Album Review: Bob Malone – Good People

Bob Malone

photo courtesy of Michael J. Media Group

Album Review of Bob Malone: Good People

World-class rockin’ blues keyboardist (and singer and songwriter) Bob Malone has done it again. Released today, May 21, 2021, Good People is his latest masterpiece. His music ranges from raucous and rollicking to slow and sentimental, his songwriting reaches deeply into the emotions of life, and his voice is rough, emotional, and relatable with a hint of a Randy Newman-esque delivery. His live shows are an event, and his recordings are a treat. If you’re familiar with him, all I should need to say is “Bob Malone has released a new album,” and you’ll order it. But that doesn’t make for much of an album review, so let’s dig in.

The disc opens with the title track, “Good People.” It’s a soaring, hopeful number. Even when Bob’s lyrics are cynical, he always sneaks a little hope in, and he doesn’t sugarcoat life’s difficulties here, but this is an exceptionally uplifting tune, almost a hymn in spots thanks to his background vocalists, that focuses on the silver linings, not the clouds.

The energy level amps up next with Bob’s rowdy cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Of course, Bob has been John Fogerty’s keyboardist since 2011, so, you know, no added pressure here to impress, right? No worries; Bob nails it. The thumping, rhythmic keyboard opening starts to build the power, with ivory-tickling flourishes increasing as the song progresses, and rich background vocals throughout supporting Bob’s rough ‘n rowdy vocals. And let’s not forget the late-song keyboard and guitar noodling, hinting at the sort of long-form jamming I’m sure you could expect when hearing this song live.

Bob Malone – Good People

image courtesy of Michael J. Media Group

The mood is calmed almost immediately by “Empty Hallways,” a rich piano-based sad song, with Bob’s soulful, gravelly vocal portraying the emotional pain in this powerful ballad.

The energy returns again, following a cool, echoing opening, with “All There Is,” an energetic, enthusiastic blues-rocker with a strong, happy beat that belies the song content: “Is this all there is? ‘Cause I’ve seen this before. Is this all there is? There’s got to be more. Please tell me there’s more!” Never, this side of the Stones, will you rock along as enthusiastically to a song about dissatisfaction, with stop-starts, exploding rhythms, and well-placed background harmonies. As much fun as the recording of this song is, I guarantee this will be a live favorite, too.

Gruff, emotional vocals return on the steadily-progressing, slower-moving “Head First.” Behind the song’s powerful rhythm you’ll discover some nuanced keywork, supporting lyrics like “What didn’t kill me also didn’t make me stronger, and I’m just trying to keep what’s left of me alive.”

Next up is the second of Bob’s three covers on this disc, his rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.” Gotta say, Bob’s version is way more rockin’! You might think replacing guitars with a piano would soften a song? You’d be wrong, though if you’ve heard Bob play before, you won’t be surprised. He adds a more ragged vocal delivery, too. The way this is arranged and executed, it sounds more like an update of an old-school blues number than a Fleetwood Mac cover.

The mood doesn’t last long, as Bob follows it with a particular favorite, a song that plays to one of his many songwriting strengths. In this case, on “My Friends and I,” he captures the emotions of the struggles of people of a certain age, his cohort, something I’ve appreciated in his music before. (On “Can’t Get There From Here” from Bob’s Mojo Deluxe album, for example.)

Next up is a quintessentially Bob Malone instrumental, a song so engaging with dancing melodies and memorable piano flourishes that you’ll find yourself thinking back “surely there must have been lyrics in there, right?” I assure you there are not. What Joe Satriani or Marc Bonilla can do with instrumental guitar, what Mindi Abair or Candy Dulfer can do with a saxaphone, Bob Malone does with a piano. On this album, he delivers “Prelude & Blues.” It’s an accessible, radio-friendly, energetic number that can fit comfortably and seamlessly on a playlist – or, in this case, on an album – alongside your favorite vocal-driven songs.

