The City Boys Allstars,
Blinded by the Light
(independent, 2014)

The City Boys Allstars,
Personal Thing
(independent, 2015)

While I was preparing to review The City Boys Allstars concert CD, Blinded by the Light, a new studio album, Personal Thing, showed up in the mail, so it only made sense to take on both of them.

For those of you who don't know, The City Boys Allstars is a jazz-rock band from New York City, which features the normal rock instrumentation -- guitar, keys, bass, drums and percussion -- along with a full horn section. The immediate point of comparison is Blood, Sweat & Tears, a comparison that is even harder to resist when you consider that (a) many of the horn players here are veterans of BS&T, including the late trumpeter Lou Soloff, who help found BS&T and played with this band until his death, and (b) the concert album includes a version of "God Save the Child" one of BS&T's signature songs.

Nevertheless, The City Boys Allstars are their own people, making their own music. Certainly, they are influenced by the previous band, but they never slavishly ape them.

They also don't sound either like a rock band accompanied by horns or a jazz band slumming. Theirs is a fully integrated sound, with all of the element blending into a coherent and exciting whole. Filled with stirring sax and trumpet solos as well as unison playing, the horns bring this band alive, although lead guitarist Mike Morella and keyboard player Rob Clores certainly add their magic. The arrangements by such people as Fred Lipsius (who arranged and played sax for BS&T) Tom Kadlick and Bones Malone are fine, soaring and going well beyond the funk and r&b cliches. These are a group of veteran musicians who know exactly what they're doing.

There's a downside, though: as fine as they are tunesmiths, the main writers are not great lyricists. Their lyrics generally deal, in a not very imaginative way, with loves won and lost, bragging rights and putdowns. Even on a first listen, you sort of feel you've heard them before. Also, sad to say, the albums are not mixed very well. They lack a certain crispness and lack space and definition between the instruments.

Still, even with their minor faults, I liked these two discs on first hearing and like them more as I hear them more.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

11 July 2015

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