LIFE - Andre Williams (Alive Naturalsound)
Everbody's favourite dirty old uncle is back with another slice, this one called "Life", and it's far from his worst work. At 75, Andre Williams is fighting fit and musically matching it with any septuagenarian on the planet.
Andre is a band slut. He's running around with half a dozen outfits. This is not a bad thing for we fans. The Detroit crew accompanying him on "LIfe" (Matthew Smith on guitar, David Shettler on drums and Jim Diamond on bass) is one of his best. An ensemble in the true sense and up to the challenge of following Andre wherever he leads.
Smith has been playing behind Wiiliams, off and on, since "Silky" and knows where to tread. His guitar is evocative and psychedelic - just like he plays with his own band, Outrageous Cherry.
"Life" is psychedelic soul, in the same mould as the brace of swansong day albums by the late Nathaniel Meyer on this same label (and involving some of this same band.) Andre Williams has been here before and is fast staking a claim on this turf as his own.
Of course it makes sense that the grooves are the bedrock for "Life". Andre croons, intones and sing-speaks over the top of some deep feels. It's true that some of these songs are more jams but it's the spark of spontaneity that keeps Andre Williams' best albums sounding fresh.
Female backing vocals are the cherry on top of the voyeuristic "Heels". Smith's spiralling guitar is a joy. "Shake a Tail Feather" is older than Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen cadaver and is on its umpteenth re-make here . It plods a little but reminds us where it and its singer came from.
"Blame It On Obama:" is a piece of ironic political commentary in an American Presidential election year that could catch a break and be played on enlightened radio playlists (oxymoron intended). "Don't Kick My Dog" is a walking blues that doesn't do anything new but sounds cool nevertheless.
"Money Ain't Got No Loyalty" hovers close to reggae while "Ty the Fly" is an even more curious beast, a meandering psych-tinged rap that evokes dub and underlines that Andre Williams can't be pigeonholed. - The Barman
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THAT'S ALL I NEED - Andre Williams (Bloodshot)
The old guy's up to his old tricks again and ain't it grand that he's disturbin' the peace rather than keepin' it in some old folks home? We should all have been grateful for small murkies when Andre Williams emerged from drugged-up, panhandling obscurity with the wonderfully scuzzy "Silky" in 1998. The completion of his cross-over into indie hipness that was "The Black Godfather" a couple of years later was the weakest link in a chain that's never been a letdown.
On the scale of Andre-ness, "That's All I Need" rates exceddingly well. He's done R & B, sleaze-punk and gutter country; this time it's close-mic'ed psychedelic soul. It finds Mr Rhythm being backed by a group of Detroit fixtures from bands like the Dirtbombs, The Sights, Outrageous Cherry and Electric Six. They play it under-stated and off-key - hanging out on the edge where HST used to perch to watch the going get weird and the weird get going.
Of course had he still been kicking, Dr Gonzo would have disagreed vehemently with the sentiment of "There Ain't No Such Thing As Good Dope", but his celebrity status gave him some sort of diplomatic immunity when it came to tussling with the law. If you're looking for more opinion, go no further than the statement of intent that is "America". This one makes its point about not having to be a one-eyed jingoistic turd to be a patriot without threatening to become the theme song for another bombastic "Rocky" movie. It doesn't need to be loud to be proud.
There's such a great groove in "Tricks" that you'll probably forget that Andre probably wrote half of these songs in his sleep. It's not so much that he's not doing anything new but that he's doing what he does best so well. Cock an ear to the sometimes innuendo-laden, always clever lyrics of "Cigarettes And My Old Lady" or the remorseful "Amends" to know that it's true.
The guitars of Outrageous Cherry dude Matthew Smith and Dennis Coffey reach an acid-soaked peak on "That's All I Need", weaving like Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Ripp. Smith's production is crystalline and unobtrusive, and he arranged the songs in such a way that they wrap around and embrace their singer rather than crowd him out.
"That's All I Need" only runs for 40 minutes but every one of them is memorable.
If you liked the stuff that the late Nathaniel Meyer released on Alive Natural Sound (and on which Smith and drummer dave Shettler played), you'll take to this like car thieves to a vintage Cadillac. So go watch the Andre Williams documentary "Agile, Mobile and Hostile" for free and hip yourself to what's happening. If it or this record doesn't rock your boat then there's no hope for you or your children. - The Barman
APHRODISIASC - Andre Williams (Vampi Soul Records/Fuse Music)
This one caused some degree of confusion and disagreement in la Casa del Honeysuckle, where Andre’s 2000 release, the almighty “Black Godfather”, is something of a Saturday night/Sunday morning staple. It’s very different in sound and tone, though still recognizable as the work of this long term scene veteran and survivor- in many senses of the word.
Recorded in Iowa City, and co-written with the backing band, the Diplomats of Solid Soul, this is a very different beast. Without Mick Collins at the helm and contributions from Jon Spencer and co., there's not so much of the stripped-down, fuzz drenched echo laden stuff like “The Dealer, The Stealer and The Peeler” or “Whip It” here. It’s much more classic sweet Hammond driven soul - although of course Andre would never go MOR. There are some killer beats, sharp stinging guitar and harmonies galore, here.
You get a lot a less bitches and hos, though there is still plenty of (ahem) cocksure boasting, especially in the opening track “The Hold Up’, where a backing chorus of young lovelies play call and response. There’s even a love song here, from the recently married man to his woman.
“3 Sisters” covers the impact of hurricanes Rita, Wilma and, most recently, Katrina had on New Orleans - surely the most natural setting for a guy like Andre, until he finds himself living in a tent, with bodies on the streets and the army sent in. “Uptown Hustle” mixes Shaft-style funk with a semi-rap vocal, talking of street games and grift.
He is still the master of the single entendre when he wants to be- witness “Chrysler 300”(If you want a sweet ride, with the back seat nice and wide/Baby hop inside, and I’ll show ya how a real man drives”) or the self explanatory “Thunder Thighs”
And he even publicly pledges to give up his long standing and very public love for Mary-Juana, too.
Look, the guy has put in enough hard yards to earn everything he can wring out of his past life, and his back catalogue. For my money, this new material proves he still deserves attention. If you need any background before deciding to take the plunge, there is a new collection of his old stuff, “Moving On With Andre Williams”, available now as well.- TJ Honeysuckle
(of Thunderbird, probably)
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