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Joe Brown

The Ukelele Album


As the band rattles into a ukulele-led version of Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, who can resist a tap of the toes or a knowing smile ?  not this reviewer, for sure….

Joe Brown has sent decade after decade since the Sixties making great music with excellent bands. My own little band’s guest member guitar ace Gypie Mayo describes Joe as one of the best musicians and most decent blokes he knows.

Making a ukulele-based album might be risky for the likes of say a Moby or George Michael but Joe’s natural affinity with all stringed instruments means that the set works a treat. He tackles originals and attempts versions of well-known songs in the mixture here and the highlights are many.

A poignancy overdone to death on the 10CC original production of ‘I’m Not In Love’ is fresh as a daisy as presented here, the backing kept sparse and quietly chugging as the ukulele sprinkles its magic and the neat backing vocals keep the tunefulness to the fore. Musician son Pete Brown ( and not our Cream lyricist pal) seems to add exactly what is right to each cut and then stop. ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ – a George Harrison favourite of course has a muted Buddy Holly feel ( ‘ I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ style ). Radio 2 will surely adore this ?

The sprightly ‘Hula Girl’ is a London Formby at work  ;Brown is London through and through of course but has always spared us the Dick Van Dyke stuff !  Some great soloing on this one including what sounds like a dobro  ;  the version of ‘Pinball Wizard’ is not without precedent – one of the Bonzo’s did a version on which composer Pete T himself was coerced into playing banjo, I recall – the Who tempo is intact here but Joe sounds a natural, reciting the tale of the pool hall genius.  And this is an example of where the collection scores, the tempo’s and moods are constantly changing.

‘Mr Blue Sky’ sound airy and confident  ;  Formby gets an affectionate nod with ‘Windows’ with its country tinge ; Chas and Dave’s ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ always struck me as a fine New Orleans-style song worthy of Fats Domino and it sounds terrific here.

On the album cover Brown gives an acknowledgement to US ukulele lover Lou Arias, btw. A nice touch.

This won’t be heard a lot on Classic Rock but it will be in MY house ; presumably upcoming concerts Joe will integrate numbers form this set into the show….”Ace of Spades’ for us, please, amigo ?

Pete Sargeant

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