Thursday, March 10, 2011

Live reviewed by Mark Thompson

The Todd Wolfe Band
American Home Entertainment
10 tracks/71:31

For his seventh release, Todd Wolfe hit the road to record live on-stage at Quakertown, PA. The audience at McCoole's Art Place certainly got earful of Wolfe's guitar pyrotechnics that night. Using the power trio format, the former guitarist for Sheryl Crow's road band gets backing from Suavek Zaniesisnko on bass guitar & vocals plus Roger Voss on drums and percussion. Wolfe handles the lead vocals, his appealing voice commanding the listener's attention throughout the disc. He also had a hand in writing nine of the songs.

The notes with the disc states the band harks back to a time when “ were men and amps were amps”. And Wolfe certainly lives up to that statement, turning each solo into a mind-melting demonstration of his technical prowess at concert hall volume levels. The lone exception occurs on “Roll Over” when Wolfe makes the switch to an acoustic slide guitar. The rest of the time, he tears through each solo at a frenetic pace. That will create excitement in a live setting but grows a bit tiresome when the visual element is absent. There will be a companion release of this show in the DVD format.

The opening track, “Ready for Love”, is a rocker with a strong vocal from Wolfe and a pounding beat from Voss. It's full-speed ahead on “Crowded in My Soul”, with the leader and Zaniesisnko contributing a neat bit of vocal harmonizing on the chorus. Wolfe's guitar solo skips any attempt at genuine feel in favor of a rapid journey up and down the guitar neck. The opening sequence of “Cold Black Night” offers the first sign of any blues influence. Wolfe sings with passion , keeping his guitar work under control at the slower pace until the start of his solo, when his slash & burn style kicks in once again. “Gates of Heaven” sports an expressive vocal from the leader, backed by a resounding series of guitar chords and a closing passage that pays homage to Jimi Hendrix.

The chuka-chuka guitar line on “Black Hearted Woman” is enhanced by a wah-wah pedal, before giving way to several more bombastic solo sequences. “Silver Blue” features Wolfe on slide guitar, relating a tale of battling demons in New Orleans. The band injects a funk element into “Change Will Come” but the track suffers from weak lyrics. The closing track, “Shame” clocks in just short of fifteen minutes, providing plenty of space for Wolfe's tour de force guitar performance, as he pulls out all of the stops over Zaniesienko's thick bass lines. The track runs out out steam when the dreaded drum solo interrupts the proceedings.

If you long to return to the glory days when bands like Cream ruled the world, Todd Wolfe may be just what you have been looking for. There is no denying his appeal as a vocalist and many will also be infatuated with his guitar work. For these ears, his playing was often too fast with little sense of feel. But his sincere delivery will undoubtedly win over a substantial number of people who take the time to give this one a listen.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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