........... NOT TO MENTION MY SOCKS
Colin Spence | Formby, UK | 05/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I was in my early 20s, I loved music by bands like Cream, Free, Juicy Lucy etc., and I still listen to their music - but only occasionally. I keep telling myself that someone of my age shouldn't be listening to this type of music anymore. I came across Gov't Mule by accident - I thought 'what an odd name for a band' but, as I had nothing better to do, I checked out the samples and what I heard were some snippets of really ballsy, heavy jazz-blues-rock. Needless to say, when I bought the album it just blew my clogs off - not to mention my socks (come to think of it, no one in our house mentions my socks either). Even though I had to turn down the volume on my hearing aid, it was a revelation to hear and enjoy music that I thought I'd outgrown.
Most of the music is 'heavy-dense' with a brooding quality, and it is played at a fairly slow tempo - even taking the Lennon & McCartney song 'She Said, She Said', and making it sound like something dredged up from a swamp. There are a couple of lighter moments (relatively speaking) : 'John The Revelator' with some edgy slide guitar and outstanding vocals; and 'Raven Black Night' which includes acoustic guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and west African percussion instruments with strange names. I also think the music has a strong Jazz influence (Jazz buffs don't pillory me, I'm not an expert on this genre!). Many of the tracks are long, typically between 6 and 8 minutes - but don't let this put you off, because most songs have bridges featuring some pretty impressive and imaginative guitar soloing (electric, slide and acoustic); also, the guitar playing is 'studio live', so its raw edge is carried forward to the final product (there is no over-dubbing of lead guitar). Although the band have been described as a 'power trio', the inclusion of some additional instruments gives the music more depth than that of the aforementioned bands; but even so, it still has a lot of 'clout'.
Warren Haynes's playing, combined with a voice which is the aural equivalent of granulated gravel, is what puts 'blues' into blues-rock. Matt Abts provides some precision drumming and Allen Woody's bass playing lends more than a modicum of funk to the proceedings. The lyrics are OK (but nothing special) and the music is rather short on melody - now I like a catchy tune as much as the next person but, on this occasion, I'm fairly happy to let melody take a back seat (with this type of music, melody is the 'icing on the cake' - but the flavour and texture of the cake itself are far more important). There are no dud tracks and certainly no filler - I liked all tracks, but the ones I keep coming back to are 'Thorazine Shuffle', Thelonious Beck', 'Birth of The Mule', 'John The Revelator', 'She Said, She Said' and 'Raven Black Night'.
I turn up the wick on my amp and play 'Dose' loud; I'm not sure which will disintegrate first - the nerves surrounding my cerebral synapses or my hearing aid, but it's a risk I'm prepared to take (and besides, I can always buy another hearing aid). So, there we have it - a jolly good record which I can confidently recommend to fans of heavier blues-rock, and also to retirees looking for an excuse to re-connect with some decent heavy rock music of the non-metallic variety.
A Second Dose of the Mule
Richard Thompson | El Paso, Texas | 05/07/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Gov't Mule - Dose (1998) 11 Tracks **** (65:22)
This is Gov't Mule's 2nd studio release, and Woody's bass playing is apparent from the first few bars of the first track, Blind Man In The Dark. It is almost a "Hard Rock" Blues song. Definitely heavier than what most of their fans were used to. I didn't really like the vocal effects that Warren was trying out at the beginning of the song, but after a few listens you can see that he's using them to convey a feeling in certain parts of the track and to make them stand apart from other sections. He even sings his own back-up vocals in his regular vocal style during one section. Things settle down a bit on the next track Thorazine Shuffle, one of the better songs on this album and quite original in presentation. It's an upbeat number that has a smooth groove and numerous changes along the ride.
Game Face, the longest track on the CD is very reminiscent of the "jam band" style they were known for previously. It is a very extended piece of music. There are two instrumental tracks on Dose. Thelonius Beck and Birth of the Mule. Thelonius Beck is my least favorite track. Warren certainly shows everyone that he has mastered the electric guitar, but I just can't really get into this one. Birth of the Mule on the other hand is much better. Maybe it's because it sounds a bit more "Jazzy" to my ears, and I am a fan of Jazz-Rock Fusion bands. It also seems the whole band is more involved, especially Matt Abts on drums. Where the former instrumental, Thelonius Beck, seems to be all Warren just wailing away.
There is a cover version of the Beatles "She Said, She Said" on here, and I remember hearing it the first few times unaware of the fact that it was a Beatles song. I kept thinking "something sounds familiar about that song, the lyrics sound slighty familiar to me along with the guitar parts, but the tempo is all wrong. Finally I made the connection and now I really like this version.
Raven Black Night starts out with all acoustic guitar, reminiscent of early acoustic Led Zeppelin. It also reminds me of Heart's "Dream of the Archer". Some very beautiful guitar playing by Mr. Haynes.
Their record company spent slightly more money on this disc package, as it has a 14 page booklet filled mostly with photos and artwork, two pages of liner notes, but still no lyrics.
Over-all, another good album by Gov't Mule, and worthwhile for any fan to check out. Recommended.