Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chills and Fever / Bob Andrews

Watch out, City Winery -- the Iridium is threatening to steal my loyalty as my favorite New York City music joint.  A scant three weeks after Marshall Crenshaw & Co. blew the roof off the old jazz club, my musical hero Graham Parker showed up for a weekend stint -- billed as half of the Graham Parker Duo, a musical act that reunites GP with his old Rumour keyboardist Bob Andrews.

Now as some of you may remember, almost exactly one year ago I saw the historic gig at NYC's Lakeside Lounge wherein Graham Parker unofficially reunited with most of The Rumour (they billed themselves as the Kippington Lodge Social Club -- like anybody would be fooled by that!).  We should have known they wouldn't stop there, and a few weeks ago we finally got the big news: that the Rumour and Parker have reunited for a role in a Judd Apatow movie, and have recorded a new album, to be released next December to coincide with the movie's release.  Now, the fact that these tracks have already been laid down and we won't get to hear them for another YEAR is excruciating.  But in the meantime, hopefully we'll get a few more delicious sneak previews like Graham and Bob's Iridium show.

That night the Lakeside was packed beyond the fire laws; I had to watch through the front windows from the sidewalk. But since the band was playing right  next to the window, I could see everything.  And when they burst into "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," I was absolutely riveted by Bob's virtuoso organ break.  That's when I really began to understand that, great as Graham is, the Rumour were far more than just a backing band, and Bob Andrews was one of their most essential treasures. (Not to mention what he brought to his pre-Parker group, Brinsley Schwarz, one of the great jam bands of the pub rock era.) 

Fast forward to 2011 and cruise uptown to the Iridium. It was just Graham and Bob this time around (although Rumour drummer Steve Goulding, it turned out, was sitting right next to us!) but if anything they were having even more fun than they did downtown. Laughing, dancing, wisecracking, goofing around -- they brought such joy and high spirits to the stage, we were all infected. And I thought to myself:  This is why I love rock and roll.  This is why you have to see music live.  Who cares if neither of these guys will ever see 60 again, or if they haven't a head of shaggy hair between them?  Once they started rocking, they were 22-year-old wild men all over again, only a whole lot smarter and funnier.  

The setlist was a healthy mix: Graham's solo stuff, a couple superb new reunion songs, and a few greatest hits, including "You Can't Be Too Strong" -- one of my favorite cuts from Squeezing Out Sparks, which I've always longed to hear Graham perform.  Now I realize why he doesn't sing it more often:  It absolutely, ABSOLUTELY, requires Bob's brilliant little piano fills. And with those fills, it was positively shivers-up-the-spine beautiful.

And they did some of Bob's solo numbers too.  If you're lucky enough to visit New Orleans in the near future, check out where Bob's playing -- he hops around his adopted home town, playing at various clubs, letting les bons temps roulez.  Another reason to love New Orleans.

I took a crappy video that night, not worth posting, but here's something I cribbed from the Interweb, taken at the House of Blues down in New Orleans:

Come to think of it, this vid isn't much better than the one I took, but it does have the virtue of being shot from the keyboard side.  (D'oh!)  At any rate, it gives you the idea of Bob's inimitable loose style and lightning fast fingers.

Now here's the full track from Bob's solo CD, appropriately enough also named Chills and Fever: 

There's not much to critique about this song -- it's just an insanely catchy R&B artifact, toe-tapping and full of spunk.  It's built on a tried-and-true pop metaphor, where fever stands in for love/lust/passion -- a metaphor older than the hills but still apt indeed. But above all, it's a song admirably suited to a barreling roadhouse piano, which is no doubt why Bob Andrews felt compelled to give it a whirl.

"Chills and Fever" first hit the airwaves as an atmospherically spooky 1961 single by Ronnie Love, jazzed up with voodoo-inflected shivering saxes. Apparently -- Bob shared this nugget of information with us -- no less than Allen Toussaint played the piano on that original Dot Records recording; that's what I call good bloodlines. But the song is perhaps best known as Tom Jones' first single in 1964.  Though it would take his next release -- "It's Not Unusual" -- to make him a star, Tom Jones' trademark sweaty passion is already all over his heated-up cover version.  

Bob takes the horniness back down a notch (whew!); his version is considerably more sprightly than either Ronnie's or Tom's.  It's simply a fine excuse to peel off some show-stopping boogie-woogie piano riffs.  He's almost like a salesman dropping open his sample case:  Who knew one man could wring that many different sounds out of one piano?  Like I said, a musical treasure -- and if we are very good children, we just may be hearing a lot more from him in the months to come.


Anonymous said...

I've always collected vintage music and haven't really been tempted to check out contemporary releases - mainly because of funds and uncertainty about where to begin. So, I'm enjoying your recent posts - they've introduced me to a lot of interesting music which I likely wouldn't have heard otherwise.

Holly A Hughes said...

As someone who often prefers to dwell in the vintage realm myself -- glad to be of service! I personally find it quite a challenge to keep up with new artists and contemporary releases. All my old sources for hearing about new music -- local record stores, independent radio stations, and credible rock journalism -- are dead or dying. More than ever, I have to depend on chance and an internet network of like-minded listeners. We have to spread the word amongst ourselves when we hear something good!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Bob since he and I played in a schoolboy R&B band when we were both 14 in Leeds UK and went to the same school. He played guitar then (a bottle green Rosetti Lucky 7)and was already the best player around. I've watched his career with envy ever since and am totally chuffed he has done so well in music as he was one cool schoolboy with spot on taste in choons even then. All t' best Zoony - Regards Ginner

Holly A Hughes said...

He's still one cool schoolboy! Great reminisence -- thanks.