Saturday, November 07, 2020

Johnny Marvel's Blues Groove - 'Live At The Tea Bar'

This year has been a disaster so far as live music is concerned. Since my trip to the Rockin' Race in Spain in February I haven't been to a single gig. And there's nothing on the horizon it seems as the virus shows no sign of going away. It's great, therefore, to get the opportunity to listen to a live LP recording - on vinyl no less -  of Johnny Marvel's Blues Groove recorded live at the Tea Bar in Basingstoke (Johnny Rock Records).

Johnny Marvel, the band's singer and harmonica player, is well known to Woodies and others as John McGarvey and I've spent many happy hours in his company, along with his dad Seamus, at festivals as far afield as Blackpool, New Orleans, Porretta and Detroit. The nine piece band that he leads plays fairly regularly around the Basingstoke area and is immersed in blues, soul and New Orleans funk. Members are Phil 'Houndog' Howe on guitar, Lofty Spires on guitar and backing vocals, Dan Leese on keyboards, Tom Prince on bass, Matt Alexander on drums, Miguel 'All The Way From Venezuela' on percussion and the 'Cream Horns', featuring Andy Kennedy on saxophone and and Colin Berry on trumpet.. Together they make a groovy and powerful sound and the record captures the atmosphere of their show perfectly.

The album is an excellent representation of blues, soul and funk. Kicking off with Willie Dixon's 'I'm Ready' side one continues with a lively version of Leiber and Stoller's 'Love Potion No 9', which merges into 'Evil Ways'. Aretha's 'I Never Loved A Woman' follows and side one ends with an excitingly bluesy version of the Box Tops' 'The Letter'. Clarence Carter's 'Snatching It Back' opens side two, followed by Georgie Fame's 'Somebody Stole My Thunder'. 'The Next Time', a funky original number written by John, follows and the album ends with a glorious New Orleans celebration incorporating 'Hey Pocky Way and 'Iko Iko'. There's some superb keyboard work and great support from the horns is what is an impressive debut album.

Altogether this is an exciting first LP by a local band who deserve to be better known. I'm sure that, like the rest of us, they can't want to get back to performing live on a regular basis. And I look forward to seeing them again, hopefully sooner rather than later.


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