Greg Piccolo & Heavy Juice
Red Lights
Fantasy 9676-2
Greg Piccolo will always be known for his 27 years in the almighty Roomful of Blues. That's hardly a bad thing, but Piccolo wants more. Like Branford Marsalis, Emmylou Harris, Sting and a few others, he wants to reach beyond his roots.

On his first post-Roomful release, 1995's Acid Blue, Piccolo and Ron Levy, another Roomful alumnus, strolled through a mix of killer blues, jazzy blues, reggae-pop, R&B, funk and even a little mambo. Clearly, Piccolo was moving away from his Roomful legacy.

Red Lights goes a step further. For starters, five of the 11 songs feature Piccolo on guitar, not saxophone. Another two are vocal showcases. Levy's jazzy keyboards have been replaced by Barry Seelen's fiery Hammond B-3 funk. (Seelen used to be in Matt "Guitar" Murphy's band.) There's also more percussion, giving much of Red Lights an urban, almost-Latin flavor.

Eclecticism aside, Piccolo is in top form, and you have to marvel at the guy's versatility. Who else in the blues can play sax and guitar and really sing? (OK, Johnny Reno. But who else?)

Blues purists -- assuming the species even exists -- might not find much to like on Red Lights, and die-hard Roomful fans will wonder if Piccolo is going through some kind of weird reject-your-past personality disorder.

But don't worry. There's a solid blues groove -- albeit a funky one -- throughout most of Red Lights. Piccolo's reworking of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's "Old Maid Boogie" is priceless, and you won't find a hotter Hammond B-3/sax rave-up than "Moondog Boogie."

-- Dave Ranney

This page and all contents are © 1997 by BLUES ACCESS,
Boulder, CO, USA.