The Wolf That House Built, OKeh/Epic CD EK 64254
"The world's first ambient dub blues project!"
In spite of samples of blues masters Howlin' Wolf, Leadbelly, and Son House on
two tracks, and in spite of the "ambient dub blues" claim quoted above (which
appears on the CD cover), this ain't the blues. Near as I can tell, there isn't
a single song which follows the twelve-bar blues pattern that has served as a
mainspring of jazz, rhythm'n'blues, rock'n'roll, and country. Moreover, it
doesn't feel remotely like the blues.
There's plenty of throb'n'bob, mattress-spring bass, spacy effects, and, of
course, a good beat. The samples of real blues musicians are well-integrated
into the mix, although too few and far between. (And the fake sampled blues
vocals by Gary Williams on "Crossroads" are embarrassing.) The first cut, "Ride
On," with the Wolf and Leadbelly drifting in and out, shows real promise, but
the majority of the album goes in a different, less successful direction.
It's closer to soul. "The Time Has Come" is indistinguishable from a hundred
'70s era slow soul tunes, with rich male voices in harmony (Skip McDonald
overdubbed, I assume), and lyrics like "Angel come a calling, to keep the man
from falling, A whole life trying to find, the answer to my prayer." Not bad,
but not the blues.
All of it is pleasant enough, for background music or slow throbby dancing. The
playing and singing is smooth, the real drums are a nice touch, and the
production is nothing if not polished. So, maybe I expected too much. But a
real ambient dub blues is not hard to imagine. A blues song often sounds as
though it has no real beginning nor end, so we are simply dropping in somewhere
during its infinite lifetime. Adrian Sherwood's prolific crew (African Head
Charge, Dub Syndicate, Tackhead, etc.) might have been just the folks to create
a pretty cool album that played off that feeling. But that's not this formulaic
album. -- Glenn Brooks
Skip McDonald, guitar, vocals, keyboards, bass, programming; Doug Wimbish, bass
guitar; Keith LeBlanc, acoustic drums; Talvin Singh, tablas; various
percussion; Paul Beckett, programming.
Produced by Adrian Sherwood and Skip McDonald; engineered by Paul Beckett and
Alan Branch. 1994 release. (63:48)
The Time Has Come
Never Turn Back, Parts 1 & 2
Another Sinful Day
Out in the Rain and Cold
Hear My Cry
Wake the Town