Album Review by Phil M.
Tommy Roe is not a name I have come across before, Maybe that’s just down to my tender years though as he was a thing back in the ’60s with a couple of rarer subsequent releases in the ’70s and ’80s and more recently 2008. His most well-known hit is probably ‘Dizzy’, released in 1969 which was famously covered by Vic Reeves with the Wonder Stuff in 1991 (check out the video with the band in front of washing machines and microwaves rather than speaker cabs and amps). Prior to that, he had had a hit with ‘Sheila’ in 1962 – apparently, the track was renamed from ‘Freya’ when his Aunt Sheila visited. The song became a number-one hit on the Billboard charts of the day.
Roe was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, but following the success of his friend Roy Orbison’s tour in the UK he moved there in 1964 staying for several years. ‘Dizzy’ reached number one in the UK and the US. His final charting single was released in 1970 though he continued to tour and release country-based music. He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame back in 1986 and was also recognised by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
In 2018 though he announced his retirement on his Facebook page:
“Today I am announcing my retirement. I have so many great memories of the music and of my fans who have supported me through the years. Fifty-five years to be exact. What a gift it has been for me to share this time with you. I hope my music will continue to bring a smile to your hearts and joy to your life. …I will stay in touch through our Facebook page. But for now, I am stepping out of the spotlight from scheduled concerts and interviews. Thank you again for your loyal support. I love you all, and may God Bless you. Tommy”
Like many others, retirement is not seen as a permanent state, and this year sees Roe bringing out this new album, produced at Solar Studios and produced by Michael Franklin. Of the 10 new tracks on the album, four date back to 2012, including the opener ‘Devil’s Soul Pile’. With this track, the album opens in a promising style – a Hammond organ swirl leading into the nicely strummed guitar with a lead guitar riff picked over that, which repeats throughout the track. His voice is clear, and the song is catchy middle-of-the-road pop, with nice female harmonies in the chorus.
‘Traffic Jam’ is up next, with an old-fashioned 60s bluesy jazz feel to it, This harks back to his old style – hence the album title I’m guessing. This is followed by ‘Midnight Lights’, again recalling the laid-back jazz vibe of the early 60s and a wandering bass line with sax throughout. ‘Without Her’ starts out with soulful vocals over piano before the rest of the band comes in with the chorus. The song like the others is well-produced and the track builds to a full band climax with backing vocals though the vocals are simplistic and the best part for me is the guitar sound.
‘A Rose, A Candle and You’ follows and was Roe’s most recent single release, opening with strings and vocal harmonies clearly influenced by Simon & Garfunkel. ‘Frenchy and the Cowboy’ has a catchy chorus and ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ is a cover of the 1960s track by Tim Hardin (played at Woodstock). Originally folky in delivery it gets the MOR treatment here.
‘Heather Honey’ is a bit more up-tempo, and the strings lend a country air to the track. ‘LA I Belong to You’ returns to the more laid-back feel of earlier tracks with an acoustic guitar solo and the album finishes off with ‘Kick Me Charlie’ sees Roe get into rock’n’roll mode and a harmonica solo in the middle.
Impressive to see Roe continuing to release new work into his 80s, It’s well produced with lots of instrumentation though the MOR nature of the album is not really my scene.
- Devil’s Soul Pile
- Traffic Jam
- Midnight Lights
- Without Her
- A Rose, A Candle and You
- Frenchy and The Cowboy
- If I were a Carpenter
- Heather Honey
- LA I Belong to You
- Kick Me Charlie
Tommy Roe – Guitar and Vocals.
Tommy Calton – Acoustic 6 String and 12 string Guitar, Electric Guitars
Tim Franklin – Electric Bass and String Bass,
Michael Franklin – Wurliter, Bosendorfer Grand, Kurzweil and B-3
Paul Parker – Drums
Matt Brown – Drums on “Heather Honey,” “Frenchy” & “Traffic Jam”
Steady Joseph – Percussion on “Midnight Lights”
Randie Paul – Backing Vocals on “Devil’s Soul Pile”
Suzie Parks Hosmer – Backing Vocals on “Traffic Jam”
Charlie DeChant – Harmonica on “Kick Me Charlie,” and Sax on “Traffic Jam”
Danny Jordan – Sax on “Midnight Lights”
Brian Snapp – Flute on “If I Were a Carpenter”
Benoit Lajeunesse – Volin on “A Rose A Candle” and “Heather Honey”
Olga Kopalova – Violin on “If I Were a Carpenter”
Paul Fleury – Cello on “If I Were a Carpenter”
Tim Franklin – String bass on “Traffic Jam” and “If I Were A Carpenter.”