Monday, March 14, 2016

Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames – Slip Into a Dream | Album Review

Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames – Slip Into a Dream

Delmark Records or

13 tracks / 65:44

There is nothing like an album of raucous west side Chicago blues, and that is exactly what Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames deliver. Dave is a homegrown Windy City fellow who took a break for a while in New Mexico where he studied under famed New York jazz guitarist, Kurt Black. But the call of the city was too great, and Dave headed back to town where he played endlessly at west side clubs under the watchful eye of his mentor, J.B. Hutto.

After playing with a plenty of folks from the “Who’s Who” book of Chicago blues, in 1988 Dave formed his own band, the Imperial Flames. Slip Into a Dream is their fourth album and their second for the venerable Delmark Records label. Dave handles the guitar and some of the vocals, and is joined on the leads by the amazing singer, Monica Myhre. A few long-time bandmates were there in the studio, including Dave Kaye on bass, Jeff Taylor on drums, and Harry Yaseen on piano. There were also a few extra special guest musicians, as you will soon see.

This album has twelve original tracks and one cover, with eleven of the songs written by Weld and/or Myhre. The title track kicks things off and right away it is obvious that this is going to be a rocking party with a heavy west side sound. Dave howls his lines with gusto, sounding like a much more soulful version of Clapton, and when Monica takes over the vocals she nails them with her blues diva aura. The spooky chords of guest artist Graham Guest’s organ set the overall mood, and Weld’s guitar playing is spot-on (of course). This man has tone for days.

There is plenty to like about “Looking for a Man” whether you are searching for a slamming beat, sultry vocals from Monica, a searing solo from Weld, or killer harmonica from none other than Bobby Rush. And “Take Me Back” is also chock full of good, thanks in part to tight work of the The Heard horns: Parris Fleming on trumpet, Bryant Smith on trombone, and Rajiv Halim on saxophone. Dave also sourced a prime horn section for “Sweet Love (Dulce Amor), and that would be the Chicago Horns -- Kenny Anderson on trumpet, Hank Ford on sax, and Bill McFarland on trombone.

Weld and Myhre did not write all of the originals, though. Jeff Taylor penned “Dorothy Mae” and got the nod on its lead vocals, too. This is a righteous funkfest and Taylor’s vocals are definitely up to the task. Guest brings his organ back for this track, and we get the joy of hearing Sax Gordon solo on his horn, plus a pretty neat lead guitar break from Weld.

”Too Bad, So Sad” features Myrhe on vocals and rocking guitar pyrotechnics from none other than Greg Guy (Buddy’s son). Like the other tunes on this disc, this one has its own sound, with a fat bass line from Kaye and snare-heavy drums from Taylor. This is one of the standout tracks on the disc, and it has earned a place in my next party mix.

Before the band reworked “Slip Into a Dream” as an gnarly instrumental (with a little doo-wop) to close out the set, they slipped into a J.B. Hutto cover, “20% Alcohol.” Dave digs down deep for the vocals on this one, and there is some very sweet harp (including a cool solo) courtesy of Mr. Bobby Rush. Weld has done a fabulous job of honoring his mentor on this song.

Slip into a Dream is the best album yet from Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames, and that is saying something as their other albums are very good. It is significant that they were able to write so many new songs that sound good and sequence so well with each other. This disc is a must buy, and while you are at it check out their website to see where they are playing next – you will be glad you did!

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