This CD opens with a "Crack, Crack, When You Comin' Back," titular refrain that will stick in your head and not come out for weeks. The next several cuts all sound like vintage Billy Price, but there is an initial, hard to define difference from previous recordings. This is perhaps Price's most interesting recording. Because Price has put himself in the hands of eclectic soul-man producer Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams. Williams has been best described as the "Frank Zappa of Soul." He has written songs and produced artists as diverse as Travis Tritt, the Commodores, Irma Thomas, Huey Lewis, Gary "U.S." Bonds, and most recently Kid Rock. Swamp Dogg wrote eight of the ten songs, all of which fit BP's style to a T. It's the arrangements and instrumentation that are the change from previous recordings, noticeable especially in the solos. Where you normally expect a blazing sax or ripping guitar lead, you may have a mellow keyboard, a horn arrangement, a flute or even a flamenco guitar. It took me a while to warm up to this difference. On a long solo road trip with the volume cranked, it all clicked.
"Mine All Mine All Mine" is classic BP, like a more uptempo "Precious Precious." Otis Redding is the obvious comparison on "This Magic Hour." Two songs have to make you laugh (while you're dancing): "Pass the Sugar," and "I Know It's Your Party (I Just Came Here to Dance)." The flamenco guitar break shows up in "No Matter How You Turn or Twist It," giving an exotic touch to a mid-tempo soul song. If you've ever seen Price live, you've heard "Can I Change My Mind." BP's been performing this one as far back as his days with Roy Buchanan, but here it's reworked completely. Congas, a flute solo, and a slightly slower tempo were used to mark this version. The Swamp Dogg treatment makes this CD a fascinating listen without obscuring or overpowering the passionate emotion of BP's vocals. I will admit to looking forward to hearing these same tunes live with the standard blaring sax and screaming guitar solos, though. You can join me to see Billy Price live at the Ram's Head, Saturday April 8.