Provogue [Release date 23.09.13]
It’s a measure of Gov’t Mule adventurous self confidence and their essential connection with their fans, that their new album ‘Shout’ offers a groundbreaking bonus disc, with alternate versions of the same songs featuring different singers.
Who but Gov’t Mule would take themselves out of their own comfort zone and try and improvise on new material? Well of course Glenn Hughes might, and he does exactly that on an extravagant intro and some trademark phrasing, as he revels on ‘No Reward’, one of 11 bonus tracks that showcase the joys of interpretative singing.
The bonus disc is fraught with potential difficulties, not least the possibility that it might fail to measure up to the band’s own recording. But whileWarrenlays down a marker with some trademark vocals, and the band play superbly, the specially invited guest make sure that the best laid plans are never in danger of failing.
‘Shout’ without the guests, is one of Gov’t Mule’s most accessible releases so far. There’s plenty of deep grooves, sparkling riffs, complex time changes and intricate band interplay, but also a welcome sense of melody, space and time. The music shifts from pulsating, riff driven blues-rock, to melodic slow blues, reggae, funk, slide-led roots rock, soul and up tempo pop.
The album is anchored by the deep groove of ‘World Boss’, on which Warren even appears to fluff a vocal at the 2.42 mark, as his ‘everybody’ line gets swamped in echo. But it’s such a great track they probably wanted to keep the take and Ben Harper does well to emulate it.
With the exception of three songs written with specific artists in mind, ‘Shout’ is an album of brand new material that was recorded before the guests were chosen to interpret the new material.
The 3 songs work particularly well. The funky ‘(How Could You) Stoop So Low’ and its up tempo gospel finish is a homage to Sly Stone.Warren’s conversational wah wah and his peerless phrasing make Dr John’s take all the more remarkable.
From his opening peal of laughter and croaky N’Orleans drawl, he makes the song his own, as Warren adds some big fills and the band heads for a free form jazzy organ-led outro
‘Forsaken Saviour’ is a piano led tribute to Levon Helm & The Band and almost matches the sultry blues of ‘Captured’ – arguably the album highlight- in terms of feel, melody and arrangement and eerily evokes The Band. Dave Matthews adds a slightly more introspective and vulnerable feel that bring a different colour to the track.
Warren incorporates a suitably tougher vocal on ‘Bring On The Music’, a tribute to Free which could just as easily be Bad Company. Vintage Trouble vocalist Ty Taylor stamps his own mark on the piece with clarity of diction, expansive phrasing and real presence.
Elvis Costello’s new wave urgency on ‘Funny Little Tragedy’ has already been incorporated into the band live set, while Toots Hibbert wrings all the emotion possible on a reggae outing with lyrics that tell us not to be ‘Scared To Live’.
The album’s coolest groove ‘When the World Gets Small’ features both Warren and Steve Winwood at their best respectively. It sounds like the song Traffic never wrote, except of course they cut the similar sounding ‘The Low Spark Of High Heel Boys’.
‘Shout!’ deserves all the plaudits that will surely come its way. It’s an album that restores your faith in guest projects and exciting music as a whole. Perhaps only Gov’t Mule would take the kind of chances that make this album so special. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Video interview (4 July 2013)
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