Al Copley & the Fabulous Thunderbirds
Bullseye Blues 9596
Pianist/vocalist Al Copley was an original member of Roomful of Blues who left the group in 1984 to pursue a solo career in Europe. Good Understanding was recorded during an all-night session in March 1992 while the Fabulous Thunderbirds were touring the continent. It’s a fine collection of widely varied grooves, ranging from vintage Professor Longhair to full-blown boogie woogie and slow piano blues that showcase Copley’s affection for players like Memphis Slim and Otis Spann.
The T-Birds’ history with Roomful dates to the late ’60s, when T-Bird drummer Fran Christina worked with Roomful. In 1980, Roomful’s three sax players (at that time) appeared on the T-Bird’s Butt Rockin’, and T-Bird harpman Kim Wilson returned the favor with a guest shot on Roomful’s Dressed Up to Get Messed Up in 1984, which was Copley’s last recording with the band.
The T-Birds, with Duke Robillard on guitar and Preston Hubbard on upright bass, Wilson and Christina, operate strictly in a backing, ensemble role on Good Understanding. Their restraint leaves the show in Copley’s hands. He’s a commanding pianist who writes memorable songs. However, he’s not a particularly memorable vocalist, and he’s certainly not flamboyant. Thus, Good Understanding is best suited for those more interested in an overall blues ambiance, in a subtle, good vibe, than in a front person who projects an abundance of image or personality.
— Bryan Powell