Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra – Rockinghorse

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Many know Jools Holland from his BBC 2 show ‘Later…’ but Holland has always been a musician first and a pianist foremost. So news of a new album, Rockinghorse, from the master of the keys is a salivating prospect. Not only is Jools doing what he does best but he has enlisted the service of some great collaborators, including Alison Moyet, Booker T and err… Chas & Dave.

Nevertheless, the album delivers. It is cemented in the true form of R ‘n’ B while at the same time having a contemporary nature of not only recognising where its roots lay but also striving to take the genre into the future. This is the case with the track ‘Father Time’ with Louise Marshall, which could well appear on an album by Duffy or Imelda May.

As always no Rhythm and Blues album is complete without a few covers thrown in. ‘Got My Mojo Working’, made famous by Muddy Waters, is a great example of how Holland can add his own brand of blues to old classics and he brings it right up-to-date, with Rosie Mae taking charge of vocal duties. Along with this, the numerous instrumentals on the album showcases Holland‘s talent as a pianist and his burst of playing keep your ears burning for more.

The album sways from Chicago blues to Boogie-Woogie, to Swing, to Texas Blues, all with subtle nuances giving them a new life. For example, ‘This Train’ is a typical railroad song which emulates the sound and chugging of the ever-increasing speed of a train, but it’s tackled with great enthusiasm and respect, giving a modern twist to a very old formula.

The highlights of the album would definitely include the cover of Louis Armstrong‘s ‘What A Wonderful World’; with reggae influenced stylings of Rico Rodriguez, it creates a very interesting take on a classic. As well as this, the uplifting title track is iridescently joyful and the cover of Glenn Miller‘s instrumental ‘A String of Pearls’ showcases the extra dimension the orchestra brings not just to this song but the whole album.

If I’m honest, I can’t find much, if anything, wrong with this album but that may be because I’m an avid blues lover. However, this is an album that can and probably will be enjoyed by a wider audience, such is Holland‘s reputation and presence as a premier musician and composer.

Holland has done it again. BB King stated “I don’t think nobody could play like that” and he is most probably right. Jools Holland is undoubtedly a great talent with the ivory and his orchestra helping propel this album to greatness. It’s an album you can’t help but tap and jive along with, especially if you have it playing in the kitchen whilst cooking (dance moves can become dangerous).

10/10

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