XSTREME - REVIEW IN "MUSIX"
Mungo Jerry will forever be associated with evergreens like "Baby Jump", "Lady Rose" and of course "In The Summertime", however, the new material absolutely deserves attention.
The new album covers a wide range from Rock, Blues, Country, Oldie and many others, sounding as classic as all the evergreens.
It's this wide range and of course, the voice of Ray Dorset that make "Xstreme" so unmistakably and typically Mungo Jerry.
There might not be a new "In The Summertime", but there's comparable summery, feel-good music aplenty: Reggae, Skiffle, Rock and Roll from one of the greats.
"Xstreme" is not only pleasingly composed but richly arranged with its use of banjo, harmonica and a lot of guitar and percussion. And of course distinctively sung by Ray Dorset.
XSTREME - REVIEW IN "BLUES MATTERS"
This CD is a brand-new release of freshly written material by the legend that is Ray Dorset. All the tracks were written and arranged by Ray and he is ably supported by his band consisting of Toby Hounsham (keyboards), Bob White (drums), Adam Davy (saxophone) and Franky Klassen (Cello!). The CD opens with the bluesy-rock and heavily sax-influenced Stray Dog. Ray's vocals have always been instantly recognisable and his South East gruff trademark come across powerfully on this one. (a great opener for a live set!). Gotta Have A Plan is on the groovier/funkier side, imparts a bit of worldly wisdom and has some very nice funky/bluesy keyboard work. Hey, Mr Teacher is a good old rock'n'roll style song on a theme covered by such greats as Dave Edmunds and Elton John (and others) and rocks along nicely.
White Dress heads off down a festive ska path and could be destined to get played at many a wedding party. Ray's very talented wife, Britta, also features on sax on this track and it would be very touching to think that he'd written this for her. By contrast,10-Foot Bank Roll is back to a blues format, where Ray ponders about money, fame and loneliness. (I'm sure this one isn't autobiographical!). Messing Around returns to a jug band style, where it all began for Ray back in the sixties. He still does it to perfection! The crackly record effect at the start of the track just adds to the authentic feel and it could have been taken from a 1920's 78. Ray sounds like he had particular fun recording this one!
Come to The Party is a lively Chicago blues style number, which gets the feet tapping and has a great audience response line. (All night long! Hard Working Stranger has a solid driving beat and an instrumental break, which just asks to groove on (and probably does in live versions.) The very haunting melody of The Wind Is Blowing is enhanced by Ray's echoey vocals and an equally mellow electric piano and brings the CD to a very fitting conclusion. The legend that is Ray Dorset just goes on!
INTERVIEW IN "good times" mAGAZINE
The most XSTREME from the good old days
50 years ago Ray Dorset a.k.a. Mungo Jerry started his career in music and got off to a lightning start with "In The Summertime".
But the now 73-year-old Englishman doesn't want to look back, "because no future can ever grow out of nostalgia". And even if the market is flooded with ever new Mungo Jerry compilations, something on which he has no influence most of the time, he doesn't let that bother him and just makes a new album, such as in this case with XSTREME.
Ray, how did you approach the new album?
I wanted to make a studio album with a live feel. We recorded a lot live – you can even hear some of the guitar and vocals from when I was actually recording the so-called guide tracks, which I decided to keep. However, I do record the bass separately, for the very reason that I play all the bass parts myself, with one exception: On "The Wind is Flying" Darren Jones replaced my part and improved my bass line. We basically worked the same way they used to at Sun Studios, Tamla Motown or Norman Petty when he produced Buddy Holly: performance was key!
Nowadays there are a lot of studios bent on being perfect with modern aids. Technology is being misused to make everything fit precisely. That's why I'm bored with most of what's on daytime radio these days. I very quickly tire of things like "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars or "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.
If you listen to songs by Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Buddy Holly or Elvis Presley on the other hand, they have a life of their own, they virtually breathe out of every pore because not everything is dead set on sterile perfection.
What’s the meaning behind the album title XSTREME?
