JAMES OLIVER - LESS IS MORE.
Released – March 2023 on Ball & Chains Record Company. Reviewed by - Rockin Rebel 9th February 2023. James Oliver’s Less is More album is produced by Micke Finell owner of Swedish label "Ball & Chain Records” cover photo by Rob Peachey and the lay out by Ulf Westberg. James plays Rockabilly, Country and ith a passion that comes straight from his heart.
Members of JOB (James Oliver band) James Oliver – Guitars Micke Finell – Saxophone, Bass. Peder Sundahl – Drums – Percussion
Review This new release features 11 cover tracks and two self-penned by James himself. It was recorded at Rock Around the Clock studio in Sweden. Featuring guest guitar players for different tracks. These are some quality musicians playing alongside the Welsh master. And will be introduced individually during the tracks review. It was mixed and mastered- by Micke Finell and Ulf Westberg at Vocal studios in Sweden. James has won world wide recognition with his style and was awarded the Artist of the Year UK Blues Awards 2020. Track 9 on this album is a tribute from James to Ry Cooder the American guitarist who will always be known for his unique slide work. Cooder's solo work draws upon many genres. He has played with John Lee Hooker, Captain Beefheart, Gordon Lightfoot, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Neil Young to name just a few. Obviously, a great influence on James’s style. So, join me on a magical trip of exploring the sounds of James Oliver and guests.
Track by Track. Goofin Around (Grande/Beecher) Starting with Bill Haleys classic which was featured in the film Don’t Knock the Rock. Billy Bremner joins James on the guitar. Billy is best known for playing with the Luvvers who backed Lulu. Together they bring an awesome guitar lead, saxophone pops alongside to bring a fifties feel. Both James and Billy take turns on the solos.
Walk Don’t Run (Smith) Originally recorded by the writer johnny smith in 1954 followed by Chet Atkins in 1956. The ventures released their version of the surf rock track in 1960. James’s finger picking style joined by the keyboard playing of Peter Klaxman gives a perfect rendition. Starting with a drum and symbol intro from Peder.
Miserlou (Dale) Joining James on this track is Micke Areklew, a Swedish guitarist that has played alongside the top Swedish band ABBA and many other acts like the Rockfolket and Shanes. You can’t do any surf tracks without including this surf rock track. Dick Dale's version itself was inspired by an Arabic folk version played with an oud (Persian short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument). Just listening to these guitars blows you away with the passion that flows through every instrument.
Rumble (Wray) James lets the guitar do the talking on this game changer of a record that made such an impression on guitarists around the world. It's raw, raunchy, and menacing and it's brilliantly played by the band. Love the drums in the back trying its best to reach out and grab a piece of the action. just turn up the volume and applaud a JOB well done.
Sleepwalk (Farina) What a stunning version from the band, the keyboards take this track to another level, it doesn't just bring it to modern day it goes way into the future. It's just bonafide perfection. First recorded in 1959 by Santo & Johnny who also wrote tracks. British group The Shadows recorded the tune for their 1961 album The Shadows which is where we possibly know the track from.
Peter Gunn theme (Mancini) I got to admit I thought the start was going to be Wig Wam Bam. Exchanging the intro from the drums to guitar just brings this track alive, also no brass section but some futuristic finger picking that drives the senses to breaking point. James delivers all his experience of being a guitarist in this one song. The devil didn’t go to Georgia, he moved to Wales and took up guitar.
Guitar Boogie (smith) Twelve bar boogie made famous by Arthur ``Guitar Boogie" Smith in 1945. Announced as the first Hillbilly boogie track and discussed to be the first rock and roll record (along with several others) joined again by Redd Areklew to give a truly inspirational performance and tribute to the guitar man himself.
Cannonball Rag (Travis) A more boogie woogie version than merle travis’s track, but played with the same conviction of this great instrumental. Influences from the greats like Scotty Moore, Earl Hooker, Lonnie Mack can be heard within the track. another great rendition from JOB.
Tribute to Ry Cooder (Oliver) The first of the self-penned tracks from James. This is a tribute to one of the great guitarists of modern times. Ry Cooder. Who as recently as 2022, released "Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie Mcghee". This is a great track with some great sliding of the frets along to a boogie woogie rock n roll instrumental.
Run Chicken Run (Wray/Cooper) Link Wray has got to be the most underrated guitar player in rock n roll music. His distorted guitar sound started a new style for many of today’s guitarists, including james. Link's version was banned in certain places fearing it would start an uprising, James gives an awesome version of this track bringing it right upto date. The bass thunders through the mighty guitar picking with the symbols being hit with rhythm of the bass. The end riff is a real treat.
Albatross (Green) Must be one of the most famous instrumentals ever to be heard. Its believed to have been written after peter green was inspired by the Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk" (track 5 on this album) Peter green took the lead guitar on the Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 hit. Peter Klaxman joins James on this haunting melody, the drums continued heartbeat, throbbing all the way through the track with the guitar setting the mood with its delicate strumming of the strings, symbols just giving that edge and shivers to every hair on the back of your neck. Awesome version.
James Rock n Roll (Oliver) Two and half minutes of the band doing what they do best. This feels like a jam session which should go on for about an hour. Musicians displaying their talents. Drums, Piano, bass and the guitar coming together to give a delight that’s called rock n roll. Sit back and just take it in.
Apache (Lordan) The beating of the drums sends a signal to the guitars and then we are brought back down from the rafters from what can only be described as an awesome album of instrumental greats. James Oliver and guest bring the end with a dynamic version of the shadows classic hit from 1960.
Summary I have had the pleasure of now reviewing two of James Oliver's albums. And without being over dramatic I can only say both are real treats, and the live in the USA brought James’s full throttle rock n roll blues to the stage. Less is More lets you sit a chill out with the finest instrumentals you could wish to hear. Truly an outstanding group of musicians. Guest appearances from the finest around they are Billy Bremner, Bill Kirchen, Redd Volkaert, Micke Areklew, Geraint Watkins and Peter Klaxman. musicians of today playing music from yesteryear that will live forever.
Recommendation Will be money well spent for a cd you will not regret purchasing. www.jamesoliverband.co.uk