Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Randy Jackson ~ Randy Jackson's Music Club Volume 1 (comp)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: dance, pop, soul, rock, electronica
Label: Concord Records
Year: 2008
Home: California

Members: Randy Jackson ~ vocals/bass/rhythm guitar/hand claps
Sam Moore, Keb Mo', Jason Mraz, Angie Stone, Paula Abdul, Travis Tritt, Richie Sambora, Joss Stone, Bebe Winans, Ghostface Killah, Jon McLaughlin, Kim Burrell, Rance Allen, Lucy Woodward, John Rich, Barbi Esco, Katharine McPhee, Elliott Yamin, Anthony Hamilton, Kelli Love, Van Hunt, Trisha Covington, KeKe Wyatt, Kiley Dean ~ lead vocals
Rashawn Capers, Cordell Capers, Jr., Melvin Harris III ~ lead vocals/n/a instruments
Mariah Carey, Hezekiah Walker's Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church Choir ~ b. vocals

Additional: Destiny, Mekia Cox, Chino, Kristin Chenoweth, Christina Undhoem, Erica Stubner, Sharlotte Gibson, Taylor Jackson, Mark Paulk, Shanna Crookes, Zoe Jackson, Tamara Jordan, Sherree Brown ~ b. vocals
J.R. Totem, Sauce, Josh Joergensen ~ keyboards/programming
Mike Ripoli, Michael Thompson, Basilio Fernando Ferreira ~ guitar
Lionel Cole, Tim Akers, Jamie Muhoberac, Pat Leonard, Michael Finnigan, Jim Cox, Kenneth Crouch, Martin M. Larsson, Lamont Neuble ~ keyboards
Mitch Hansen, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jeff Rothschild, Herman Jackson, Glendon Campbell, Abe Laboriel, Jr., Jamie Gamble, Lars H. Jensen, Tim McEwan ~ drums
Joanas Jeberg ~ keyboards/drums
Obi Klein ~ keyboards/programming/b. vocals
John Shanks ~ guitar/bass/keyboards
David Ryan Harris ~ guitar/vocals
Greg Leisz ~ dobro/pedal steel
Mike Johnson ~ pedal steel
Sara Watkins, Gabe Wicher ~ fiddle
Frederic Yonnet ~ harmonica
Paul Bushnell, Cornelius Mims ~ bass
Big Jim Wright ~ keyboards/vocal
Patrick Warren ~ chamberlin
Will E. Miller, Wendell Kelly ~ horns
Jay E. ~ programming
Holly Boynton, Kenny Edwards, Antonio Resendiz ~ hand claps