For one it's a play on words, for another I wanted to express the extreme range of styles. You'll hear Blues in a minor key, some Rock'n'Roll, a little Hip Hop, a bit of Funk, there's a Reggae song, yet everything is held together by me and my voice.
By the way, you should listen to XSTREME on your headphones some time. You'll suddenly notice some sounds you won't be able to hear over speakers. All of a sudden it gets psychedelic, there are movements in the head from one side to the other. I've got a lot of percussion in the music, I also sprinkled in some electronic percussion, which most people probably won't notice, but it's there in a subtle way and gives the whole thing a different touch.
You've been playing fewer gigs in recent years…
I pick my gigs carefully and I choose exactly where I play. You'll only find me at Oldies events if the organisers really fork out the dosh! If there are acts there I'm not into, I won't do it. I really don't want to tread on any of my colleagues' toes, everyone has to decide for themselves what they do – or maybe have to do – but if I'm expected to be at the venue or the festival grounds for hours, being bombarded by music I don't like, I don't need to do that to myself. I've nothing against Smokie or Sweet, but I don't need that. What artistic value is there in Smokie playing "Needles And Pins", when the Searchers did such a great version? I'd rather play smaller gigs for less money, where I feel comfortable!
What still motivates you to make new studio albums, unlike a lot of colleagues of your generation?
Showing that the name Mungo Jerry or Ray Dorset is still relevant as a songwriter, producer and artist. Even though I opted out of the music business back in the 70s and do what I want and how I want it.
What have you got lined up next?
After my German Label wanted to release a re-issue of COCKTAIL, which I wasn't up for, I'm in the process of putting together a compilation of my own.
GIG REVIEW - BLUES MATTERS - SEPT 2019
MUNGO JERRY BRUDENELL SOCIAL CLUB, LEEDS
If anyone had turned up on Friday evening at the Brudenell Social Club, a thriving ex-working men's club in the heart of Leeds student land, expecting to hear Mungo Jerry churn out a few hits from the seventies and some other pop stuff, they would have been very disappointed. What they did get was a selection of tracks from Mungo's latest album, which is due for imminent release, along with excellent reworkings of some of Mungo's classics. The evening was kicked off by the punk inspired Loz Cambell trio. It was a very energetic start to a Friday evening, although Loz was suffering from a bad throat, which restricted her set. (Personally, I thought this seemed to add a distinctive, gravelly Yorkshire tone to the vocals.)
Loz had been kind enough to lend Ray Dorset her amp, since his had inconsiderately blown during rehearsals. Mungo Jerry then came on stage and it was obvious that Ray was feeling on good form, exchanging light-hearted banter with the audience. ("I've got more hair than most of you lot!") and even allowing on stage the three Mungowannabees, who had dressed for the evening, wigs 'n all. The first number, Stray Dog, was fresh from the new album and was a good bluesy rocking tune, a great way to start the set. The band consisted of, Toby Hounsham on keyboards, Franky Klassen on cello, Darren Jones on bass, Bob White on drums and Adam Davy added a saxophone to the line-up.
The next track up, Gotta Have A Plan, was a slightly funkier number, with some lovely electric piano. Come To The Party had a New Orleans/Fats Domino feel to it and by this time the audience were definitely ready to join in the chorus line of All Night Long and were having a great Friday evening. Ray was giving his all on vocals, kazoo, harmonica and guitar (surely not all at the same time? Although it did somehow seem like it!) Then followed some more tracks from the new album, mixed in with some of Mungo's earlier stuff, interspersed with teasing fragments of the unmissable In The Summertime, which Ray playfully interjected.
Ray rolled back the years with his Elvis style version of the song I feel like I'm In Love, which he wrote and was a massive hit for Kelly Marie back in 1980. Little Miss Hipshake had a T-Rex style funky groove to it and rocked the room. After a terrific set and a resounding encore, which included Alright, Alright, Alright, Ray and the band had entertained the audience for the best part of two hours.
True professional that he is, Ray courteously came out to talk to all those who had stayed to buy merchandise or just to get a selfie with the legend that is Mungo Jerry. What incredible stamina.
WORDS & PICTURES: STEVE BANKS