Next on Good People is an ode of appreciation to the “Sound of a Saxophone,” on which Bob’s keywork is rich, full, and organ-ic. And, of course, joined by some wailing, bluesy sax. It’s followed by a song Bob wrote a few years ago for a telethon to raise money for West Virginia flood relief, “The River Gives.” It’s a powerful song with soaring gospel-choir harmonies that complement Bob’s gravelly vocal delivery atop soaring music that mimics the power and force of flood waters: “The river gives, the river takes away. You can’t stop the water’s rise, you can only pray. The river gives, the river takes away. Down here by the river, we live day to day.”

Bob closes this enjoyable, heartfelt album with some serious energy, riffing uncontrollably through his funky flavored cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.” It’s a fun song, a terrific rendition that’ll leave you with a bounce in your step and a smile, ready to hit “repeat” and hear the album all over again.

Good People is yet another feather in Bob’s cap, as he builds a catalog of world-class original music, an increasing “back catalog” of rollickin’ piano blues music awaiting discovery by the new fans each subsequent disc uncovers. Keyboard wizard. Talented songwriter. Voice of a generation. Good People.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

You can catch Bob Malone live – or, at least, livestreamed. Upcoming gigs are here on the “Tour Dates & Livestreams” page of his website. You’ll find info there for Bob’s three streams scheduled this week: Sunday, May 23rd, Tuesday, May 25th, and Wednesday, May 26th. Farther out, the site lists upcoming live dates on September 30th in Rahway, NJ; October 1st in New Paltz, NY; October 2nd in Willington, CT; and October 29th in Los Angeles. There are few events as much fun as a live Bob Malone concert, so get out to see him perform this fall if you can.

In the meantime, Good People drops today, so go check it out. And then try one of his livestreams, if your schedule permits.

And don’t forget to read my previous Bob Malone reviews here at the Blog, of Bob’s last (non-holiday studio) album, Mojo Deluxe; of an insane house concert; of an unassuming, casual summer gig at a suburban concert in the park series; and of a performance at an iconic London blues club.

Live Reviews: Bob Malone at Framingham Centre Common and Danielle Miraglia at Front Street Concerts

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies; photo by Geoff Wilbur

It was a great summer for concerts, though I didn’t make it out to many. I did, however, find a way to see a couple of my personal favorites just a week apart mid-summer. Though I didn’t take many notes, I did take a few photos, so I’ll give you quick reviews and remind you why your music collections (and nights out) are remiss without these talented blues (or hyphenated-blues-based) artists’ music making them better. In fact, these two would make an amazing double-bill, with uniquely different but complementary blues-based styles. But I digress.

Bob Malone

Framingham Centre Common, Framingham, MA

July 27, 2018

On his way back to Los Angeles from a featured spot at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, Bob Malone stopped in Framingham and played at the Village Green as part of the Framingham Summer Concert Series. I arrived during his opening number, driving past the park in search of parking while “Chinese Algebra” drifted in through the car windows. Two sets of piano-driven, rockin’ blues followed.

Bob’s vocals are reminiscent of a bluesier Randy Newman. His songs range from rambunctious to poignant, often connecting – on a real or exaggerated level – with very relatable experiences. And his keywork? I’ll quote (paraphrase) a woman in attendance who was attending on behalf of her church and handing out water to concertgoers on this warm July evening. She said he reminds her of Jerry Lee Lewis. Indeed, Bob’s music cuts across generations.

Bob Malone

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob’s sets included a few of my favorites from his several albums, most heavily leaning on his newer stuff, of course. “Can’t Get There From Here,” “I’m Not Fine,” and “Ain’t What You Know” were among my favorites on the set list this particular evening. “Rage & Cigarettes” was another live highlight. And, of course, “Stay With Me” got some of the crowd on its feet dancing… not quite to the extent it did at Bob’s Barn #81 show last fall, but pretty darned impressively for a laid-back, hot summer concert evening.

