Kev Moore is a Chesterfield born musician who, although being primarily known as a bass player and vocalist with bands such as Graham Oliver’s Saxon, BC Sweet, Tubeless Hearts, Christie and The Gonads, is a heavily talented multi instrumentalist with a number of excellent solo albums to his name. The most recent and ambitious of those releases is “Blue Odyssey”, an album which tells the story of his road trip across the southern states of America undertaken in early 2010. During the 75 minute opus Moore manages to contribute vocals, bass, electric, acoustic and slide guitars, keyboard, drums and mouth organ. Making it a true solo album in the real sense of the word. However, there is still room for some talented guests and friends to join in throughout the eighteen track affair which, although obviously predominantly blues based, manages to encompass many a style and mood.
The opening track ‘Never Get To Nashville’ tells the tale of the problems they had on the first leg of their trip from Moore’s home in Spain to Nashville. A comedic lyric over a rock ‘n’ roll/country rock melody it gives a real feel good start to the album with some great guitar and piano. The track ends with one of the special guests Shelley House playing the role of the Air Stewardess finally welcoming them to Nashville and announcing the temperature is minus 10, to which Moore groans “No …”. Great stuff .
The second track ‘Cellarfull of Dreams’ is a far softer and slower track to begin with although it builds up into something more rock like which reminds me of “Future Shock” era Gillan in its structure and melody in places. For me it gets a little disjointed now and again and is possibly a little too long but it is a good vehicle for Moore’s vocal ability and has the feeling of a grower.
‘Blue Me Away’ is a standard blues rock tune which starts with a nice solo intro and once again the vocal reminds me of Ian Gillan in the phrasing and tone, although this time more from his “Naked Thunder/Toolbox” era releases.
Things get all delta blues soul gospel for ‘Long Black Ribbon’ a song inspired by a visit to the Civil Rights Museum. The influence of Glenn Hughes is evident in the vocal and the soloing is top notch. For me this would have to be one of the highlights of the album.
The curiously named ‘Pass The Biscuits’ starts with a spoken word intro from well known American broadcaster Sunshine Sonny Payne before the song launches off into a feel good foot tapping blues workout.
Another one of Moore’s great influences is the British singer Jess Roden and the opening vocal moan in ‘The Ghost of Bessie Smith’ is all Roden in style. The actual song itself is not unlike some of the Roden material and features great use of horns and some tasteful riffing amongst the blues soloing. The sample of Bessie Smith singing at the end is a nice touch which provides the perfect end to the track.
Things get all Led Zeppelin on us with the guitar intro to ‘Mr Johnson’, which unsurprisingly is about the legendary blues guitarist Robert. The song itself deals lyrically with the confusion surrounding the final resting place of Johnson and the events which led to his demise.
‘The Mississippi Prayer’ is another Gospel type track which conjures up images of cotton pickers in the deep south. My only problem with it is that it is too short and I would have liked to see it extended to a longer piece.
The first of three tracks inspired by the trip to New Orleans are next although ‘Ol New Orleans’ is all bluegrass, yee-haw country blues music to me with its twangy guitar and hoe down singalong feel. The air stewardess from the opening track, Shelley Barnes, this time provides some violin and although I may not be geographically correct here for me it just conjures up pleasing memories of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and the music down at the Boars Nest ! The second of the New Orleans Trilogy is the infectiously funky ‘Who Dat’. The song is virtually instrumental with the only lyric being the regular chant of the New Orleans Saints fans. Musically it is out and out funk and wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a seventies blaxpoitation movie. The inspiration for the track came from watching the Saints win the Superbowl during the trip although I might suggest the title itself is also a slight homage to another of Moore’s great influences the British rock band Trapeze who recorded an instrumental called “Dats It” back in the early seventies. The final part of the New Orleans trilogy is ‘XXX’ a slower more atmospheric song that leans heavily on Moore’s rock heritage. The song tells the tale of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and the practice of inscribing xxx on her tomb in the hope of securing a wish or protection from evil spirits. The part of Marie Laveau in the song is sung by Moore’s French partner Miki who accompanied him on the trip and is better known as one of France’s most celebrated painters.
‘Buttermilk Boogie’ starts with the sound of an alarm clock and a sleepy groan of ‘what time is it’ before the track launches into a track packed to the brim with good feeling and fun. It is classic goodtime boogie in structure and has some great horns to go with the ridiculously amusing lyrics. In fact the song is such good fun I can forgive the error of singing about breakfast but using the line ….”buttermilk boogie at the waffle house tonight’. I can’t imagine there are many tracks written about waffles and chocolate sprinkles in the serious music world so it is almost certainly unique in subject matter as well as being a good fun track.
‘Spaced’ is an instrumental track with a few samples from radio and TV broadcasts. As an instrumental it works and is very atmospheric although I have never been keen on the use of sampling from speeches in songs and for me they take away from the track rather than add to it which was obviously the intention.
‘Brought It Down In Austin’ tells the story of a plane being flown into an IRS building and does, as Moore intended, have a Texas ZZ Top feel to it. However as with the previous track the use of sampled effects and soundbites take away from the track and leave it feeling a little messy.
‘What A Night It Was’ is a much slower track which again displays Moore’s love of Glenn Hughes’ vocal style. Once again though the overuse of sound effects, this time the crackle of old records and the sound of police sirens, slightly hamper the feel of the song for me although they are not as intrusive as on the previous track.
’96 on Sixth’ is a standard blues workout telling the story of meeting the ninety six year old blues guitarist Pinetop Perkins in a bar on sixth avenue. See it is easy this blues lyric writing stuff, all you have to do is just say it as it is !!! Moore provides a good solo and some more Hughesesque vocal acrobatics which lifts the song out of the ordinary. I know I may be contradicting myself here but I’m not overly sure whether the Pinetop Perkins spoken parts are sampled from another recording, recorded specifically for this or are actually someone else playing the role but whichever one it is they give the song a nice feel.
‘Parrot Beach Cafe’ features some great slide guitar from Gil Franklin and blues harmonica from Patrick Jawbone Kenyon before the title track ‘Blue Odyssey’, a rockier track brings proceedings to a close.
“Blue Odyssey” is fundamentally a blues album from a highly talented musician that has a great love of old school blues music and musicians. However it covers many other styles of music and although steeped in delta blues feeling and lyrical imagery it is much more than just a blues album. Gospel, funk, rock, soul and even a bit of old time boogie woogie are all thrown in the mix at one point or another and help to make the musical journey for the listener as enjoyable as the actual physical journey was for Moore. The only negatives for me are the slight over use of sampled soundbites and a slight concern that the length of the album may lead to attention wandering issues for some listeners. They don’t, however, prevent this from being an excellent and highly recommended album. Moore’s lengthy career in rock and pop music is evident throughout and the clever use of comedy in some of the lyrics add to the all round good feel of the album. This is not your doom and gloom woe is me blues offering by any stretch of the imagination but a celebration of cultures brought together under the banner of a Blue Odyssey.
© Martin Leedham August 2011