The legendary British Rhythm’n’Blues band Dr. Feelgood are set to release a new album entitled 'Damn Right!' on 4th November 2022 through Grand Records. Their first album of original songs in twenty six years! The album consists of eleven brand new songs with not a cover in sight! Guitarist Gordon Russell and vocalist Robert Kane were responsible for writing all the tunes. The album was recorded in Southend and was produced by renowned bassist Dave Bronze, who also did a stint in Dr. Feelgood between 1991 - 1994, engineered by Rees Broomfield with Gordon Russell as musical director. The album was recorded over four days, with the band all playing together in the same room to capture the energy. The last studio album to feature original songs, including a few covers, was 'On The Road Again', released back in 1996.
The current lineup of Dr. Feelgood does not contain any original members but it does feature long time members Kevin Morris on drums, who joined them in 1983, as did Phil Mitchell on bass (1983 - 1991, 1995 - present), vocalist Robert Kane who came on board in 1999 and guitarist Gordon Russell, who is now into his second stint with the band after a thirty three year break (1983 - 1989, 2021 – present).
Dr. Feelgood formed in 1971 in Canvey Island, Essex, by school friends Lee Collinson (Lee Brilleaux), Chris White (Chris Fenwick), John Sparkes (Sparko), John Wilkinson (Wilko Johnson) and John Martin (Big Figure). They were named after a 1962 record by the American Blues pianist and singer Willie Perryman (also known as "Piano Red") called "Dr. Feel-Good". The original Dr. Feelgood line-up was Lee Brilleaux on vocals and harmonica, Wilko Johnson on guitar, 'Sparko' on bass and the 'Big Figure' on drums. Chris Fenwick decided he would be better suited to managing rather than playing. He continues to manage the band to this day.
Their debut album 'Down By The Jetty' was released in 1975 with a second, 'Malpractice', being quickly recorded and released in the same year to monopolise on their widening profile. Their major breakthrough happened in 1976 when their live album, 'Stupidity', reached number one in the UK Albums Chart. Sadly, after the 1977 album 'Sneakin' Suspicion', guitarist Wilko Johnson left the band. Stoically the band continued on and recruited a relatively unknown guitarist called John 'Gypie' Mayo (John Philip Cawthra). The band went on to further success in the late 70s with the release of a string of quality albums including 'Be Seeing You' (1977), 'Private Practice' (1978) - the single 'Milk & Alcohol' written by Gypie Mayo and Nick Lowe reached the UK top ten giving the band their most successful single - 'As It Happens – live' (1979), 'Let It Roll' (1979), 'A Case of the Shakes' (1980) and 'On the Job - live' (1981). By 1981 Gypie Mayo was burnt out from the relentless touring and recording schedule and decided to leave the band for the good of his health. He would later go on to further success as lead guitarist with the reformed Yardbirds, staying with them for eight years from 1996 - 2004. Sadly Gypie died of cancer in 2013.
Undeterred by another guitarist leaving the band, Brilleaux soldiered on with former Count Bishops axeman, Johnny 'Guitar' Crippen. He lasted two years and features on the 1982 album 'Fast Women, Slow Horses'. By the end of 1982 both Sparko and The Big Figure decided they'd had enough of the relentless touring and retired from the band. Brilleaux was devastated and decided to take some time out himself, but after just three months he decided that Dr. Feelgood had to continue and so he set about reforming the band with all new members. In came guitarist Gordon Russell, bassist Phil Mitchell and drummer Kevin Morris. The sound of the band evolved through the 80s, less grit and more polish! Well it was the 80s! This line up lasted seven years and produced four albums, 'Doctors Orders' (1984), 'Mad Man Blues' (1985), 'Brilleaux' (1986) and 'Classic' (1987). Sadly Gordon Russell left the band in 1988 due to the tragic death of his child. In came guitarist Steve Walwyn (Steve Marriott/Roger Chapman), who features on the live release 'Live in London' (1990) and two studio albums 'Primo' (1991) and 'The Feelgood Factor' (1993). Devastatingly Brilleaux was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1993 and sadly passed away in April 1994. Before he died Brilleaux's last wish was to record one final live album, miraculously he managed to achieve this! The result was 'Down At The Doctors' recorded over two nights (24th & 25th January 1994) at the bands own pub the Dr. Feelgood Music Bar on Canvey Island.
It was Brilleaux's dying wish that the band should continue without him, and so in May 1995 new vocalist Pete Gage was announced as his successor. Gage lasted four years and made one album with the band 'On The Road Again' (1996). Robert Kane (Animals II) replaced Gage in 1999 and remains the bands vocalist to this day. They released the Blues covers album 'Chess Masters' in 2000, the live album 'Speeding Thru Europe' in 2003 and the classic Dr. Feelgood reimagined covers album 'Repeat Prescription' in 2006. Every year since Brilleaux's death, a special concert known as the Lee Brilleaux Birthday Memorial has been held on Canvey Island, where former and current Feelgoods have celebrated the music of Dr. Feelgood, and raised money for The Fair Havens Hospice in Westcliff-on-Sea.
