Ronnie Baker Brooks
Ronnie Baker Brooks was born in Chicago and started playing guitar around the age of six. At nineteen, he joined his father Lonnie Brooks, who by then had influenced some of the most well-known Bluesman of our history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter and Junior Wells. For twelve years the two would tour together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor! 'Times Have Changed', 49 year old Brooks’ first album in ten years, released today (Friday 20th January 2017), carries with it the weight of grown perspective and time spent perfecting old material. ‘THC’ also comes laden with original hits - five of the eleven tracks were penned by Ronnie. Recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, the home of Al Green, Syl Johnson and Bobby “Blue” Bland, Brooks worked it with Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Eric Clapton).
A veritable who's who guests on the record, from "Big Head" Todd & The Monsters mainman Todd Mohr, R&B/Soul singers Bobby “Blue” Bland (one of the last recordings he made), R&B icon Angie Stone, legendary guitarists Steve Cropper (Stax, Booker T. & the MG's Otis Redding, Sam & Dave) and Eddie Willis (Motown, Funk Brothers), rapper Al Kapone, Archie Turner (Al Green, Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright), jazz saxophonist Lannie McMillanand of course Ronnie's father, Lonnie. For several tracks, Brooks also enlisted brothers Teenie (guitar), Charles (organ) and Leroy Hodges (bass) of the legendary Hi Rhythm Section, which served as the house band for hit soul albums by artists like Al Green and Ann Peebles.
Joe Tex's '68 classic 'Show Me' - best known from the Commitments - kicks things off in style - one for the 'Blues Police' to drool over - featuring a mean Cropper guitar, contrasted by the slower groovy guitar of Todd Mohr on Brooks' own composition 'Doing Too Much' which has oodles of soul and certainly keeps up with the Joneses. And what better way to keep the momentum going - than it's 'Twine Time' - the instrumental sixties sound from the late Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - and given its fusion of guitar and keys intro, I would defy anyone not to want to get up and do the Twine - with Ronnie's father Lonnie given the honours on this classic on guitar. The pace slows on the stand out 'Times Have Changed' - written years ago by Brooks but timelessly reinvented by Jordan - as testified by Ronnie's jousting guitar solo outro with his long time friend from Memphis and rapper Al Kapone - Brooks' intention to be authentic enough for the older generation but have something that the younger generation could latch onto, fully vindicated on this title track.
Ronnie's guitar intro on another one of his compositions 'Long Story Short' heralded another groovy upbeat Bluesy Soul song before we are transported back to the unmistakable sound of the '70's with a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly hit 'Give Me Your Love (Love Song' featuring singer/rapper Angie Stone, apparently the first track recorded on the album. The funk/soul of another Joe Tex cover 'Give The Baby Anything The Baby Wants' features Todd Mohr and Eddie Willis before Brooks covers Eric Clapton and Robert Cray's 'Old Love' - although missing Clapton's legendary live guitar intro - Ronnie puts his own individual take on this classic which in retrospect is made even more special as it features the late Bobby "Blue" Bland. Any mention of the 'Blues Police' will always mean that Jake and Elwood are not far behind - cue a cover of The Blues Brothers 'Come On Up' featuring Felix Cavaliere and Lee Roy Parnell with two final Brooks compositions rounding off 'THC' - the spunky 'Wham Bam Thank You Sam' which Ronnie wrote with Keb Mo and the delighful 'When I Was We' - further evidence of the quality of Brooks' vocals - picture that last slow dance at a 70's disco! 'Times Have Changed' has it all. Breadth in genre, backbone in content and an awesome array of top musicians. Hopefully we won't have to wait another ten years for Ronnie's next offering which one would hope would be less diluted but testament to one hugely talented musician.