Album Reviews

Ronnie Baker Brooks

Times Have Changed

Artist:     Ronnie Baker Brooks

Album:     Times Have Changed

Label:     Provogue/Mascot

Release Date:     01/20/2017


Ronnie Baker Brooks must have felt he needed to make up for lots of time in his first album in ten years, departing from blues-rock to make a blues/soul/R&B album. What starts out as a horn-drenched blues/R&B hybrid album evolves into both sensual and funky R&B as he integrates numerous guests into these tracks. Working with high profile producer and drummer, Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Eric Clapton), Brooks absorbed plenty of rhythm and blues history, saying, “Once we got the ball rolling, my confidence went higher and higher. I’m a better musician for it.”

Chicagoan Brooks left his home city and recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, with members of the Hi Rhythm Section and other notable Memphis musicians, while other tracks were recorded at Blackbird in Nashville and Germane in New York. “We used the same mics that Al Green uses on his record,” says Brooks. “Matter of fact, we were using much of the same band! It kind of took that vibe.” At Royal, they cut “Give Me Your Love,” a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” hit with vocalist Angie Stone and an instrumental cover of Alvin Cash’s “Twine Time” that features Ronnie’s dad, Lonnie Brooks. Notably, “Old Love” features the vocals of the late Bobby Blue Bland.

The Nashville sessions enabled Brooks to tap into some of city’s best musicians, including Steve Cropper, Felix Cavaliere and Lee Roy Parnell. The latter two are featured on Brooks rousing cover of Felix’s tune, “Come On Up,” along with Todd Mohr (Big Head Todd). Brooks adds, “…so we got a nice little chemistry going with the three guitar parts together.” Cropper is heard on the opening track, a tune penned by Joe Tex called “Show Me.”

Brooks penned five of the eleven tracks, including the title track, which is somewhat reminiscent of his godfather’s, Eddie ‘The Chief’ Clearwater’s “Winds of Change.” Brooks comments, “It’s kind of timeless. Every day something’s changing. Now, when I play it live, you can see the effect of it. Initially, it was just an idea; just a riff. Now, this song has influence on people. We were just in Europe this year, after the bombing in Brussels. And we’re playing Brussels. I played that song; people were in tears. It helped them heal.”

Brooks also proves he can write in the classic R&B style with tracks cut in Memphis, like the funky “Long Story Short,” “Wham Bam Thank You Sam” and the gentle closer, “When I Was We.” This marks a different direction for Brooks, and it’s always admirable to see an artist stretching his musical boundaries.

-Jim Hynes

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