SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE – Californisoul (2017)
The all star SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE’s second album “Californisoul” isn’t so much a concept as a feel and attitude, as revealed by the album title. It’s all there in the sparkling interplay on a subtle melange of rock, blues and soul with the kind of deep grooves you might expect from a band helmed by legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff, soulful singer / guitarist Lance Lopez and bass player / producer Fabrizio Grossi.
“Californisoul” is also a very organic album that leaves enough headroom for the grooves to bubble up, the solos to build and the hooks to sink in. Above all, the core trio successfully integrates 5 special guests into their own musical creation.
All 5 guests subtly color and shape an album that draws the listener into Lance Lopez’s impassioned vocals and the up in the mix backing vocals from co-writer / keyboardist Sergei Ximic and Andrea & Francis Benitez Grossi.
And we might as well deal with them first: Billy Gibbons, Steve Lukather, Eric Gales, Robben Ford and Walter Trout delivering some awesome solos.
Gibbons absolutely nails the classic ZZ Top style with the southern fried boogie of the brilliant “Broken Heart”. Lukather is to the fore on “Hard Times”, which combines an Allman Brothers style grit with a quite magnificent guitar solo.
Gales blows in for his turn on the stomping “Elevate” which he turns into one of his trademark funky jams, Robben Ford appears on the harmonica drenched outright blues of “Somebody’s Fool”, and Walter Trout cements his status as the Godfather of modern blues on the slowed down class of “What’s Wrong” and, like on his own recent solo work, there is no doubt that the special guests are perfectly picked out on “Californisoul”.
However, it is to the eternal credit of Supersonic Blues Machine that it never feels like they are playing on the undercard of their own headline show. And if we may torture the boxing analogy a little further, they deliver plenty of knockout blows elsewhere.
“I Am Done Missing You” for example makes good on the soul part of the title early on, “L.O.V.E”, which sees keyboards man Serge Simic to the fore with some superb work, wouldn’t have been out of place on a mid-period Black Crowes record, and “Bad Boys” offers a real dirty groove and you’d best believe it knows where the trouble is at.
It’s striking that there are no real weak spots here. “The One” has a carefree air and has the sort of vibe Grossi talked about when he said the record was “the missing soundtrack to a summertime drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 1971!”.
“Cry” takes a more introspective, almost mournful turn, but that is balanced out with “The Stranger”, which is chock a block with talkbox licks and it is more or less impossible to write a downbeat song with talkbox all over it.
“Thank You” sees things get – to coin a phrase – horny, as a horn section propels this beyond ebullience. There’s one more piece of summertime blues, if you will, before the end.
“This Is Love” is poppy infused and Lopez shows himself to be one of the most versatile players and singers there is.
Supersonic Blues Machine’s second album is everything modern blues should be, and yet so very much more. It’s classic rock at its best, delivers a pocket full of awesome melodies, and some fantastic guitar solos to boot.
“Californisoul” is warm, welcoming and a tremendously fun journey.
01. I Am Done Missing You
02. Somebody’s Fool (feat. Robben Ford)
04. Broken Heart (feat. Billy F. Gibbons)
05. Bad Boys
06. Elevate (feat. Eric Gales)
07. The One
08. Hard Times (feat. Steve Lukather)
10. The Stranger
11. What’s Wrong (feat. Walter Trout)
12. Thank You
13. This Is Love
Lance Lopez (lead vocals, guitar)
Fabrizio V. Zee Grossi (bass)
Kenny Aronoff (drums)
Sergei Ximic (keyboards, backing vocals)
Andrea & Francis Benitez Grossi (backing vocals)