Sadly, long serving guitarist Steve Walwyn decided to leave Dr Feelgood in 2021 after thirty two years of active service to pursue other projects, one of those being the formation of a new three piece Blues Rock band with The Specials bass player Horace Panter called 'The Dirt Road Band'. It is a shame that Dr. Feelgood haven't released any new material in the last twenty six years whilst Steve Walwyn was still in the band. Steve is a phenomenal songwriter having written one the band's best ever songs 'Instinct To Survive' which first appeared on the 1996 'On The Road' album. With the return of Gordon Russell in 2021 it would seem that the band have had a new lease of life. A burgeoning creative relationship started to blossom between Russell and vocalist Robert Kane, the result being a whole album of new songs. Better late than never!
Opening up 'Damn Right!' with unassailable intent is 'Don't Pull Your Punches'. A vibrantly lively Rock infused track with an irresistibly insistent guitar string bending riff and foot to the floor solidly tight rhythm. “Say what you want, say what you need, say it loud, say it clean, call me any kinda days, you don't have to fake it, shoot me down in flames, you know I can take it, don't you, don't you, don't you pull any punches.”
'Put The Blame On Me' is a greasy, gritty uptempo Blues track with that Feelgood classic stabbing Telecaster guitar chop reminiscent of the Wilko Johnson era. An energetically muscular harmonica solo punches with much weight. “What I am is what you got, maybe devil maybe not, don't put the blame on me.”
'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is' is another energetic Blues stomper with eloquent attitude laden vocals from Kane. A pleasing wide-open sound with lots of depth and clarity. Super tight playing from all with a tasty Rock 'n' Roll styled guitar solo from Russell. “Now when your walking, yeah you walk the big walk, when your talking, yeah your talking the big talk, so put your money where your mouth is, don't take too long, put your money where your mouth is.”
'Damn Right I Do!' is an effervescently fast paced struttin' R&B flavoured slice of Punk Rock! A hard driving track with expressively adept vocals and a sparklingly vivacious guitar solo. This is the sound of a band refreshed and out to prove that they still have something to offer. “Who feels it knows that's so true, I've gotta a feeling that’s right for you, do I, do I, do I want you, you can bet your life, damn right I do!”
'Take A Second Look' is a superb 1960s style R&B track with wonderful guitar hooks and a crisp clear sound. The playing is super tight with a well-balanced mix of vocals and instruments. “Might not be what you want, might just be what you need, when your feeling down and alone, I could be your friend indeed, so take a second look, take a second look, the cover don't tell you about the book.”
'Blues Me' is a mid-paced 12 bar Blues with that unmistaken Canvey energy and Thames Delta vibe. Kane has his own unique vocal style and inhabits the lyrics with committed conviction. “Take me over, take me down, run for cover, go to town, go for tension, go for stress, no need to mention, don't care less, I don't care if you use me, just Blues me.”
'Keep It Under Cover' is a tenaciously spirited slide guitar based Blues. Lee would certainly have approved! “We got something nobody knows, an undercover lover keeps you on your toes, meetin' in the shadows, talkin' on the phone, trying to find a little time so we can be alone, we can tell, we can say, keep it undercover every night and day.”
'I Need A Doctor' is a slow slinky Blues that slithers and snakes along with some exquisitely evocative guitar lines that add to the overall atmosphere. “Well mamma mamma I feel so ill, send for the doctor to give me a pill, doctor please will I die? Yes sir, yes sir, and so will I! Give me some medicine, give me a pill, a miracle cure for all my ills, a little pick me up doc don't you know, just a little something for my get up and go, I need a doctor!”
'Mary Ann' was the first song from the new album to be aired online. A mid-paced Pop infused Rock track with bright upbeat guitar chording that jauntily jangles along. The perky guitar solo features much expressively dextrous string bending! This track shows the lighter Poppier side of the Feelgoods that was evident back in the mid-80s when Russell was the guitarist in the band at that time. “Mary Ann, something for nothin' is her only plan, Mary Ann, is all she's every known, Mary Ann, does the best she can, Mary Ann doesn't know she's born.”
'Inside Out' is an unrelentingly bouncy stomper with an infectious descending guitar riff and decisively steadfast drumming. “I just wrote a letter, I hope it gets to you, I just wanted you to know, and see what you can do, inside out, inside out, you turn it inside out. Every time I see you it thrills me to the bone, each time I'm away from you I can’t wait to get back home, my nerves are on the outside, my heart is on my sleeve, I'm shaking down from my head to my toes.”
The final track 'Last Call' is a lively fast-paced Freddie King style Blues shuffle instrumental complete with bass solo! Some fine exuberantly, ebullient guitar soloing from Russell. The track ends with the sound of laughter in the studio, which exemplifies the fun atmosphere and good feeling within the band whilst making this album.
Overall, this is a great vibrant sounding album by a well-rehearsed and refreshed band, with all their chops well and truly intact. They are clearly having a lot fun and this album proves that they are still a relevant creative force to be reckoned with!
Steven C. Gilbert