Remember the visceral impact of Quicksilver’s "Who Do You Love", and the reaching, skyward trajectory of McLaughlin’s "Follow Your Heart"? Did you get altitude with It’s A Beautiful Day's "White Bird"? Still feelin’ the Wurlitzer/Rhodes heat of Donny Hathaway and War? Did early Santana (with Neal Schon) transport you? Still longin' for the spell-bindin' harmonies of Fairport Convention’s “Eastern Rain” or Pentangle’s “Basket of Light”?
For CD #3, “Aloft,” WitchDoktor reconvened his session hit men and recruited Sting/Peter Tosh/Steely Dan vocalist Janice Pendarvis to surface and set loose the sonic kinetics that kept us high late into the night. If the hair wasn’t standing up during the take, the track didn’t make it to the disc. If you get it when listenin’ to the sample clips, the RX is workin’. For those who readily tapped the keenin' sublimity of Hal’s Voodoo Love Shack (CD #2), here ya go.
Assistin' WitchDok's efforts to realize a singular, rapture inducin' distillation of high elevation jam-groove/folk rock voodoo, the "Love Shack" tribe o' tourin' session hombres (plus one, inestimably talented, femme fatale) rallied at the venerable Q Division studios (Sommerville, MA) to deliver the goods. Grammy Award winning Percussionist Pernell Saturnino (Chic Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, David Sanchez, Danilo Perez . . .) flew in from Holland to hook with trap-kit specialist Marty Richards (Joe Perry, Garry Burton, Peter Wolf, . . .) and acoustic and electric bass master Marty Ballou (Roomful of Blues . . .) to surface the pulse animating Huckleberry's sonic affinities.
Guitarists Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Bill Morrissey, Ellis Paul, J. Geils) and Kevin Barry (Paula Cole, Mighty Sam McClain, Susan Tedeschi, Tom Hambridge, Carol Noonan . . .) threw down en masse, filtering super-abundancies of color, light, and heat to catalyze a varying mix of burnin' Tele/Strat sear and ethereal, transportin', acoustic dreadnought, road-trip sound-scape.
Seasoned to taste with the rush-inducin' vocal effects of Madmoiselle Pendarvis (she’s the sublimely beautiful waif a singin' and a dancin' 'round the Sting-meister in the movie “Bring on the Night”), a host of tracks simmer and swell with a ripe dose o' heavy-sistah yearnin' and, by turns, with unearthly, epinephrin catalyzin' She-Ra fired multi-voice songscape. For his part, WitchDok (the "handful child', aka Dubble H) tapped acoustic and electric pianos, acoustic guitar, and his twusty wind stick (ye olde Armstrong silver head flute) to effect a contemporary rerenderin' of the soul arrestin' aural motifs propelling the instrumental stretchin' and folk rock tune-smithin' that transfixed us in our hot youth.
Tracking (all at the venerable "Q") was engineered by Matt Beaudoin, a top talent and protege of multiple Boston Music Awards winner/producer/mix-desk master Mike Deneen, a key force behind Aimee Mann, Eli "Paperboy" Reid, Morphine, Fountains of Wayne, and Gigolo Aunts . Basics were overseen by heavy music production vet Billy Straus (Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Chuck Berry, Dizzy Gillespie, Joni Mitchell . . .), a singular force whose supreme mixin' talents elevated proceedings at The Barn (Putney, VT). And ever gracious and most discerning mastering sage Toby Mountain (Frank Zappa, James Taylor . . .) preserved and sweetened the sonics at Northeastern Digital (Southboro, MA).
If all parties were indispensable, multi-discipline tactician Doug Carter (pro-audio, audio-engineering, music production, musician) excelled in his recurring capacities as first and last counsel for all things arranging, engineering, mixing, and mastering. Doug's exceptional wherewithal has been on offer ever since WitchDoktor first hooked with Kevin Eubanks, Marc Johnson (Bill Evans, John Scofield . . .), and Don Alias (Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell . . .) in the late 80's. These and other major players have spoken in consensus: No one should be at the wheel up on the bridge without Doug.
Minds yuh (what you already knows), - it matters a good deal less that this CD has seen the benefit of top audio engineerin' and music talent familiar with Wembley or Montreaux, and Messrs. Letterman or Leno. The performances on “Aloft” just gone done did amount to a deeply flowin' stream o' epitomal beauty. Track for track, the sonic canvas arrests and transports, grounds and then elevates, soothes and, at once, excites.
For a host of WitchDoktor's generation (and, undoubtedly, a good number of contemporary groove-jam and folk rock disciples), "Aloft" will amount to a flashpoint fix o' swoonin' elation. And the formula (3 pts. burnin’ R & B/Latin rock groove, 3 pts. combined acoustic and electric guitar/acoustic piano rumination, 3 pts. resurrection of whole-step heavy Beatles and Doors melody, 6 pts transcendent musicianship [teemin' with expansive affinity fo' deep friendship and ubiquitous, auto-magical, lovin' kindness]) has passed WitchDok’s pre-release acid-test. Endorphin soaked sleepless nights.
Go dig it now.