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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Kenny Peck and the Smoky Jack Band

Naked Jack

Review by Gary Hill

There was a time, in the late 1960s and early 1970s where music didn’t seem to fit into tight little compartments.  Labels weren’t as likely to define or limit the sounds.  It was just rock music.  This album leans back towards those times.  It’s never tied down to one sound or another for long, but always seems very successful and captivating.

Other than the bits of hip hop that show up, it wouldn’t be out of the question to think that this is a retro album from the late ‘60s or early ‘70s.  It would have been quite successful then because it’s very strong.  Everything here is effective.  If there’s a complaint it’s that while the combination of sounds is often fresh and original, there’s nothing extremely new or “outside the box” here.  Still, when it’s this strong, that really doesn’t matter.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Shine On

Keyboards and tenor steel drums open things as “Shine On” starts.  The rhythmic vibe that comes in feels a bit like something from Peter Gabriel.  The vocals, though, on the first verse are raps, making the tune more hip hop oriented.  The female vocals on the chorus and beyond are airy and quite classy.  They really soar and bring a jazzy vibe to the piece.  The rap does return later, but the female vocals are the ones that really define the number.


Long Way Out
There is a real bluesy, classic rock sound driving “Long Way Out” like something out of 1970.  There are some hints of David Bowie and some nice changes and turns.  Overall, it’s a classy tune with a very familiar vibe. 
Show Me the Way Home
The mellow folksy introduction to “Show Me the Way Home” sounds like it’s played on ukulele.  As other instruments and the voice join that basic premise is built upon.  Around the one minute mark it seems to turn more towards folk rock.  The cut does get some explorative changes, but overall it’s the weakest song on the album.  That said, it’s still pretty good. It just doesn’t stand as tall as the rest.
When I Go Sailing
Acoustic guitar opens this.  Steel drums bring a real “Island” feeling to the piece.  It’s a relaxing tune that works quite well.  There is a real gentle, dream-like quality to the tune.  It gets some dramatic reworking later as a guitar solos over the top.  It definitely reaches toward fusion-territory during that section.
Love Is a Freeway Ride

There’s a country vibe mixed with a jam band sound on “Love Is a Freeway Ride.”  It has a catchy vocal hook and some guitar soloing around throughout much of the tune.  Both of those things, along with just a general sense of “cool,” make it a highlight of the set. There are definitely grounds for making comparisons to the Grateful Dead here, but there are other flavors in place, as well.  

Look at the People

This has a real Latin vibe to it. There’s a bit of a Santana element, but also some Al Di Meola.  Overall, it’s more of a fusion kind of sound in place, but with the more pop end of that spectrum.

Each & Every Night
This piece really has a classic soft rock vibe to it.  The chorus and song structure both work extremely well. In some ways, it calls to mind the mellower side of Peter Frampton.  It’s a great song and one of the highlights.  Considering that everything here is quite strong, it takes a lot to stand out.  This song does it. 
Riding in the Chevy
“Riding in the Chevy” has sort of a classic rock meets reggae and folk music feeling to it.  The vocal arrangement is the most standout aspect of the tune.

 

It's Alright to Party Tonight

It's Alright to Party Tonight - Here is a high energy roots rocker that’s got some country and some blues in the mix.  It’s another standout tune.  It’s another that has a bit of a David Bowie element to it at times.  It also feels a bit like something Jeff Lynne might write in some ways. 

No One's Listening
The bluesy classic rock vibe driving this tune is great.  It’s got a bit of psychedelia in it, too.  In some ways it seems like a more modern version of The Yardbirds sound.  It’s another standout track.
Alright

Accessible, pop music with rock and jazz in the mix makes up the sound of “Alright.”  It’s got a playful spirit and a mellow approach. It’s one of the shorter cuts here. 

Upwind of the Fire.
There’s a great jazzy sound to this. It takes on more of an energetic folk rock texture later.  
Number One
Classic rock textures with a bluesy edge make up the sounds of “Number One.”  It’s also got plenty of psychedelic and even some progressive rock in the mix.  It’s a dramatic tune and another standout. 
Away
A mellow, progressive rock ballad approach makes up the closing number. It’s another that’s especially strong.
 
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