THE BLUES PROJECT: BLUES PROJECT (1972)
1) Back Door Man; 2) Danville Dame; 3) Railroad Boy; 4) Rainbow; 5) Easy Lady; 6) Plain And Fancy; 7) Little Rain; 8) Crazy Girl; 9) I'm Ready.
Little of what applied to Lazarus would not equally well apply to Blues Project, the reunited band's foolishly arrogant attempt at «re-booting» with a self-titled album. The major change is that the original vocalist Tommy Flanders is back for this particular show — not a big deal at all, since we now know that Danny Kalb's vocal powers do not lag far behind Tommy's. In fact, Flanders makes an immediate false start — this version of ʽBack Door Manʼ is one of the worst I have ever heard, in terms of lead singing: most of the time, Tommy alternates between «sloppy drunk» and «whiny schoolboy». No self-respecting lady would ever let this guy through her back door, if you know what I mean.
The sad thing is that Kretmar and Kalb have now managed to keep up a heavy groove, at least on the level of, say, soon-to-come Bad Company — the guitar / bass dialog on ʽI'm Readyʼ is grim and snappy enough to attract some interest. Then in come these ridiculous schoolboy vocals, once again, and the groove goes to hell: the Blues Project were incapable of properly covering Muddy and Wolf in the early days, and there is no reason why they should have gained that capacity in their twilight years. And then, when they do a regular, less criminal-minded, ultra-slow 12-bar blues (Jimmy Reed's ʽLittle Rainʼ), with «nice» vocals and «clean» sound, you start thinking that, perhaps, Jimi Hendrix did sacrifice himself for nought after all. Entertaining people at a late-night diner with this kind of stuff is boring enough, but actually book studio time for that? Waste the world's vinyl resources? Forget it.
There is one good original song on this album: Danny Kalb's ʽCrazy Girlʼ, a darkly romantic «jazz-folk» concoction that has much in its favour — a quirky «trilly» rhythm pattern for starters, catchy psycho-jazz guitar leads, and a slightly paranoid atmosphere that matches the title so well. Had they focused on exploring this jazzy route with its melodic twist further, instead of stubbornly sticking to limited formulae of the past that they could never properly sink their teeth in to begin with, there might be a real reason for this reunion.
On the other hand, original material contributed by Flanders is hardly much stronger than their blues cover material — he is now favouring anthemic soul balladry, to which his voice is indeed suited much better than to Chicago blues, but ʽPlain And Fancyʼ is rather plain than fancy, and ʽRainbowʼ, despite adding some lively sunny funk notes to the picture, does not have enough energy to turn its optimism into something infectious. So it makes no sense, either, to try and overrate the band's songwriting abilities.
The final verdict is pretty much the same as for Lazarus — a few real awful performances, a few minor highlights, but most of the time, simply run-of-the-mill early-1970s blues rock with no «hall-of-fame» ambitions whatsoever; unless you are a certified enthusiast of the style, just join me in my thumbs down and let us get a move on.