Saturday, October 6, 2012

CD/DVD Review "House Party" - Alice Stuart

By Malcolm Kennedy
When Alice Stuart & the Formerlys were putting things together to go down to the famed Ardent Studio in Memphis to record their new album with multi Grammy winning producer Jim Gaines; they knew from the start that it was an ambitious project. Music's who’s who have utilized Ardent Studios from Led Zeppelin to the Staple Singers, ZZ Top to Bob Dylan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Albert Collins, Coco Montoya, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan and hundreds more from all genres of music. Just traveling the 2,000 plus miles down to Memphis for the Freedom Sessions with all their gear would take some financing and any artists can tell you that it is easy to pour thousands of dollars into putting out a well produced CD.

Alice came out with an inspired way to put some of the finances together by reaching out to her fan base for support. She came up with a plan of tiered support levels, not unlike those fundraising drives on public radio and TV where there were different perks offered for the various levels of support. Starting with pre-release signed CD’s, to inclusion on the CD liner credits and ultimately a house party. House Party, a two CD plus DVD comb package, is that very same house party record and filmed live in the front room of Glen and Susan Beebe’s home on a warm and sunny August 25th, 2007.

In my review of the previously released two audio CD package featured in the October, 2011 Washington Blues Society Bluesletter I stated, “If you ever get the opportunity to attend a “house party” do not let it slip by.” Well with the release of Alice’s House Party combo pack you can sit in your own living and experience a virtual house party of your own whenever you get the urge.

The video of House Party was recorded by Richard DePartee and the audio by Glen Beebe. The digital transfer and CD mastering was by Mark Miller of Karla Studios in Fremont and the video editing and DVD mastering was performed by Nathan Bosseler of Impact Studio Pro in Issaquah. House Party is not a big budget production with a multiple camera crew where one camera is doing close ups of the players hands, another on their faces, another wide, one low, one looking down and several more panning in and out all edited together, this is a smaller affair with one camera; but that just ads to the intimate feeling of the show and makes viewing it feel more like you were sitting in the audience. Glen informs his guests at the beginning of the show that it is a party not a concert and if they want to get up and get a glass of wine or some food to go ahead and do so. The filming and audio are not 100% glitch free; but the few instances are very minor and not a distraction. The filming has that feel of watching something that that high tech buddy you have, who has all the gear and knows just how to use it made. It does not have that; “oh my, you really posted this to You Tube” feel to it at all and is very enjoyable to watch.

Alice plays both acoustic and electric guitars and is accompanied by Formerlys Steve Flynn on keyboards and vocals and Mark Willett on bass and vocals. They decided to not have a drummer on the show partly due to the intimate room size and the setting.

The set features 19 songs from across Alice’s career with five selections included from her then brand new Freedom release. Four of the selections included on the video are not on the two audio CDs (all of them cover songs) including a pair from Freedom Johnny Cash’s “Train of Love” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” which is the opening cut on the DVD with Alice on her acoustic guitar. The other two not on the CD’s are, “Shout For Joy,” an uplifting boogie woogie instrumental showcasing Steve Flynn’s considerable chops on the electric piano originated by one of the three giants of boogie piano, Albert Ammons, and Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor” which Alice performs acoustic, a song the first time I heard Alice perform live prompted me to purchase three or four of her CD’s on the spot. The DVD also includes several in between song breaks where Alice, Steve and Mark interact with the audience which as adds to the feeling of being in the room for the show.
Three of the tunes performed off Freedom were played in a row near the end of the show, including a fabulous version of the title track Alice’s emotive vocals as she sings ‘Son said, Mama, I can’t keep from cryin’. Hold on a little longer, got to know I’m tryin’ so hard just to make it on my own. Your Mama’s tryin’ so hard, you know your Daddy’s gone,’ over Steve’s keyboards and the strings on her Telecaster bending and vibrating under her fingers. “Highway Blues,” which was another of the show standouts and the afore mentioned “Train of Love”. Switching back and forth from acoustic to electric throughout the sets adds another dimension to the variety of sounds. The show ended with the bluesy “Drop Down Daddy,” from Can’t Find No Heaven, with Alice playing some slide guitar. The House Party DVD/CD combo package gives you two ways to enjoy this thoroughly pleasurable experience. For fans of Alice Stuart the combo pack is an essential addition to your collection. If you are not yet a fan this package makes a wonderful starting place.

1 comment:

  1. The cd dvd review house party is excellent. Know all about it