Of course, there’s no wrong time for a Bob Malone concert. And this one ended with some emphasis, as Bob’s keyboard stand crashed to the stage at the very end of his final number. Even though I know it was unintentional, how rock ‘n roll is that?!

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

Front Street Concerts, Hopkinton, MA

August 4, 2018

I love being quoted, even if I have to quote myself, but the following tweet isn’t very quotable, so I’ll paraphrase. Clearly, if you weren’t at this show, to see Boston treasure Danielle Miraglia, you must be trapped under a rock.

But I digress. We love Front Street Concerts; it’s always great food followed by a concert from reliably one of the area’s best artists. And we love Danielle Miraglia, the aforementioned transcendent talent whose rockin’ bluesy vocals and intricately crafted lyrics delivered with a smile and a wink should rightly have her playing arenas. So where else would we possibly have been on this particular summer evening but at Danielle’s annual barn concert?

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Danielle isn’t afraid to mix in songs from her heroes, as the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and Prince covers all made appearances. But, of course, the confluences of those influences are her original tunes, and that’s why she drew a backyard full of fans, because of her exceptionally engaging, wry, defiantly, identifiably Danielle Miraglia originals.

Danielle drew songs from her last three albums for her originals this set. She opened things up with “Fair Warning,” a fun, energetically defiant, and snarky tune that’s… well, I was going to say it’s a crowd favorite, but they all are.

The hook in “See the Light,” up next, grabs me every time. And “All My Heroes are Ghosts,” the title track of Danielle’s current album and a tune on the more thoughtful end of her musical spectrum, was next.

Also in the first set were some attitude-laden personal favorites: “Monster,” “Don’t Pray For Me,” and “Aim Low.” Three songs with social and societal messages, cleverly told. Something very few do as well as Danielle.

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

photo by Geoff Wilbur

She and her band opened the second set with another statement on the state of the world, “Famous For Nothing.” A couple Spotted Tiger songs were thrown into the mix. Spotted Tiger, comprised of Glory Junkies violist Laurence Scudder and guitarist Erik White, plays a uniquely eclectic brand of Americana, not quite rockabilly. The sort of music you might hear at a barn raising. A fun stylistic change-of-pace to the evening, this two-song interlude was a great nod to the exceptional talent of Danielle’s band, a very versatile aggregation of some of the best musicians in the Boston area.

Then it was back to Danielle’s music, the lively “Everybody’s Wrong” followed by the melancholy “Home.”

After Danielle’s cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” I was caught up in the music and forget to continue to take notes. I do know one of the show’s highlights came later when audience participation helped drive the power of “Choir,” a longtime favorite of mine.

Front Street Concerts

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As always at a Danielle Miraglia concert, the experience was fun and satisfying, as if you attended a meaningful event; a Danielle Miraglia show never seems frivolous. And the hospitality (and delicious buffet) at Front Street Concerts always makes it feel like a gathering of old friends. More than a hundred old friends.

I’m disappointed this was the only Front Street Concerts event I made it to this summer. My only Danielle Miraglia concert in a long time, too. But I’ll have a few chances to make up for that in the coming months.

Live Review: Bob Malone at Barn #81

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob Malone

Barn #81, Hopkinton, MA

October 14, 2017

Bob Malone is one of the great rockin’ blues keyboardists of our time. Period. Berklee-trained, Bob has chiseled and honed his style among some of the best local musicians in Los Angeles, his performance skills polished over years in the studio and on the road. Since 2011 Bob’s “day job,” in fact, has been as John Fogerty’s keyboardist. And, of course, he has released some stellar blues recordings, performing his own stuff between his Fogerty gigs. On Saturday night, in this intimate “house concert” performance space in an outer suburb of Boston, Bob treated an appreciative audience to his skills.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

And he was supported by a great band – Jeff St. Pierre on bass, Chris Leadbetter on guitar, and his old college buddy Philip Antoniades on drums. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I love catching Bob Malone with a full band, so this was perfect.

