Best Of The Batch: Paul and Friends
Artist: Paul and Friends
Title: Smooth Sailing
Label: P & J Records
After hearing Smooth Sailing for the first time, my first impression was that it might be a little too contemporary and syrupy for these ears. I do listen to a wide variety of music, but I always find myself reaching for my ‘70s classic rock when I really want to unwind. Never being one to dismiss a recording after merely one listen, unless its completely horrible for the first 3 or 4 tracks, I endeavored to open my mind and ears once again to really ‘hear’ the music.
Well for starters, they really hit the proverbial nail on the head for the title. This CD is without a doubt Smooth Sailing all the way through. I have to emphasize the word smooth, as in smooth jazz and rock. Paul & Friends is Paul W. Sammarco (alias Paul Summers, his stage name in Australia). He is the leader of the pack, and I do not refer to pack lightly (see credits). One of the more difficult things to do is to put together an album with so many people involved. Consequently, it comes as no surprise it took over four years to complete this ambitious and eclectic project.
“What’s The Matter With That?” is the most catchy and memorable tune on the album and sounds radio ready. On the other side of the coin, they do an about face and do an old standard like “Amazing Grace” with aplomb. The track is not the easiest to make sound new again because its one of the pillars of the American songbook and very old. On top of that, to come up with some fresh insight and make it happen, well I thought the band did a nice job with that from top to bottom. The lead and background vocals of Lindsay Melancon, who also plays oboe on the track, did not bore me in the least and that was my fear when I saw the track listed. The message is the same only the delivery method is different.
The Beatles’ “In My Life” is done very well. I am always a little skeptical of Beatles covers and very judgmental. I have to say that the more I hear their special version of “In My Life,” the more it grows on me. For this staunch Beatles lover, that is saying a mouthful, so kudos for a job well done to Martin and Carol Hart handling the vocals and to the band for their fine musicianship!
Those were the highlights for me and actually, I found plenty of value and enjoyment in every track. I especially enjoyed the smooth jazz aspects and the careful mixture of pop and rock, which was interspersed amongst the jazz rudiments, as well. This is a very good album so if you are looking to kick back and go for a sail along your fantasy shoreline throw on this CD and let it happen.
01. Smooth Sailing (0:59)
02. Just One More Time (3:34)
03. What's the Matter with That? (3:57)
04. Helplessly Hoping (2:56)
05. Drift Away (3:51)
06. In My Life (3:33)
07. Willie (2:33)
08. Amazing Grace (3:56)
09. Have You Ever Seen...? (4:50)
10. Brunch in the Big Easy (4:49)
11. Thanks for Being There (4:16)
Todd Adams (keyboards)
Des Anthony (acoustic guitar, vocals; from “Three’s Company”)
Kurt Brunus (keyboards; from “The Kurt Brunus Project”)
Tracy Griffin (flugelhorn; from “Allen Toussaint and Friends”)
Carol Hart (vocals)
Martin Hart (vocals, acoustic guitar; from “Three’s Company”)
Roger Kimball (soprano sax, tenor sax; from "Harry Connick, Jr.", “Soul Survivors”, “NiteLife”)
Mark Liuzza (keyboards, Hammond B-3 organ; from “Benny Grunch”)
Larry Martin (keyboards; from “NiteLife”)
Ben Melancon (vocals, percussion; from “Unmerited Favor”)
Lindsay Melancon (vocals, oboe)
Brian O’Neill (trombone; from “Bonerama”)
Clyde Pellegrin (keyboards)
Curtis Pierre (Brazilian percussion; from “Casa Samba”)
Joe Raines (vocals; from “Full FX”)
Hank Randle (percussion; from “Soul Survivors”)
Donna Sammarco (piano; from Dept. Fine Arts, Nicholls State University)
Paul W. Sammarco (bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards, vocals; from “Three’s Company”, “Little Ripper Band”, etc.)
Jerome Theriot (alto sax, keyboards; from the US Army Band - New Orleans, “Soul Survivors”)
Steve Theriot (percussion; “The Kevin Koike Blues Band”)
Mark Trennecosta (electric guitar; from “Benny Grunch”)
June Yamagishi (acoustic guitar; from “Papa Grows Funk”)
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