Monday, January 25, 2010


One would think that recording this album would have taken a lot of thought on the part of the members of the Chocolate Watchband. After all, coming off of a 32-year layoff from music, do you try to sound like who you were, which is to say, as people remember you, or who you are? (And if you do the latter, will anyone care?) The Watchband worked out a compromise, apparently deciding to build on their past without mimicking their old sound, and the resulting CD is not a bad one, though it's also hardly groundbreaking, either. One must first allow that this is, in essence, the first real album ever recorded by the classic Chocolate Watchband -- they were lucky to get three songs intact on the two official LPs, No Way Out and The Inner Mystique, that they put out way back when, and even most of those weren't originals. David Aguilar no longer sounds like Mick Jagger so much as Tom Waits, but he's still a powerful, charismatic singer, and bassist Bill Flores and drummer Gary Andrijasevich are still a very tight rhythm section; guitarist Tim Abbott (who was a second-generation Watchband member in 1967-1968) and guitarist Michael Reese are good players, with a surprisingly melodic approach to their instruments but lots of attitude in their playing. And there is just enough defiance and rage in their performances here to keep things intense and entertaining, if not exactly cutting edge like their old singles "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" and "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In)." There might be a little too much of David Gilmour's influence on the overall sound, but there's enough raw passion and invention in the melodies and the songs so that you can't anticipate where they're going, but you're still pleased when they get there -- only the penultimate track, the topical "Hope," which seems to be a renunciation of youthful defiance and idealism, may prove problematic, too serious for its (or the band's) own good. The finale is a bit weak, but the title song ripples with echoes of the passions stirred by their old work, still near enough to the surface to make audiences take notice, and much of the rest is worth hearing. (by Bruce Eder,


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