RJ has become famous for his nice but honest guy role on TV's American Idol, but his career is quite lengthy & prolific ... but as a bassist & producer much of it has been lost in anonymous sessions, unread linear notes & from the shadows of the stage. He's worked with Blue Oyster Cult, Jon Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Dylan, a pre-Black Eyed Peas Fergie, Stryper, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Richard Marx, Madonna, George Michael, Jean-Luc Ponty, 'N Sync, Tracy Chapman, Kenny G., Stevie Nicks, Imogean Heap, Roger Waters & even at the Grand Ole Opry with the Charlie Daniels Band & more. Additionally he's been a session musician for Journey, toured with Whitesnake & in bands with Garcia & Santana & in an all-star band assembled by Keith Richards that included Aretha Franklin. He was also on the bassist on the Divinyls hit "I touch Myself" & Springsteen's "Human Touch". He's also worked extensively as a musical director & touring bassist for Mariah Carey. RJ is a man who needs no introduction ... though before American Idol it was only within music circles that his name was known. He's one of the hundreds of top notch sessions guys making a living but languishing in relative obscurity ... & who you've probably heard more times than your favorite artist but didn't know it. He's also a guy, as American Idol has shown, that has an ear for diverse music & what's hip. RJ's Music Club Volume 1, so far the only volume, is RJ's first solo album. Though, it's not so much a solo album as a showcase of artists & songs he likes. Albums have been made of past artists that inspired a particular musician, supposedly chosen by the musician in question. They're weak collections of well-known songs cashing in a publishing catalog. Here RJ does something a little different. He takes a mix of obscure songs by both well-known & not writers & mixes them with a similiar array of artists on vocal duties, taking production duties on the album & bass on four songs. The session musicians, though countless, also reappear regularly thoughout the album giving it a general cohesiveness. The recognizable writers include Willie Dixon, Burt Bacharach, Michael Buble & Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora while the more established musicians manning the microphone include Paula Abdul, Joss Stone, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, Keb Mo', Angie Stone, Jason Mraz, Travis Tritt, Bebe Winans & Mariah Carey amongst a top heavy collection of lesser known singers. The format consists of duets more than anything with a well-known artist paired with someone of lesser known. There's no guest instrumentalists, just vocal moments. The result is mixed. The album leans heavier in the romantic modern soul direction, though there's rock, rap & acoustic blues moments thrown in for good measure. RJ shows an ear for current styles & good control over producing & creating songs tailor made for the charts. The problem is the songs are too perfectly made. They scream commerciality over personality. There's lots of talent but little distinctiveness & absolutely no bite. Or, as is often said, it looks good on paper. The result feels like an extension of American Idol & RJ's desire to be an A&R man as he displays his wares to us. One of the more interesting things of the album is the return of Paula Abdul after two decades out of music. The result is a autotuned dance romp that isn't bad but has the distinctiveness of her later "Rush Rush" over the chart-topper "Opposites Attract". What's worse is that at three minutes it feels too short & undeveloped. Many of the songs suffer from this problem. One highlight is Joss Stone who takes to a horn section enhanced salsa dance version of Burt Bacharach's "Just Walk By" with a bit of acoustic guitar. It's soulful & if music goes this way in the future the future isn't going to sound so bad. The legendary Sam Moore is joined by Keb Mo' & Angie Stone in an interesting swing beat acoustic blues. Though, strangely Keb Mo' doesn't play guitar which is odd considering his great skills at the slide that hearken the blues kings of yore. A nameless guitarist is brought in to play slide instead. Considering the song is the Willie Dixon classic "Wang Dang Doodle" made famous by Howlin' Wolf it's surprising Keb Mo' doesn't get a solo spot as this is his forte. Though as a full on harmonica slide guitar wailing blues its almost out of place on the album & one can only hope that it'll lead listeners who aren't familiar to the blues to want to investigate & discover more. One can hope. In another missed moment is a rock ballad by Richie Sambora. As the lead guitarist of Bon Jovi having him sing alongside Travis Tritt & Lucy Woodward is an odd thing. He's not a distinctive singer, let alone not known as a singer at all. Though, he's not as bad as one would expect. Woodward puts the song over the top with some vocal variety as Tritt is okay but not at his best in a rock format. Mariah Carey also makes a guest spot in the album in a backing vocal spot with a church choir in a further odd moment. RJ may have a good ear & know good songs & what's popular on the chart, but he seems to miss how to best use his artists & give them something interesting to work with. He's missed out on the secret of what makes a song so great. It's too bad because I believe he can do better. Also includes a thirty minute DVD of the filming Paul Abdul's song for the album with RJ on bass & hosted by him. For those of us that grew up with her it's great seeing her perform again, even if the song is not a hit in the making & the heavily synthesized voice is sad. In a pure PR moment one will notice in the linear notes that the music is all keyboards & programming so watching Paula lip-synch to a full band including RJ even when there's no bass or guitar on the song leaves much to be desired. She also isn't interviewed though the director, dance director & guest Simon Cowell are. Though, you'll have to go on youtube for the finished product which is a bit disappointing after thirty minutes. But, it's worth it for no other reason than to watch the dancers. It's one of the best things about this album & its not even on the album.


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