NRBQ – Keep This Love Goin’

January 01, 1970

(Clang!)

 

www.nrbq.com

 

Terry Adams, the soulful, playful and creative lynchpin of
NRBQ throughout its 44-year-existence as the unpretentious conscience of rock
‘n’ roll, thought the end had finally come in 2004. Not so much for the
timeless band as for him personally – he was diagnosed with advanced throat
cancer. As he took time off to seek treatment and then slowly responded to it,
he hoped his recovery would lead to the band being able to continue its legacy.

 

But the three other members – bassist Joey Spampinato, his
guitarist-brother Johnny, and drummer Tom Ardolino – decided to go it on their
own as Baby Macaroni. Ardolino quit that group and has once again become close
to Adams, but the Spampinatos have stayed the course on their own. Adams, as
health improved, started to tour with his own Terry Adams Rock & Roll
Quartet, but kept the NRBQ name inactive in hopes of a reunion with the
Spampinatos. As he somewhat painfully described earlier this year in a letter
to fans at www.nrbq.com, the brothers
refused.

 

So for Keep This Love
Goin’,
he basically has rechristened the Rock & Roll Quartet –  Scott Ligon on guitar/bass, Pete Donnelly on
bass, Conrad Choucroun on drums (with Ardolino guesting on two cuts) and Ligon
and Donnelly helping out Adams on some lead vocals – as NRBQ. It works very
well – this is now the real NRBQ, rightful heirs to the legacy. Not to dis the
Spampinatos (or earlier NRBQ guitarists Steve Ferguson and the impeccable
player and “Ridin’ in My Car” songwriter Big Al Anderson), but Adams is what
makes NRBQ more than just a very spirited bar band. He’s why they have lasted.

 

As a virtuoso keyboardist schooled not just in rock ‘n’ roll
stylings but also progressive and improvisational jazz, he can take any
familiarly structured pop song and make it fly to somewhere new and
transcendent, tossing off solos that alternate bluesy or rockabilly chording
with discordant, atonal asides that build excitement and power. He is Thelonius
Monk meets Jerry Lee. Or Sun Ra (an Adams hero) recast as a rocker. And he has
so much fun doing it it’s as if he’s inventing music right before our years.

 

That power is intact on the new album. All you have to do is
listen to the Monk-like keyboard approach that picks apart the sweetness on a
ballad called “My Life With You,” creating tension that rescues the song from
any hint of sentimentality. (Tyrone Hill, from Sun Ra’s Arkestra, adds
trombone.) Or the quick, decisive way in which he applies jagged piano runs
over the insistent, danceable rhythms of “Boozoo and Leona,” written in tribute
to zydeco musician Boozoo Chavis and his wife. Adams, who seems to know every
song ever recorded and is delighted to mix and match his influences, calls up
the goofy ghost of the Chips’ “Rubber Biscuit” for his novelty
deep-vocal-with-harmonies number “Sweet and Petite.” And for the most part, he
has a kindred spirit in Ligon, who turns in some hot country-boogie playing on “In
Every Dream,” a seductive and subversive melodic adaptation of a Tchaikovsky
concerto. (Both Ligon and Donnelly play an active role in the songwriting.)

 

NRBQ historically has never been known for strong vocals –
members have opted for spirited and heartfelt casualness as a way to
communicate they’re in it for fun. It’s a utopian ethic for a rock band, but
sometimes it leaves you wanting a little more forcefulness and muscularity in
the singing. There are times, thus, that Adams’ vocals on this album are thin,
as on the surprisingly dark and ominous (for NRBQ) “Talk” (Ligon takes the lead
part for the song’s middle). And on the rockabillyish “I’m Satisfied,”
Donnelly’s lead vocal struggles to stay in focus – he needs the
background-singing support of the others. Ligon, too, has his troubles handling
“Gone With the Wind,” a reworked version of a Great American Songbook classic,
although Adams’ piano work rescues it.

 

In reality, as pleasurable as their records are, NRBQ needs
to be witnessed live to get the full force of their energy. And now, thanks to
Adams’ decision to revive the band name, that can be done again.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Boozoo
and Leona,” “My Life With You” STEVEN
ROSEN

 

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