Reviewed by Mike Rimmer
After a brief diversion Loefflerising old hymns and sacred songs with the "Hims" project, Tony and the Blue Angels return to his favourite territory of the live workout sweating his way through the back catalogue of his own songs and well chosen covers. The fact that most of this has already appeared on the Rooftop albums or his live 'Bootleg' from 1996 does lead to a certain sense of déjà vu despite the new arrangements being offered. Every gig and new line up of the Blue Angels gives a new opportunity to jam and create new versions of these excellent songs. Whether it's the 10 minute horn-drenched "Trouble In Mind" which just hits a groove.and stays there or yet another live version of his signature tune "Finish Line" which has the addition of a funky horn section and new groove. Loeffler and band are enjoying themselves. Sidekick Wayne Scott Farley takes centre stage for "I Wanna Be Free" which appeared on "The Best Of The Rooftop" and here it is given a more rootsy interpretation. Both "INRI" and the Dylan tune are given a more bluesy interpretation here with plenty of horns blowin' and guitars slidin'! Great songs and great versions though in the overall scheme of things, I long for him to deliver more new material since this CD only has four new tunes.
Also reviewed in CR64:
Tony Loeffler is a marketing man's nightmare. A big, grizzled middle aged man with the tough look of a convict (well, he used to be one) who plays just about all his concerts for free in places where there's guaranteed to be few merchandising opportunities (America's toughest prisons) and who plays music that such a mix of blues, rock, Latin, folk roots, country and R&B that it defies any and all efforts to categorise it (another marketing no no). Also, the bulk of Tony's recordings down the years have been live - including an epic cassette series known as 'The Rooftop Tapes' - so there won't be any studio wizardry when this man releases a CD. Yet this honest, cathartic, passionate, gutsy and, dare I use the word, anointed album recorded live at various prisons and dedicated to the men and women of the third largest prison system in the world, the Texas Department Of Criminal Justice, exudes such authority and integrity that all but the most faddish of musical followers will be drawn in. Those who've searched out Tony's previous albums or seen his powerful performances at the Cross Rhythms festival or the Montreaux Jazz Festival will know his repertoire - a seering version of Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell", his own self-penned classic "Finish Line", the haunting country hymn "Wayfaring Stranger" while aficionados will expect the highest musicianship from his traveling band of musicianaries (he no longer calls them the Blue Angels). Having said that, the stunning Rhett Tyler is a Texas blues guitar virtuoso equal to any star name you'd care to name while Monty Lee Kimble is another huge talent. All in all this is the album which sums up one of the most important music ministries in America, one which has seen tens of thousands of prisoners come to Christ. It won't win a Dove Award or even get coast-to-coast shop distribution. For that the Nashville CCM industry should hang its head in shame.
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