guitarist Jeff “Mudd” Mahajan, this latest record showcases a band that’s already seen the light bulb go off over their heads as they step into their own eclectic direction. Yeah, these guys utilize a truckload of influences, and they put them to smart use within their own language.
Breaking straight away into the CD with “Baby Don’t,” pianist Ben Feld steers his riffs into a bounce along side Mahajan’s sidewinder arpeggios, raising dynamically before sinking in behind the vocals and smart instrumental passages (Ben Felds with his “Taxi” sound), pulling it all back to Mudds’ wah wah-riffic swats and Santana-istic leads.
“Changin’” is another golden era echo, kicking into a Grateful vibe before tucking and gating to the Turtle Soup signature sound. Funky and melodic, the group jumps in behind Mahajan for one of his best country rock-tinged leads this side of the ‘70s. Felds’ lush piano beds and the thick and tasty rhythms of Mike McDermott and Andy Meyer bring it home.
“Jess” rounds the eclectic corner of psychedelic grooviness, featuring liquid wah wah’s and Rhoades pianos, Turtle Soup weaves some pretty badass passages, alternating blistering lead on both keys and guitar while ducking out of the way for incoming congas, Timbales and more, reminding me why I feel these guys are so much more than the “jam band” label that’s been stuck to them.
The quick time hustle of “Run” trips along from jazz and blues spirals to half time hiccups galore before kicking back into their “Texican” scenario with mad back and forths from Mahajan and Felds. All I can say is, if the devil went down to Georgia with these guys he’d come back with a sombrero and a big ole’ bag of Peyote.
“Thunder” reminded me of later-day Pete Townsend (composition-wise), featuring baritone pianos and glass smooth acoustic guitars. Drums and bass tight rope across the tune, shifting from jazz shuffles to stomping marches as Mudds guitars simmer impatiently under keyboard melodies that sail straight over the top like icing on the proverbial cake.
And of course the group’s signature tune, “Automatic Trance Mission,” featuring the whole gamut of funked-out drums, synth guitar oddities and screaming organs hustle that skips along, climbing between the fast fretwork of bassist Michael McDermott and Andy Meyer (the silent shiners in the tune).
The self-titled disc is well produced and smartly composed, leaving the listener thinking that “jam” may not be the true description of a band that puts so much extra detail into their compositions and performances. Check out Turtle Soup online over at reverbnation.com/turtlesoupband.
Dan Reed—The Brighton Bar—Feb. 21
Back in the mid to late-‘80s The Dan Reed Network was shoulder to shoulder with some of the biggest leviathans in heavy metal show business, including Def Leopard, Extreme, and others. I can remember seeing The Dan Reed Network at CBGB’s back in the day and wondering why they weren’t as big as Vernon Reid ‘s Living Color when they so obviously came from the same similar vein. The band’s live sound was a blitz of jazz, funk and rock and they were well known both for the non-stop action of the live show and their big draw.
The band kicked into high gear after securing a major label deal with Mercury/Polygram in 1989 with the industry heavy help of famed promoter (and Dan Reed Network manager) Bill Graham. The band blasted off with the Mercury hit “Ritual” which was featured heavily on MTV’s main rotation. The bands popularity also catapulted them into the opening slot for Bon Jovi in 1989 as well as The Rolling Stones opening spot for the Steel Wheels Tour in Europe in 1990.
Reed’s return to mainstream coincides with his latest release entitled, Coming Up For Air, a disc that has him doing a 180-degree turn, mixing smart and complex eastern influences with popular sensibilities and deeply emotion feeling to come up with a sure winner. Utilizing influences along the lines of Bruce Hornsby, Peter Gabriel and Steve Winwood, he gets his message across in a uniquely arabesque manner. Good stuff from a guy who has weathered the pop metal prejudices from corporate neanderthals for years, now breaking through and letting you witness the contentment coming from deep within this latest effort.
The Brighton Bar is located 121 Brighton Ave., Long Branch, N.J. 07740. For further information on Dan Reed and his latest projects, head over to danreed.com.