R.I.P. Joe Cocker

Here’s Joe Cocker from Woodstock in 1969.

  

Taylor Hicks: The Distance

It seems like a lifetime ago that Taylor Hicks was being crowned the champion of “American Idol” in its fifth season back in 2006. And while America clearly fell in love with this gray-haired wonder, Simon Cowell didn’t get it and neither did many critics, but Hicks’ debut album went platinum anyway. And while yours truly was a big fan of the material on that debut, the same can’t be said for Hicks’ latest, The Distance, released on his own Modern Whomp Records. There is no doubt this guy can sing with a trademark Joe Cocker-ish bluesy growl, but it’s pretty obvious that the recording budget was substantially less this time around, and the songs are mostly mediocre with performances at times reminiscent of cruise ship karaoke. Nevertheless, a few tracks do stand out, and Hicks is at his best when he tones things down for piano ballads – “What’s Right Is Right” and “Nineteen” are both heartfelt and destined for light rock radio repetition. And “Woman’s Got to Have It,” with fellow Idol alum Elliot Yamin, is a soulful and catchy closer. (LABEL: Modern Whomp)

Taylor Hicks MySpace Page

  

Ernie & the Automatics: Low Expectations

When Brad Delp, lead singer of iconic rockers Boston, took his own life in 2007, it sadly marked the end of a musical era. But consider that there were four other original members of that band, and that they were all amazing musicians in their own right. Fast forward over 30 years from Boston’s debut, and two of the original members, guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Sib Hashian, have formed a new band called Ernie & the Automatics. This band was named after guitarist Ernie Boch Jr. and features the lead vocals of keyboardist Brian Maes, but the elements of Boston are there – the big classic rock guitar riffs and pounding backbeat, as well as bluesy elements throughout on their debut, Low Expectations. It’s hard to re-invent the wheel in this genre, and Ernie & the Automatics don’t try to. But even though the songs are less than memorable, it’s the musicianship, and in particular Maes’ Joe Cocker-esque growl, that drives the band. The best tracks are “The Good Times Never Last,” which sounds a lot like Boston’s “Rock & Roll Band,” as well as the driving, bluesy (and quite creepy) “I’m Gonna Haunt You.” (LABEL: Open E)

Ernie & the Automatics MySpace Page

  

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