Of course, those of you who have been reading the Blog from the beginning have seen my reviews of Bob Malone. Twice, to be exact. Both times within the first three months of launch. I reviewed Bob’s October 2015 concert at the 100 Club in London as part of my “Five Nights in London” series. And I reviewed Bob’s most recent album, Mojo Deluxe, in January 2016. So you know I’d be shocked – shocked! – if Bob didn’t deliver a world-class performance. Spoiler alert: He rocked the room!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob kicked the evening off with a bang. A rollicking, rousing, energy-filled rendition of “Certain Distance.” He then followed it with one of my favorite instrumental numbers, “Chinese Algebra.” And a room-rocking performance of “I’m Not Fine,” always a song worth shouting along with at the top of your lungs. These are all songs from his most recent release, Mojo Deluxe.

“Up on Cripple Creek,” a tempo-changing energetic number from Ain’t What You Know, followed before Bob really brought the room down with a mellow, contemplative favorite from Mojo Deluxe, an insightful consideration of middle aged-ness, “Can’t Get There From Here.”

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob reached back two decades to his 1996 The Darkest Part of the Night album for “I Know He’s Your Husband,” one of Bob’s songs on which his vocals sound the most Randy Newman-esque. Next up, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” portrayed a room-electrifying energy and wow, I do love that guitar line. The intensity remained, as “Rage & Cigarettes” came next.

What followed was a really cool rendition of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” In the lead-in to this homage to Petty, Bob asked “someone” to please tape this performance because, after many not-quite-right attempts, he thought he finally had it down. Indeed, he did.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

While most of the evening’s songs were from Bob’s newest album, he again reached back to 2009’s Ain’t What You Know for the exceptionally emotionally powerful “No One Can Hurt You” (…like me). Then back to a newer track, “Toxic Love,” which simply roars, and the energetic “I Wasn’t Looking For the Blues.”

Next up Bob dipped into his Born Too Late album for “Home to Me.” Light, melancholy; cool, almost jazzy. Very cool selection to showcase yet another side of Bob Malone. Bob picked things up again with chunky, “Walk This Way”-style Steven Tyler-inspire, fast-paced vocals on the next song (whose title I can’t read in my notes).

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final two songs of Bob’s set were from Ain’t What You Know. First up was the title track, which turned into a serious jam, and was followed by a rowdy rendition of “Stay With Me” that transformed the end of Bob’s set into a disco ball-spinning dance party (of which there is some photographic proof a couple pictures down).

Bob’s encore was the sentimental “Paris,” a slow, swaying, arena-filling ballad that’s a signature Bob Malone song, a sentimental, emotional, scene-painting, perfect selection to end the evening for an enthusiastic room full of his fans.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I love gigs like this. If you keep your eyes open, there are chances to catch some of the most talented musicians in the world in intimate settings full of friends and neighbors, and they’re truly special evenings. I’m glad to have finally made it to my first Barn #81 gig, too – I had heard about the shows in this cool setting. And I knew Bob had played here before, but until Saturday night I didn’t realize the concert series was run by one of his old college buddies from Berklee. But hey, a friendly atmosphere with a talented band featuring one of the premiere blues musicians in the world, and it ended almost as a dance party? What a Saturday night!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

The “tour dates” page of Bob’s website lists several shows around the U.S. over the rest of 2017 and into 2018, with solo gigs in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania in the coming months, and performances as John Fogerty’s keyboardist in Oklahoma and Texas, plus a 10-day stretch of John Fogerty gigs in January in Las Vegas. Be sure to check Bob’s website for details and for additional performances as they’re added.

