Thursday, 6 February 2014

Review: Lou Donaldson - The Scorpion - Live At The Cadillac Club

For someone with the career of Lou Donaldson, spanning some fifty years and more than forty studio sessions as a bandleader, his live recordings are surprising thin on the ground. Worse still is the fact that those that do exist are disappointingly weak, the saddest and truest case in point being the oddly-titled ‘The Scorpion – Live At The Cadillac Club’.

Made up of extended funk and R&B grooves, the bulk of the music sounds nicely repetitve to shuffle along to in a club, but nothing really happens beyond the rhythms, which themselves start promisingly but quickly run out of puff. Guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Leon Spencer and drummer Idris Muhammad keep the groove solid and tight, but even they aren’t able to hold it from simply becoming tired.

The little known Fred Ballard surprisingly emerges as a partial star here, possessing a bright tone and playing with enthusiastic abandon. His likeability however shows up his boss quite badly, with usual alto player Donaldson choosing during this time the baritone saxophone, which unfortunately gives him a completely indistinct sound and with a mostly hard to like harsh tone.

Nothing really occurs over the course of the record. Fans may notice the presence of Donaldson favourite ‘Aligator Bogaloo’ in the mix, but it’s not the cooking title track from the album of the same name; rather it’s an extended dragged out meander though the theme. The sound recording is good, but that’s only a minor saving grace in not only one of Lou Donaldson’s weakest outputs, but also his frankly his dullest.


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