What does Linda Chorney have in common with Madonna, David Lettermen and The Blues Brothers? Well, for one thing she has their top musical sidemen on her latest record. Will Lee on bass, Jeff Pevar on guitar (Ray Charles) and drummer Shawn Pelton (Sheryl Crow) just to name a select few. I haven’t witnessed such a world-class roster of band mates for a Jersey-ite recording in a long time and it’s funny because these monster players match the exact speed of Linda Chorney’s musical maverick that she rides reigns free on her journey to the top.
Linda’s voice is welcoming and ‘70s traditional. She combines an organic sensibility that lulls the listener into her world with a lazy, summer day wave. Chorney never has to really pull you into that musical world; you go willingly, curious as to just what this mysterious creature has up her carnival sleeve. And what she finally reveals shows she is a legitimate writer with keen production ears and the precision to combine everything comfortably in her rainbow of emotional potions. Linda is no industry hypocrite and it shows in this easy, breezy self-exposure of human imperfection titled, Emotional Jukebox.
The disc contains a few covers, which can be tricky, as most don’t understand the art of breaking a song down and reconstructing it in their own voice. Chorney slaps that worry on the back with her unique visions of versions such as, “I’m Only Sleeping” by the Beatles, where Chorney hits that lethargically zoned mop top target without copying (or trying to copy) the masters themselves.
Lazily stroked acoustics, wah-washed, muted electrics move in trippy unison with bass lines in the verse bridges, tasteful and out-of-the-way until needed. Her doubled vocal at key junctures is smooth and lush along the lines of The Carpenters, Sheryl Crow and Bette Midler. Fender Rhodes piano in the bridge is mellow and shimmering in vibroluxurious droplets. I really like the fact that the covers she picked were not the obvious Jersey choices that get cloned to death here on the shore. With the recent resurgence of Springsteen wannabes she’s steered clear of that whole crazy clan.
The bounce and country rock rhythmic snap of “Cherries” jumps on the CD player quickly, combining the skilful drum sounds of Shawn Pelton (SNL Band, Sheryl Crow) along with guitarist Jeff Pevar, who creatively blends the pentatonic minor and major, along with the blues scales of a Dwayne Allman alongside the keyboard magic of Andy Burton. Chorney rides the verses fast, her voice more than capable in the storytelling mode of a Joni Mitchell or Carol King as she peppers her delivery with smart lyrical sensibility, laying out the fact that life may be cherry sweet, but you have to get around the pits.
“Finally” is one of the finest cuts on the disc and features Arlan Feiles on vocals and piano. Arlan is one of the most talented cats I know and he works well with Linda. Their voices create a rich, soulful, mid-tempo blend within the hit material melody. Arlan never overplays, instead he digs down deep into his own gene pool of talent to dredge up the good stuff from within, supporting the melody in superb manner and lending a Woodstock vibe to the track as a whole.
Anyone tackling a Zeppelin cover had better have his or her head screwed on correctly and with her version of “Going To California,” Chorney comes in with said head well-attached. The mandolin talents of Ralph Nataro stand up and get noticed easily and Pelton and Pevar anchor this beast of a song, holding down the low-end thunder pretty damn well and making it easy for Burtons Mellotronic conundrums to fly high over their heads and into the bridge. Chorney once again works this out in her own breathy style, orchestrating and placing lush vocals pads with Lisa Fischer (Rolling Stones, Tina Turner) into strategic positions and squeezing every drop of emotional flair out of this dynamic ditty. The nylon stringed guitar work of Hernan Romero (Al Di Meola) is rattlesnake dangerous and he spits out Spanish gypsy scaled licks like a MAC-10 all over the beginning of the end.
Her covers on Emotional Jukebox demonstrate the proper combination of musical admiration and interpretation. She’s complimenting instead of trying to conquer the pieces of her idols, which shows not only a willingness to embrace their greatness, but shows humility and respect to the cats who got the ball rolling in the first place.
“Broken Promised Land” is as close as I’ve heard anyone come as far as combining a good Curtis Mayfield and The Temptations mix and getting it period correct. Lisa Fischer once again helps kick things off with her plaintive animalistic soul wail, the very same one she used on the Stones “Gimme Shelter,” waking it up and directing attention on Chorney’s sexy whisper. Salaciously slipped S’s slide across her lips as the band holds down a stone groove. Linda’s lyrical rap is smooth and cool as she dives into the broken promise land that she commands. The percussion work of Bashiri Johnson dodges artfully between cold shots of Lee Pendarvis Hammond organ and the Congo work of Richie Blackwell. The echo fueled trumpet work of Satish is paramount here as the influential gap sealer in this old school sexy funk number.
If you want the most fun you can have in the studio without getting arrested you’ll get it on “Do It While You Can,” a raucous 1920s ragtime flapper-styled romp complete with brassy, sassy muted stripper horns and Louie Armstrong-styled scatting courtesy of Richie Blackwell (Bruce Springsteen). Linda struts her stuff singing, “Is it hot or is it me? I’m not sayin’ that I’m hot like a babe… although I am,” while Richie Blackwell holds down the baritone to the bone before the band breaks out into full regalia. The only thing missing on this song is prohibition as the band swings, horns kicking into Leone Redbone boom, chicka boom territory. The interactive dialogue between Blackwell and Chorney near the end is a riot and definitely one of the real deal highlights of the disc.
There are other cool tunes, including bonus material and artwork that I don’t have space for, but the thing I want to mention that I noticed about Emotional Jukebox is the overall labor of love that you feel when listening along. Every note and every arrangement has been combed with caring detail and passion. Theres no stock filler anywhere and the songs have a natural flow and purpose throughout. With the backing of executive producer “The Roc Dock” Jonathan Schneider and her own take on Art, travel, heartbreak and humor, the songs sit five by five in this frolicking line up of life.
On her website she describes her writing as that of “experiences behind songs filled with her adventures around the world, and her dysfunctional relationships.” And while to some hipsters that might sound self-absorbed or contrite, Linda sums it up well when she says, “Just because it happened to me, it doesn’t necessarily make it interesting, but sometimes, putting it to music does.”
Linda Chorneys approach on Emotional Jukebox has the urgency of an artist that has tasted near fame, reaching a coveted AC Top 40 rating in 2002 with her song, “Living Alone” and looking to repeat that high point process on this, her sixth full length disc.
For further information on Linda Chorney, the amazing artist line up that played on her record and her continuing musical journey, head over to lindachorney.com.