I'm going to get this out of my system in the first paragraph: Steven Seagal obviously thinks he's Above The Law producing an album like this. It's a good job I don't have a dodgy Ticker, as my ears were Under Siege listening to his blues album. So I made an Executive Decision to turn it off. Seagal might end up having a musical career that's Hard To Kill, but blues lovers will be Out For Justice and may even have Seagal Marked For Death if they don't like what he's done. Maybe the CD should be destroyed in a Fire Down Below, or beaten until it's Half Past Dead?
Apologies for that, and I'm glad I've got that out of the way; but I feel slightly guilty as a result. It just shows how easy it is to mock Seagal for doing something like this, and it's easy to take a cynical view; along the lines of "movie career ceases to be the brilliant example of action heroism that it once was, and given a capacity to produce music - and an apparent fondness for the blues - an album is produced". But that view sells things a little short, and doesn't tell the whole story.
In truth, what we have here is a fairly standard (dare I say "dull"?), if overlong and deeply self indulgent, blues album.
The opening track, "Somewhere In Between" is catchy, guitar-heavy blues-pop, and it's a good start to the album. Seagal's vocals are initially a surprise and they suit the tone of this track well. The second track, "Love Doctor" features a frankly awful female vocalist, and is the first of the really traditional blues tracks on the album. Seagal is in whispering and slurring mode; but it still suits. Seagal isn't the problem here.
The guitar work on the introduction to "Dark Angel" is pleasant, and we arrive firmly in trademark "whispering" Steve Seagal territory; it's a vocal delivery that any fan of Seagal's movies will recognise. Once again, this is a catchy number and suits Seagal's vocal delivery. The line "we all got to die someday" is one that he can get away with too; it's the sort of lyric you'd expect from an action hero.
So far, so good. Track four, "Gunfire In A Juke Joint", is a fairly minimalist track, with Seagal playing the bad man, and telling us "you know I gots to go, somebody done me wrong and it gone have to be corrected. If I can't find them soon, I'm the one who'll be…suspected." There are guitar solos in the form of standard blues riffs; nothing particularly awe-inspiring, but nothing embarrassing just the same.
"My Time Is Numbered" continues the hard man theme. Seagal is still whispering, it still just about works; but by this stage everything's starting to blur together. Five tracks in I started to wonder where this was going. The songs all adhered to the same firmly established blues conventions, and didn't seem to have the confidence to differ.
"Alligator Ass", track six, picks up the pace a little, but with a set of nonsensical lyrics, Seagal's low whispering vocals, and the lack of anything terribly catchy, it fails. Seven, "BBQ", is a more up-tempo, boogy-esque track. It's got another unpleasant screechy female vocalist, more whispering, and an extremely long guitar solo. Seagal can play, but is he playing anything anyone wants to listen to?
While listening to the album, it becomes apparent that Seagal is taking this quite seriously. It's a shame: many of these tracks would benefit from an increased dose of self-deprecating humour. Maybe this comes across more in his live shows, but I can't shake the impression here that Seagal is taking this very seriously indeed.
"Hoochie Koochie Man" finds Seagal singing lines like "He gone makes pretty womennnnn", and includes another long solo. It's at this point that I really started to lose interest, and I was only halfway through the album.
Perhaps with a producer who's less willing to allow the indulgence, a similarly less indulgent track listing, and more variety and catchy tunes, Seagal might be onto something. He's certainly not an abysmal singer or guitarist (when the song suits), but this just doesn't work.
"Talk To My Ass" is a song about making the woman in your life give you what you want, and be grateful about it! The repetition, tone, and content all leave a bit of a sour taste, with lines like "I went to bed last night, tried to give my baby some love, she looked at me kind of surprised and she said baby you got your own two pair of hands, but you ain't got no glove"; and it includes another tiresome guitar solo.
"Dust My Broom" is more of the same: repetition, standard blues trappings; it all sounds much the same as it has before. "Slow Boat To China" is an appropriately named slow song, but with inappropriate vocals for Seagal. He can't pull it off and it's an awful, awful track. It also marked the end of my patience with this album. Things should have come to a conclusion long before this.
A Bo Diddley track, and a few short untitled tracks round out the album, and leave the listener feeling a little bemused, not to mention drained, exhausted, and wanting part of the last hour or so back.
It could have all worked so well: sticking to the songs that suited his voice best, and making the album far shorter than it is, could've left a better impression. Perhaps the first album, Songs from the Crystal Cave (which I've heard is less "bluesy") is more enjoyable. Regardless, this is one that fans of the blues – and any fan of Seagal's movie work who's curious – would perhaps be best avoiding, which is a shame.