Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gov't Mule - Shout!

I love Gov’t Mule. I don’t like Shout! Between commitments to the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and his own “solo” career, Warren Haynes has a lot on his musical plate. Since James Brown is still dead, Warren Haynes is the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. But I think all that work has finally caught up with Warren. This album sounds “tired” to my ears.

There are two albums in one for Shout! The first disc is all Gov’t Mule. The second is the same songs [with a few instrumental differences here and there], but a different vocalist sings each song. It’s the approach Carlos Santana took on his last five vocal albums [Supernatural, Shaman, All That I Am, Guitar Heaven, and Corazon]. Sometimes it works – on other tunes, not so much. I won’t blame the singers for that – for that I blame the material. The material is ok, but I have the same complaint about Shout! that I did about the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Revelator – too many slow songs.

Those that worked [not enough of ‘em]:

World Boss [featuring Ben Harper] – This is an uptempo song that opens both discs has the usual stuff one expects of Gov’t Mule. This one resembles Broke Down on the Brazos from By a Thread – it has that same funky vibe. Ben Harper is a good match for this one. Warren’s version was pretty good, too.

Whisper in Your Soul – [featuring Grace Potter] Read these words and tell me who you’d rather have sing to you, Grace Potter or Warren Haynes:

Lying with your body next to mine
Feels like I’m traveling through time
I feel the whisper in your soul
I feel me losing all control

If you said “Grace Potter,” you’re with me. I would rather think about Grace Potter “losing control” than Warren Haynes. Her vocals are as smokin’ as her looks. That being said, regardless of who sings it, the backing track is very cool. I like it a lot.

Captured [featuring Jim James] – I got to see Jim James with My Morning Jacket last year when they opened for Bob Dylan in Virginia Beach. I liked the band, liked the singing, liked the songs. This is the first slow one on Shout! When Warren sings it on the first disc, it’s 9 minutes of slowness. When Jim James sings it, it’s cut to 5:45. Warren cuts loose on this one. His soloing is…insane.

Bring On The Music [featuring Ty Taylor] – Until this album, I’d never heard of Ty Taylor. I didn’t know what band he plays in, nor could I name a single, solitary song. He sings for a Los Angeles-based soul/rock band called Vintage Trouble. This one is a good one. I like what I heard here. On the Mule CD, it is the closer which clocks in at 11 minutes – the other version is 6:43. The longer version has a great solo from Warren. Both versions are worth it.

When The World Gets Small [featuring Steve Winwood] – This one has a “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” vibe to it, only a little more mellow. I like this one.

Those that didn’t work [too many of 'em]:

Scared To Live – [featuring Toots Hibbert]. Toots sounds great singing this track. I don’t hear Gov’t Mule – I just hear a reggae track that could’ve been done by anybody.

Stoop So Low [featuring Dr. John] – This isn’t a terrible song, but it’s not particularly memorable either. There are “chick” vocals on both versions, the Warren of which clocks in at 8:23. Dr. John’s version is 10:01. I’m sorry, but chick vocals do NOT belong on a Gov’t Mule album. It would’ve sounded more ‘at home’ on Warren’s Man in Motion CD. And even if it was recorded for that album, it should have stayed on the cutting room floor [I like Man in Motion, but not this]. Stoop So Low doesn’t belong here. This sounds like Warren’s solo career and Gov’t Mule coming together as one. I thought the whole purpose of Warren going out on his own was to play songs from his soul/R&B side. Gov’t Mule has no business here. The song has one saving grace – there’s a jam at the end of the Dr. John version that almost redeems it…almost.

No Reward – [featuring Glenn Hughes]. When I first saw the song list and the guest artists, I thought “cool – the ‘Voice of Rock’ on a record by a rock band that usually plays ‘balls out’ rock [think ‘Humble Pie’ or ‘Mountain’].” Notice I said “usually,” because in this case the intensity just isn’t there. GH gives brings his usual intensity, but the Mule magic just isn’t there. The version with Warren on the vocals isn’t any better.

Foresaken Savior [featuring Dave Matthews] – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….. The most dynamic singer in the industry [whoever that is] can’t breathe any life into this snoozer. This song also would have fit better on Man in Motion, but it would have been just as dull.

On the fence:

Funny Little Tragedy [featuring Elvis Costello] – If you’re an Elvis Costello fan, you’ll love this one. If you’re indifferent about him before you hear this, your mind won’t change about him when you do hear it. The good things I can say about Funny Little Tragedy are that it’s an uptempo number, and Danny Louis gets to play the guitar solo [it’s a change of pace, anyway]. Danny Louis isn’t in Warren Haynes’ guitar league [not many people are], but his solo is ok – it’s short and to the point. Other than that…meh.

Done Got Wise [featuring Myles Kennedy] – I like Myles Kennedy’s work with Slash. He’s a good fit for Slash. He’s not a good fit here. Regardless of who sings it, it gets a bit repetitive.

Since their formation in 1994, Gov’t Mule has spoiled me with good, intense rock music that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1970s. I’ve come to expect greatness from Warren Haynes each time out of the box, but not everybody can be “on” all the time. Shout! just doesn’t excite me like Dose or Life Before Insanity . Out of eleven songs, I really like only five of them. If Gov’t Mule wants to continue in this direction, count me out. I put this Gov’t Mule album in the same category as Mighty High - for completists only.

March 12, 2016 Update - I've had a couple of years to live with this album, and I was a bit hasty in slamming it.  I blew it on the first couple of listens.  I got to see the Mule play some of these songs live in Pensacola.  The Mule version of No Reward is smokin' hot!  Their version of Bring On The Music burns for over eleven glorious minutes.  Captured is a nice slow burner. Foresaken Saviour sounds like an outtake from Warren's Man In Motion album.The more I listen to Shout! and By a Thread [I like to listen to them one after the other], to me it sounds like the former is the Mule's "Traffic" album, while the latter is the Mule's "Hendrix" album.  That's a pretty good combination to have.  Ever Mule fan should have a copy.