Barn #81 is a great venue, a relaxed atmosphere full of friends. I don’t see any future events listed on the Barn #81 Facebook events page, but I do see Jennifer Tefft will be there on Saturday, November 11th. I almost hesitate to mention it, though, because I still haven’t figured out if I’ll be able to get there that night, and I’d hate to see the show sell out before I get my tickets.

Album Review: Bob Malone – Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone – Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone

photo courtesy of Bob Malone

The Backstory

I’ve known Bob Malone since the late 1990s.  In fact, my interview with Bob landed him on the cover of the May 1998 Industry Edition of Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter. When Bob was preparing to release his latest CD, Mojo Deluxe, in May 2015 while I was still a “civilian” during my decade-plus hiatus from writing, I pre-ordered it. (The album dropped on August 21st.) More recently, I caught Bob’s London gig in October– the first time I’d seen him perform live – as part of my “Five Nights in London” series for Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog.

As for Bob’s backstory, he is classically trained, studied at Berklee, earning a degree in jazz, is based out of Los Angeles, and has crafted a two decade-long solo career, including the release of several critically-acclaimed albums. Since 2011, he has also served as John Fogerty’s keyboard player.

CD Review of Bob Malone: Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone - Mojo Deluxe

image courtesy of Bob Malone

If you’re looking for rollicking, energetic blues, you’ve come to the right place. But there’s also something unique about Mojo Deluxe, Bob’s first full-length release since Ain’t What You Know about seven years ago. There’s something that suggests this is one of those “must-own” albums. With cross-genre appeal to blues fans, blues-rockers, blues-based hard rockers, and beyond, this disc recalls and expands upon many of Bob’s stylistic variances. Vocally, you may notice a bit of Randy Newman in Bob’s vocals but with a bit more blues growl; to be honest, after years of listening to his music, I can hear the stylistic similarity, but he mostly just sounds like Bob Malone to me. I’m sure a strong comparison is noticeably there, however, as first-time listeners still point it out.

Mojo Deluxe is twelve songs long, featuring a variety of blues styles. You can rock, stomp, and wail at the top of your lungs to album-opening, high-energy, get-on-your-feet, stomp-box blues tune “Certain Distance,” uptempo, soulful “Looking for the Blues,” or mid-tempo, energetic, sassy “Don’t Threaten Me (With a Good Time).”

Bob Malone

photo courtesy of Bob Malone

You’ll catch some more attitude in the lyrical storytelling of songs like “Toxic Love” and “Rage & Cigarettes.” These tracks play louder and faster in the memory than they do on disc, as many great blues songs do — oh, they’re full of energy, but in a nod-your-head, close-your-eyes, fill the room with sound and the sing blues kind of way (not in the loud, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, ear-bleeding rock ‘n roll way). Same emotion; different musical style. Hence, the term “rollicking.”

Mojo Deluxe shows off Bob’s softer side, too, most notably on the amazing, incredibly sentimental “Paris.” Many of us who love that city will nod knowingly when we hear these lyrics in particular: “All these crowds make me lonely, all these lovers make me blue/‘Cause Paris is just another city without you.”

“Hard Times” and “Someone Watching Over Me” are catchy, relatively typical, slow-tempoed blues laments that weave interesting stories. Also relatively typically-themed, “Looking For the Blues” (“I wasn’t looking for the blues/but the blues found me”) packs energy in its crescendos, background vocals, soulful horns, and a guitar solo that ties the song together nicely as a bridge. Indeed, “Looking For the Blues” is a fun, full-production number that’d get a crowd to its feet and deserves special mention. Finally, album-closer “Can’t Get There From Here” (which cleverly begins “Once I was beautiful/Now I just look good for my age”) is perhaps a more unique blues lament about looking back (and ahead) at life’s journey.

If you like the blues (or any adjacent style of music) even a little, if you appreciate a clever lyrical turn of a phrase, or if you simply enjoy hearing one of the best musicians at his craft, this disc is mandatory. With all of the great albums Bob Malone has released throughout his career, Mojo Deluxe is quite possibly his best yet.

