Monday, January 12, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Ray Mazarek and Roy Rogers – Twisted Tales

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the October 24, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Ray Mazarek & Roy Rogers – Twisted Tales

Self Release

www.manzarek-rogersband.com

10 tracks / 44:42

Every now and then I run into an album that is way out there, and I have to listen to it repeatedly to figure out how I feel about it. Twisted Tales by Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers is certainly one of these, and in the end it turned out that I really liked what they put together.

You are certainly familiar with Ray Manzarek, the UCLA film student who became the founding father and keyboardist for The Doors. After that band disintegrated in the early 1970s, Ray performed periodically with bandmate Robby Krieger as well as actively participating in other music endeavors, including producing albums for other artists. He was a well-rounded character, also working in film and writing fiction and non-fiction books. Sadly, he passed on in May at the age of 74, just a month before Twisted Tales was to be released.

Roy Rogers is probably not the one you are thinking of, but this slide guitarist was indeed named after the famed western singer. Roy’s career is impressive, and he has been successful as a performer, writer and producer. He played with John Lee Hooker back in the 1980s, and produced four of Hooker’s albums. He has also collaborated with other top-name artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana and Linda Ronstadt.

Twisted Tales is not the first Manzarek / Rogers collaboration, as they started working together in 2008, releasing two very good albums before this one. On this project Ray took some of the vocals, played the keyboards (obviously), and took a turn on the flute. Roy handled the rest of the vocals and the guitar work. Also in the studio were Steve Evans on bass, Kevin Hayes on drums, and George Brooks on sax. This is a tight album, and if you check out this CD you will hear Manzarek and Rogers at the top of their games -- their chops are amazing!

Rogers has a rock-solid blues background, and while there is plenty of rock and blues to be found here, this is not a conventional blues album, and you can get a clue of the content from the title. Their previous albums were composed of ballads (Ballads Before the Rain) and blues (Translucent Blues). So, not surprisingly, Twisted Tales is all about the stories that are told within. With their limited vocal ranges, at times this music leans towards a spoken word project, and it commands the listeners’ attention throughout. This is not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination.

This disc includes ten original tracks, with all of the music written by Manzarek and/or Rogers, and the lyrics coming from a few different sources. The words for four of the songs were penned by the late Jim Carroll, the poet/musician who wrote The Basketball Diaries. His lyrics are not complicated or even particularly slick, but they evoke strong images that help the listener visualize the stories that he laid out. I found “Cops Talk” to be tedious and cliché-ridden, but “Street of Crocodiles” and “American Woman” are truly poetic, and turn out to be great reads even without the musical score.

Beat poet Michael McClure contributed the lyrics for three of the tracks, and his writing style is less direct than Carroll’s, so instead of painting harsh pictures he uses similes to tell his stories. One of these, “Black Wine/Spank Me with a Rose,” is a Doors-style roadhouse blues tune, and it is fun to hear Manzarek hitting the 2nd beat on the piano and organ just like he did nearly 50 years ago.

But do not forget Rogers’ contributions here. Besides throwing down serious guitar work throughout (tasteful layering and smoking slide playing), he also wrote the lyrics for two of the tracks, “The Will to Survive” and “State of the World.” These have the most conventional lyrics of any of the songs found on the album, which is a neat contrast with the material that others wrote.

Twisted Tales is a complex piece of work, and both Ray Mazarek and Roy Rogers proved that they were masters of their craft on this disc. It is fitting that Manzarek could end his career on this high note and I certainly look forward to what Rogers has up his sleeve for the next chapter of his career.

Mahalo!

No comments:

Post a Comment