|This latest collection from the Blue-Hots shows a departure from their previous tribute to historic pop music ("Collection One" & "Collection Two"). Although the recordings here continue in the "lo-fi" vein, they have moved along the pop timeline, and now find themselves in the 1960's. Think: bachelor pad, beat poetry, plenty of scatting, "exotic" percussion (found in the lounge records of Les Baxter), and you will have an idea of what "Spells" is about.
The Blue-hots began this recording with one set of personnel, but due to the vicissitudes of life-- re-locations, pregnancy, and even the death of the great Dean Shumaker-- ended with another. The one constant has been Ian Kane, the founder and principal songwriter of the group. The Blue-Hots continue to feature the jazz vocal trio (Ian Kane, Reni Monteverdi, and Carey "Butterball" Evans) as the centerpiece of their sound. Tom Boyce's unmistakable, twangy jazz guitar anchors the recordings in the 1960's lounge style. The band is filled out by the versatile Chris Skelley on electric and upright bass, the R&B drummer Luther "Fox" Smith, and World Music percussion expert, Dan McMillan on percussion.
Gimme Something: This song, written by Kane, is a tribute to uptempo Lambert Hendricks & Ross records. The vocals dart and weave around a bebop line, in a stream -of -consciousness flow about unmet needs. Kane interjects with a scatted-sung piano/vocal hybrid.
Fade Away: Reni Monteverdi channels Astrud Gilberto in this slow-burning song about being lost in Marrakesh. Boyce's dreamy guitar twangs reverberate between each chorus like desert mirages, while an improvised recorder (Kane) chirps; an exotic bird watching the gates of Nirvana.
Simmerin': Opening with the lyrics, "Feel like I've been burnin' up nice and slow," this song is a psychedelic, mid-tempo trip with sections stacked like Jenga blocks. Soon a beatnik rant freaks out. Guitar and piano solos approach the mystic genre, but never linger for too long. They interact frequently throughout the album, complimenting the vocal trio almost like fourth and fifth voices.
Ultraviolet: This odd love song relates the power of admiration to the wavelength that is beyond visible light. "She's got what nobody else can see" confirms that the object of the singer's (Evans') affection may also be the subject of his possessiveness. Kane and Monteverdi underline the melody like doo-wop jazzers from a sci-fi flick.
If'n: A slowly rising melody, spanning an octave-and-a-half, floats like luxury over a soulful, sinking chord progression, in this astral love song written by Kane and led by Monteverde. Evans and Kane provide an insistent vocal riff; the fitful sounds of a lucid dream.
Over Love: This soothing lullaby recites the impassioned thoughts-- rational or not-- that can attend all stripes of love. The static two-chord structure provides a tranquilizing backdrop to the vocal trio, as they embroider it with their peaceful proclamations.
Do You Think It Matters: This brief tune conjures up a feeling of exuberance, the source of which is never really made clear. The basic blues form hides within a 6/8 meter and between affirming chorales of "oh-oh," and "mm-hmm." Kane borrows the spotlight for another piano/scat hybrid, before the song closes out mysteriously, with a pensively strumming guitar.
Raining: "It was ten years--maybe more-- ago/ Tangled up ties with a so-and-so," and "Thinking 'bout streets that have no names on the signs/ What to do with this careless heartbeat of mine," are some of the detours of thought taken by a daydreamer in mid-flight, listening to the falling rain, alone, by an open window.
Long As I'm Not Lonely: This Kane tune enumerates the multiple indignities the singer is willing to withstand if just to not be lonely: "You can keep me home on a shelf all night / Tell me anything that you please / Take your time, take my keys." Meanwhile, an intermittent creaking sound (pulled from Kane's over-driven recorder solo) punctuates the dealings, like a lonely squeak emitted from a playground swing in a deserted school yard on a cold, overcast November day.
Easy To Fall: This pop-driven finale is an uplifting ode to all those who have placed love interests entirely too high on a pedestal. Sage advice rains down from someone-- probably older-- who has done battle with this type of anguish before. A syncopated echo effect in the vocals marks the quickly cycling choruses of the A section, while the B section tangles itself up into a dead end, like wadded up paper by a wastebasket.