We need to get the full-disclosure out of the way with some harsh realities. If you have purchased this album and are expecting to hear anything remotely similar to Duran Duran, you will be disappointed. This is not Rio. This is a blues album.The closest thing to the blues that Duran Duran has ever done would have to be the performance of House of the Rising Sun at the Voodoo festival in 2006, and without Dom on stage that night it is doubtful the performance of that song would have been the same.
Contrary to what you may have heard, Amanda and Rhonda are not trained music critics (That’s sarcasm, friends!), and what you read below is only our opinion.
Rhonda’s point of view:
I must admit that I had nervous trepidation upon receiving Blue to Brown because I knew we would be reviewing it for the blog and if I hated it – what would I say?!? The fact is, I’ve never really been into the blues. You might even say I don’t personally own a single blues album in my entire collection. As I mentioned on a previous blog, my experience with the blues has been mainly a struggle.
The album is clearly a labor of love for Dom and his father, Rob Brown – who performs lead vocals and does so extremely well. His vocal quality is perfect for this music, and while yes – it’s indeed a departure from the likes of Simon LeBon – it’s supposed to be. There is a fabulous gravely quality to Rob’s deep voice, oozing emotion into all the right places.
There are plenty of great highlights on this album. I love the jazzy sax feel to Going Down but Not Slow. One of the brilliant things about the blues is that it tends to incorporate or even lend itself to several types of music. Old fifties rock and roll being one of them, jazz being another, still yet there’s gospel, and if you’re in the deep bayous of the US – zydeco is another. Anna Ross does a flat-out amazing job on the gospel-inspired Sweet Mercy. Kat Pearson duets with Rob on The Heat is Gone and she completes the visual I have in my head of the song being performed on stage. If that’s not enough to peak your interest, the extremely talented Martha Riley graces the album with her work on Please, Please. I love that this one album includes the gifts from so many. Much to my surprise, I don’t think you have to already love the blues to find something to enjoy on this album.
The shining star on the album is Dom’s guitar skill. I dare the naysayers out there to give a fair listen to this album and then come back here to argue his place on stage with Duran Duran. It is only on this album where you can really begin to fully ascertain the breadth of Dom’s musical versatility. Yes, this is the same guy that can play Careless Memories by Duran Duran, Day Turned Black off of his own album, and then play a superb solo for Talking Blues. To say Dom is “just a studio guitarist”, doesn’t even scratch the surface. Duran Duran is lucky to have him and they know it, he’s been there for over six years now. They are lucky he doesn’t wander off to do his own thing because if this album is any indication of potential, the sky doesn’t even begin to set a limit. (Personal note to Dom: no wandering off!)
My personal favorite on the album straddles two songs, Sweet Mercy and Please, Please. The latter reminds me so much of my childhood as it’s exactly the type of song my parents would have spinning on our console record player back in the 1970’s. I wish my dad were still alive so that he could hear it, I would proudly share the CD with him, knowing he’d enjoy every minute. (Sadly, I never could convince him to be a Duran Duran fan!) All in all, Rob and Dom Brown have taught me to thoroughly enjoy their brand of the blues, and even more surprising, I find myself reaching for this CD for the sheer listening enjoyment – something I couldn’t have promised prior to getting it in the mail.
My review starts a lot like Rhonda’s does. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got this album. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be Duran. In fact, it wouldn’t even be in the same neighborhood as Duran Duran. After all, it is a completely different style of music. Now, I have always enjoyed the fact that Duran has pushed me to check out music that isn’t on my radar. For example, I remember putting on my first Chic album (I borrowed it from the library when I was a kid!). I couldn’t believe what I heard! At first, I couldn’t understand why Duran would like it and put it away only to try it again years later! Thankfully, I have matured quite a bit since then and understood that things that are different aren’t necessarily bad. I have to be open-minded. Of course, from there, I contemplated the idea of Duran’s guitarist making a Blues record. Blues? I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. How would/why would musicians in England get attracted to the Blues? While I don’t know much about the Blues, I do tend to think of African-Americans in the South. In fact, I have a vision of players sitting outside on their porches, playing on a hot, muggy night. It is interesting that the cover seems to fit this image of the Blues. Anyway, I would love to know what/how Dom and his father got interested in the genre.
I started listening to the album in my car. I figured that in order to really give the music a chance it deserved more of my undivided attention. The car provides that as I can’t be doing anything but drive and listen to music. The first time through I didn’t pay a lot of attention to specific songs or specific qualities. I wanted to measure the album as a whole, to get the real mood of the album. I found it was incredibly mellow and relaxing. It actually made me calm in the midst of a stressful time. Perfect! While there is obviously instrumentation, that instrumentation isn’t so overwhelming that it drowns out the song. For example, many songs feature solid guitar solos. They aren’t such that all I hear and FEEL is guitar. These solos aren’t done for attention, for a spotlight. They are done for the good of the music, for the good of the song. Perhaps, this shows what I generally feel about guitar solos. I don’t like many of them, even if they are done by quality guitar players. I find them too arrogant, too much about being the star of the show. In this case, the solos feel natural, organic, pure unlike the majority I find in so-called rock music. While I’m focused on the guitar, I’m just amazed by Dom’s talent here. I couldn’t help but to think about all that he brings to the table with Duran Duran. He clearly is multidimensional and understands music. Of course, I thought about how he would bring different influences to a writing process as well, which could make for some exciting recording sessions!
Vocally and lyrically, the album is very Blues. Honestly, I think Dom’s father’s voice is absolutely perfect for the music and for the genre. The vocals are deep, slow and really work to draw the listener in. I wanted to know what he was singing about. Of course, the album also features vocals by Dom, a woman by the name of Kat Pearson and backing vocals by Anna Ross. All of them work to enhance the quality of songs, in my opinion. I really liked how, at times, those additional vocals were very much in the background and other times would come center stage. Again, I couldn’t help but to think of a spontaneous jam session in someone’s yard in the early evening on a warm summer day. The songs feel that natural. Interestingly enough, after a few listens, I found myself wanting to sing along! While the genre isn’t one to have catchy lyrics, I found myself wanting to join in and participate in the fun!
As far as individual tracks go, I really like the first two tracks, Blue Boy and Going Down but Not Slow, as well as the Heat Has Gone. I enjoyed the female vocal in the Heat Has Gone as well as the storyline. The first track, Blue Boy, really shows the genre off with the fabulous guitar solo, backing vocals and lyrics that pull you in. Going Down but Not Slow has lyrics that I could relate to. Again, the lyrics weren’t super complicated by I liked the message of putting up a fight. All in all, I think the album is quality and I’m happy that it has opened my ears to a genre that I’m not as familiar with.