Bob Malone

photo by Geoff Wilbur

What’s Next?

Bob is playing several Las Vegas dates in John Fogerty’s band in January, then he hits the road solo in February. His website currently lists tour dates in Alpharetta, GA (Feb. 4), Charlotte, NC (Feb. 5), Charleston, WV (Feb. 6), Houston, TX (Feb. 10), La Grange, TX (Feb. 12), and two dates as the opening act in The Woodlands, TX (Feb. 13 & 14, opening for Los Lobos and Gary Puckett, respectively).

Five Nights in London #1: Bob Malone

Bob Malone with Amy Eftekhari and Loose Moorings

100 Club, London
October 27, 2015

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review each show. I have a slow, cranky little netbook computer that isn’t cooperating (I love it because it’s small, but I hate it because it’s slow), and I fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room last after this first show, so I’m not necessarily going to guarantee I’ll get a review up on the night of each show, but I’ll do my best. And I kick off this series with a night at The 100 Club, featuring powerhouse rockin’ blues piano-man Bob Malone.

Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Opening Act: Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings was the first band on the stage, and what amazing power and energy this band put forth. There’s almost a bit more rock than blues in this band. Hard rocking blues guitars, great vocals that were growling at times, simply powerfully tuneful at others. The best description of Loose Moorings, on this particular night at least, would be cross between The Cult and George Thorogood. They set the bar high to kick off the night with their blues-influenced, tear-the-roof-off-the-joint hard rock. Loose Moorings self-describes as “a black denim blues band that rocks!!” I can’t argue with that.

Amy Eftekhari

Amy Eftekhari; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Act: Amy Eftekhari

Indeed, that unenviable task fell to Amy Eftekhari, who delivered a more standards-singer/jazz (with a hint of blues) set with her relatively deep, raspy voice, backed by a team of extremely talented musicians, who were given ample opportunity to showcase their skills as well during Amy’s set. It was an odd placement as far as musical progression, nestled between Loose Moorings’ wall of sound and Bob Malone’s… well, Bob Malone. But Amy did yeoman’s work and absolutely earned the crowd’s appreciation and respect.

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Headliner: Bob Malone

I’ve known Bob Malone for years. I’ve reviewed his music and even interviewed him for my prior publication, Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, back in 1998. So it was a pleasure to finally see him perform live in a setting such as the 100 Club.

Bob kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Why Not Me,” showcasing his gruff, engaging, sometimes Randy Newman-esque vocal style. Early on, as well, Bob showcased this talented bandmates skills, allowing them to shine. But really, this night was all about Bob, his trademark rockin’ blues sound on The 100 Club’s piano, and the engaging personality and expression he delivers to the fortunate audience at one of his live performances. And even though this was the last date on a grueling UK tour for him, Bob was spot-on tonight.

Early on, as he built the energy up, Bob brought the room down a bit and held its rapt attention with “Can’t Get There From Here,” a favorite of mine that had exactly the audience reaction it should.

Bob had the room rocking regularly, though, with his high-energy crowd favorites, “Rage & Cigarettes,” “Keep a Certain Distance,” and “Toxic Love,” before again bringing the tempo down with the emotional “Watching Over Me.”

The night closed with uptempo “Ain’t What You Know” and a rendtion of “Stay With Me” that would give Rod Stewart a run for his money. As Bob left the stage, however, the crowd reaction was immediate, and he returned for his encore to play the sentimental, heartfelt, passionate “Paris.”

Bob delivered everything I expected — great musicianship, terrific vocals that perfectly fit his well-crafted songs, and a supporting cast of exceptional musicians. Great kick-off to my stay in London.

What’s Next?

Well, show number two will be at The Bedford tonight (Wednesday night), followed by Thursday night at The Troubadour (in particular to see Sonya Titus perform). Friday and Saturday nights are still up in the air. I’ll keep you apprised as I decide, if I decide in advance.