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Shout! [2 CD]
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Gov't Mule's first studio album in four years - features 11 tracks recorded by the band in Los Angeles and Stamford, CT plus a bonus disc featuring an all-star lineup of vocalists interpreting The Mule's new songs. Special guests Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Ben Harper, Toots Hibbert, Glenn Hughes, Jim James, Myles Kennedy, Dave Matthews, Grace Potter, Vintage Trouble's Ty Taylor and Steve Winwood appear on Disc 2 of Shout! The double album also marks Gov't Mule's Blue Note Records debut.
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The album opener, "World Boss" is typical rocking Mule, but an unexpected chord structure makes the listener take special notice. Great rhythm guitar featured here, due mainly to keyboardist Danny Louis' expanded role as multi-instrumentalist. This track, with the opening line "Have you heard the news" reminds one of "Bad Man Walking" from "Deja Voodoo" (Hey! can I tell you a little story?"). Warren Haynes demands your attention.
"Whisper In Your Soul" has the sound of early Mule (think "Temporary Saint" from the first album). Drummer Matt Abts is featured on this track, and the inventive bass of newest member Jorgen Carlsson is equal to that of his predecessors. In fact, one of the highlights of this album is it's SPACE. This is a muscular band that never overplays; each member manages to be heard without crowding the other players.
"Captured" is a showcase for the soulful vocals of Haynes. Being such a virtuoso on guitar, it's hard to remember that his first love starting out was singing. This sounds like a love letter to his wife. Louis' electric piano plays wonderful counterpoint to Haynes' fretwork, and Haynes wrote a cool line that threw me: "Never thought I'd love someone more than I love myself".
"Scared To Live" is a Reggae flavored number that works. I know that the "Mighty
High" thing wasn't for everybody, but this Haynes/Louis song flows thanks to Louis' keyboards and the masterful drumming of Abts. "Stoop So Low" is a good old fashioned take on a problematic woman, and the tune contains some great angry lyrics ("Remember that time down in Mexico? I knew right then and there I should have let you go"). After a few similar verses, the band plays an ascending riff, then doubles the pace for a guitar and organ workout with Delaney and Bonnie inspired vocals by Alecia Chakour and Nigel Hall.
"Funny Little Tragedy" is the best kiss-off since Dylan's "Idiot Wind". Haynes has featured Louis over the years, but here he is downright encouraging to Louis on guitar. Haynes Announces "Danny Louis!" right before Louis plays a brief but tasteful solo. A second guitar increases the scope of the newer songs.
"Bring On The Music" is atypical for the Mule. This is a song of optimism, although it has a feeling of foreboding just before Haynes plays an extended solo, one of his best on record. I've read where Haynes' playing here is a tribute to Paul Kosoff. Perhaps, but to my ears this sounds like the Warren Haynes that played with the masterful Dickey Betts; in fact, he channels Betts right before the end of the song which ends slowly, each musician adding a small flourish at the end. It's as if they don't want the song to end.
The second disc also starts off with "World Boss". Ben Harper was born to sing this song; add some world class harp from Charlie Musselwhite and this track would be right at home on the recent Harper/Musselwhite collaboration "Get Up!". "Funny Little Tragedy"-I never imagined Elvis Costello with the mule, but hey-it works! Just looking at Costello's recent pairings (The Roots, Allen Toussaint ) one shouldn't be surprised. Costello obviously plays well with others. He also introduces Danny Louis before the guitar solo.
This is the track that kills! "Stoop So Low" features the great Dr. John, and you know we're in for a treat from the get-go when he starts the number with a devious little chuckle. The good Doc only gets better through the years, offering that special brand of voodoo only he do so well. You'll crack up when Doc growls softly "How can you stoop so mother f-----g low?" right before Haynes and company jam in a very jazzy fashion-very different from the Mule's version.
Toots Hibbert (another ubiquitous musician) brings authenticity to "Scared To Live". Carlsson and Abts drive this track with more organ and electric piano from Louis. "Bring On The Music" features Ty Taylor of the great young band Vintage Trouble. Taylor's phrasing is very similar to Haynes'. Although this track is over three minutes shorter than the first disc's version, it's a highlight of the album.
"Forsaken Savior" features Dave Matthews at the mic, and I did a double take when I first heard it. This does not sound like the Matthews we're all familiar with. Here he sounds earnest and very direct.I actually prefer the guitar solo here to the one on the first disc. "When The World Gets Small" features one of the most unique singers of all time, Steve Winwood. One of his trademarks is to deliver some passages quietly, then rise in volume when you're "leaning in" to listen. Choosing Winwood to close out the disc was a smart decision on Haynes' part.
The concept of having guest vocalists record a companion disc on a new release is a great one . I don't believe this has been done before, at least not in the spirit of Gov't Mule's "Shout!". Think of the possibilities-Terry Hanck adding his sax and singing to a Rod Piazza project, or Selwyn Birchwood contributing to a Buddy Guy release. Hope the labels are paying attention.
Top international reviews
It's very good value on vinyl - most single LP issues cost £12-£20 nowadays, so £22 for this big set is a great price.
It's beautifully presented in heavyweight black vinyl, two 180gm discs for the 'regular' (Gov't Mule) version of the set, and two 180gm discs in red vinyl for the 'guest' version of the set.
They're housed in thick card LP sleeves with an attractive radial design, and the LPs slide into their own hefty gatefold sleeves, which are different for each 2-LP set, not just a repeat gatefold for the 'guest' LPs.
There's an outer sleeve to house the whole lot (that perhaps could have been a little thicker and it must be one of the most impressive 4-LP issues you're ever likely to come across. There's a huge poster of the front cover graphic included in the package.
As others have already said, the music is hefty too, with tough bluesy wedges of guitar-driven blues-rock in the inimitable forceful Gov't Mule style, a very satisfying collection and it's clear that Warren Haynes' musical mission is still well on track.
This chunky LP set will take up substantial space in your shelving, and the music will take up substantial space in your brain, too - play often, and LOUD!
Over the past years they have become very much my favourite band of all, and this latest album does not in any way let them down in my estimation, indeed quite the opposite.
While it doesn't quite have the instant catchy jaw-dropping 'wow' factor that 'High and Mighty' evinced, after a few listens one becomes very aware of the sheer quality and creativity of these guys. They have no peers in the blues-rock field, in my humble opinion.
And the second CD is a revelation in itself.
Well done and thank you, Warren, Matt, Jørgen and Danny. You give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. This is blues/southern rock at its very best. Seven stars out of five.
But PLEASE come to play in London more than once a year!!!???
It may be just me, but I feel the song writing has become a bit less original since 2006 High and Mighty. Great songs nevertheless, but I long for those anthems that all their previous albums delivered.
In any case, I recommend this album for anyone looking for a great record made by world class musicians. It won't disappoint.
Long live The Mule!