Oli Brown issued Heads I Win last year (here), and one of the most auspicious elements of the affair was the presence of the highly regarded Mike Vernon on production duties. This time around, Brown gathered what's been termed a "dream team" (and that cliché's about beaten through the back wall by now) headed by replacement producer, drummer Wayne Proctor, as well the cat who mastered The Black Keys' latest (El Camino), Brian Lacey. In the first cut, Here I Am, Brown sings out "Ain't tryin' to be no Jimi or Stevie / I wanna be my goddam self" and that's easier said than done. The emphasis on this disc is on Brown as a singer, with lead lines cut back and de-emphasized, a bad move for a player. On the other hand, there's a definite vibe, as I've mentioned previously, of the old Savoy Brown, post- Chris Youlden, a dark and thick elementality, something that Ten Years After got into as well in their later days…which didn't work out all that well for them.
Here I Am may be evidence that Brown really is seeking his voice or it may just be what we saw in Eric Gales and Indigenous: questionable moves by multiple personalities resulting in a direction that was more slog than swing. There's an even more telling antecedent: Frank Carillo, who played with Frampton, formed Doc Holiday, jammed with Led Zeppelin, then released Rings Around the Moon and later Street of Dreams, both of which were complete non-starters, two stews of a bundle of unwise choices, thought he was going to be a singer/charter as well. The public thought differently. Here I Am is better than those but a lot flatter than Oli's debut, and again: way the hell too little guitar. This formula works well only on his take on Al Kooper's gem I Love You More than You'll ever Know (written for Blood, Sweat & Tears), a soulful take with a great slowed down lead line ringing clear as a bell. Far and away, it's the best track on the CD. So, Oli, either go balls out or lay back into that Kooper vibe, or yer gonna end up in the great faceless mass.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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