Day by Above the Clouds – Reviewed
by Chris Mann
The Clouds, here with its second album, brings together the talents of
five highly-accomplished Southern California session musicians.
Those five musicians draw on a wealth of experience from many
Bassist and producer Vernon Porter has played with Kenny Loggins, Bette
Midler and Dave Mason, as well as fusion luminaries Neil Larsen and Buzz
and flautist Vince Denham has toured and recorded with singer Michael
McDonald for 15 years, and his work with Al Jarreau, Les McCann, Kenny
Loggins (though in a different band than Porter's) and John Tesh is well
Guitarist Todd Robinson has not only played with David Benoit, Etta
James, and Vince Gill. He
played on John Lennon's mid–70s classic Rock & Roll album.
keyboards, Karen Hammack has a similarly diverse background, playing
behind 70's stars like Melissa Manchester as well as smooth jazz saxman
and percussionist Kendall Kay has played with everyone from Phil
Upchurch and Bette Midler to Clint Eastwood's son Kyle.
Porter, Hammack and Robinson formed the original nucleus of the band
following the praise they received as the backing band for flautist Tim
Weisberg's tours in 1997 and 1998.
Weisberg’s manager Jonathan Little suggested that the three
form their own band and Porter called long-time friends and colleagues
Denham and Kay to complete the ensemble.
opener Melon Cover is a breezy, funky
number with a purposeful bass and drum groove.
The brass work is reminiscent of Tower of Power and the strong
bass and trumpet solos get this set off to a powerful start.
mood is even more “up” for Crusade with
those same sassy brass lines doubling the clean guitar line.
If you can hear this and not want to move – see a doctor.
That guitar solo shines out – it’s a sound that’s up there
with the best modern blues players.
The organ adds a real retro touch – Hammond B3?
Ah, who cares – it rocks.
you’ll be surprised – I was – to hear the instantly recognisable
lead vocal of Michael McDonald on If I Ever Lose
this heaven. The
treatment is a good one – subtle and with sweet harmonies from
the backing singers. The
tenor sax solo comes at just the right moment.
Beginning is a funky, mid-tempo groove and is nicely moody with
some very jazzy chord progressions.
The break which leads to the nice’n’sleazy trumpet solo is
tough and will please the funk fans – yeah, me over here!
you’ve got a snare that snaps like this, overlaid by a strong melody
on an ultra-clean electric guitar (Larry Carlton-style) you’re onto a
Invitation has this and a catchy chorus too.
mood is more sombre and bluesy on the sax-led Easy
Now which explodes with brass after the first verse.
The heaviest of walking basslines supports the lovely electric
piano solo and the next verse on that achingly beautiful sax.
There are real dynamics on this song – it’s a delight.
I love it!
already know how good the backing singers are and they shine on the
gospel-tinged intro to Brighter Day.
Vernon Porter is some bass player.
He holds down a good funky groove and then hits you with a solo
played high up the neck which is a real smile-inducer.
Was that Mr McDonald on backing vocals near the end?
big band, sleazy funk on offer on Groovin’ with
Vinnie. I find
myself focussing on a “nasty” baritone sax.
The organ solo is lazy and sits on this groove as comfortably as
my cat sits on the arm of my couch.
An absolute stunner live, I have no doubt.
wistful piano intro to Sierra in Winter
leads into a grand ballad featuring a sexy tenor sax which has a slight
ragged edge like Gato Barbieri’s sound.
Time to mention Kendall Kay who swings like crazy on this song
and is masterful throughout the CD.
first touch of acoustic guitar on the album is refreshing and the
guitar-led melody on Loreto Sunset cuts
through superbly. The
intensity of the song builds as first the trumpet then the sax double
the guitar line. So classy!
on the funk! I’m in
heaven with a slippery drum track and bass way down low on My
All-Star. Sprinkle on a hot electric piano solo and a large helping of
brass and the recipe is complete.
ten years ago, brass ensembles such as Loose Tubes were making a big
noise but were denied the commercial success they deserved.
On this CD, Above the Clouds deliver a polished but gutsy example
of what I can only call “big band funk”.
If your nearest smooth jazz radio station doesn’t play this –
shame on them.
Records/Fahrenheit Entertainment – cat no
082002– producer Vernon Porter