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Music Review: Moonalice – Moonalice

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I have just had the distinct pleasure of listening to this album again for the fourth time in three days: Moonalice. The new group album done by some impressive veteran musicians. It's a wonderful collaboration which makes you remember why they were so successful. The album itself is not in the least dated because it's all new material. And what once was – is again. And again they do things in the only way they can.

Back in the 60s and early 70s America, there were musicians who played the music they wanted to play. They didn’t follow musical fads; they created them. They had lots of fun with that and we had just as much fun listening. They were based largely in California – more specifically San Francisco, but there were a few spattered in the southern end as well.

Within a very short space of time, they were embraced by a continent of music lovers. Bands like Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane, evolving to Jefferson Starship, and of course the Eagles, Poco, and Buffalo Springfield. Oh, but the list is so long – this is definitely the short, short version.

Some of these bands have managed to stay together – others have disbanded and gone solo or started up new ventures. So it is with Moonalice.

Moonalice is a band/tribe (sic) comprised of musicians Jack Casady (Hot Tuna), Jesus H Moonalice, the incredible Barry Sless (David Nelson Band, Phil Lesh & Friends) on bass, guitar and pedal steel, Sir Sinjin Moonalice (British born Pete Sears, also from Hot Tuna, Rod Stewart Band, Jefferson Starship et al.) on bass and keys, Chubby Wombat Moonalice (Roger McNamee) on guitar, bass, Blue Moonalice, Ann McNamee (Flying Other Brothers, Ann Atomic) on angelic vocals and percussion, and finally, Dawnman Moonalice, Jimmy Sanchez (Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt) on drums.

Last and certainly not least is G.E. Smith. Leader of the Saturday Night Live Band for nearly ten years. He also toured with Hall & Oates for a number of years, plus played with Dylan, Jagger, and Bowie.

As the story goes, Moonalice is a Native American tribe that dates back to the beginning of time. More recently, the tribe evolved into two major clans, one agricultural and the other nomadic. The nomadic Moonalice clans were known as bands. They wandered the continent, surviving on their wits and music. Their specialty was low tones.

From time to time, the Moonalice hippies and bands would gather in pow wows known as gigs. More Woodstock than livestock, Moonalice gigs were quintessentially American, combining the vibes of New York, San Francisco and all points in between. Moonalice legend speaks of a mysterious 7th player – a bass player, naturally – who possessed prodigious talent. It is said by those who say such things, that the day will come when all members of the tribe will play bass together. And on that day the notion of low will be taken to new depths. Or possibly the notion of depth taken to new lows. As with all things, it’s really a matter of perspective.

The band started out with mirth but on the right foot too, when they enlisted legendary producer T Bone Burnett to help transform the highly regarded Moonalice live sound into a recorded project. Can this album really go bad? Of course not.

Pseudonyms aside, this album will charm you. Moonalice’s debut harkens back to a simpler time – a time when the world too, was somewhat simpler. Every problem could be solved by making love, not war and every coming together of people was the simple sharing of flowers or anything you had to share. Love, hemp, opinion, and a hatred of 'the establishment'.

For those of us who grew up on California folk rock with a psychedelic twist, this album is a breath of fresh air – what we know and love, albeit not perhaps quite as soft as in those days of caftans and granny prints. I do think they’ll pick up a few new followers with this album though. How can they not?

I have to say I love this album. Hearing G. E. Smith master the Telecaster once again in the only way he can was worth the cost of the album right there. But there are bonuses too – Jack Casady's legendary full driving tone and innovative melodic bass work was there as well, the stormy melodic lines and sweeping chord work that earned him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But aside from musician qualities they bring you great tunes as well. From the Mark Knofler-esque sounding’ "Kick It Open" to the haunting "Blink Of An Eye" this will definitely get many hours of play at our house. I highly recommend everyone give this a listen – once you have it won't be your last.

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