Blues Traveler, a fast, jam filled, energetic body of Blues Rock from the roughest place in the USA. I believe those words describe them at this time pretty well. The band features lead singer John Popper. Who was already a known face to Deadheads. Being that it was common to see him at a Grateful Dead concert blowing away at his harmonica and singing his lungs out. Chan Kinchla, the heavy force in the band. His playing is a mix of Blues and Hard Rock, which helps Blues Traveler be unique in a group of various Jam Band and "neo-hippies". Bobby Sheehan heavy supports the two lead members with his deep, full bass lines. It is rare that he breaks out of rhythm,but when he does it is quite a treat. And finally Brendan Hill. Who like Sheehan adds to the band's sound greatly, but rarely breaks out of the rhythm section. But of course when he does, he shows great skill. All these fantastic factors add up to make one of the wildest bands of the 90's.
Blues Traveler's sound has always interested me. I am one who is easily not amused by Blues music. But they take the genre to much different places. They are one of the few Blues or Blues influenced acts I can listen to. Others being The Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule, ect. Their technical ability is also amazing. Popper is the craziest harmonica player I have ever seen (With the exception of my uncle). On songs like "Crash & Burn" on their fourth release Four
, Popper's playing is so high pitched and fast it can easily be mistaken for a guitar solo. And Kinchla's playing is quite fast. I can even recall him shredding time to time. Hill and Sheehan's fabulous ability have also been shown on "Crash & Burn", through various fills and interludes.
is the band's first album. It is also known as Blues Traveler's greatest album. However, I disagree. It is quite a great album filled with more traditional Blues songs, and more of a strait up recording. But it doesn't compare to some of their more underrated albums, such as Travelers & Thieves
, or maybe even Save his Soul
. The album does contain much more soul in it. Possibly because, at the time the band had less money and fans to please. Therefore they were much more careless. Either way, this is a great album and was surely worth the five dollars I spent on it.
Here's a great opening. Very catchy, and it has a fantastic groove. The groove is mainly supported by the harmonica and the guitar playing. I've noticed a similarity between Blues Traveler and The Grateful Dead. Both band's melodies imitate their grooves. Like shows in this song. The song is quite controlled, but wild enough to keep me interested. Popper's long harmonica solo is quite interesting, the man has great skills. Following Popper's solo, Kinchla's comes in. And with the intro of Chan's I believe a key change occurs, that gives off an nice little change. The lyrics are all sung in unison, but John Popper's voice is definitely easiest to hear. Okay, song nothing that fabulous though. 4/5
"Gina" was the song that first attracted me to this album. His an energetic love song, that is very catchy. Once again, the song is lead by a riff. Which they won't always have, in the future. The bass has a great groove throughout the tracks. And Chan's unorthodox Blues solo, keeps the song unique during mid way through. Popper's vocals lead the song, but are kept kind of simple until about three minutes and thirty seconds. Which is where he breaks out of the simplicity, and unleashes some larger notes. Right after, the band's playing sort of breaksdown and quickly comes back to its original state. I'm sure to most this song wouldn't be that special, but I particularly like it. Good song. 4.7/5
Mulling it Over
This here song switches it up a bit. It includes much more attitude than the previous tracks. And is almost Funk influence. The Funk sound is most likely from Bobby's blaring bass, that also sticks out more so than any of the other tracks. Their is a nice riff Chan plays that mainly leads the song. Popper also shows off more of his fantastic vocal ability. Which I believe he has an amazing amount of. The drumming is pretty good. Brendan Hill has done much better, but his playing fits the music very well, and his fills are timed perfectly. Pretty good song. 4/5
A more beautiful piece. It is rather slow, and Popper uses a more emotional technique while singing. And I believe a mandolin is used throughout the songs, same with a woman vocalist. The song is mainly about hope, the main line "It won't mean a thing in a 100 years", gives that idea off. Soon after the intro, Brendan enters the song with a good message, that is most definitely the back bone of the song. A little while in Popper brings in a harmonica solo, that sounds exactly like a horn. Other than what I listed, there is not much more to the song. 3.5/5
Dropping Some NYC
"Dropping Some NYC" opens with the sound of traffic, and then a fantastic drum beat enters. The crash is hit, and then the band adds in. Popper starts singing right off. Very catchy and clean song. The band is of course from New York City. And Chris Barron (Spin Doctors) adds his vocals to this track. He actually met the rest of The Spin Doctors while staying with Blues Traveler in New York. The song's groove, like the rest of the album, is great. They are very consistent when it comes to that subject. When the song comes to an end after various energetic solos, instrumentally the song ends, but the band continues to sing the chorus while clapping. "Droppin' some NY...C!" is repeated. Good song, definitely one of my favorites off of this album. 5/5
Here is a more rhythmic piece. Great melodies and harmony. The drum beat is once again the back bone of the song, and really gives it a bold vibe, when otherwise it would be quite weak. Kinchla plays a simple chord progression, and Sheehan supports Hill. While Popper sings some lovely notes. This song lacks a good amount of scat in my opinion. I always love to see John Popper through some random scat lines into a song. I guess it's more of a live thing for him. The chorus is not any more exciting than the verse. Which isn't all spectacular excitement wise. Popper does add great solos, and brings the band into some great tempo and key changes. The song runs at ten something minutes, and actually isn't that boring. If Blues Traveler knows anything it's how to jam. So, I am never disappointed with their jam ability. Pretty good. 4.7/5
"Slow Change is quite odd compared to the rest of the album. It occasionally has some very odd timing, and includes very odd tempos and key changes. It begins odd, and then Popper's harmonica takes over the edge. After a while though the four musicians control themselves more though. And luckily Popper does toss in some random scat, which is of course always interesting to hear. The solos featured are very free. They seem to be controlled in no way. And about three quarters of the way in, I believe John switches harmonicas. Or the one he'd be using the whole time is quite long. Therefore enabling him to go from super high to super low. Which he does. Okay song. 3/5
This more traditional Blues number features a great vibe. I believe many put out through Bobby Sheehan's deep bass playing. Popper's voice sounds better on here than any other track on this self titled album. A woman vocalist is present during this track, she adds a nice soothing side to the song. I like the lyrics. They ryme nicely, and are actually written pretty good. There is of course a load of good solos throughout this song. Mainly by Popper. Which is great, but I'd like to hear some from Brendan Hill and Bobby Sheehan. This song is actually pretty good, considering I usually can not stand any form of Traditional Blues. With the common progression, which this number uses. 4/5
Gotta Get Mean
Here's a song lead by an overall fabulous beat. Each note played seems perfectly timed also. The Bobby plays many lines that make their way down the neck, that sound great. Chan's playing is also pretty good. Nothing compared to other stuff he has done, but still pretty good. And Brendan once again remains the back bone of the band, and keeps the songs solid. John's playing is mainly rhythmic, but still has the occasional outburst. This song offers much more than most the previous tracks. Definitely a highlight. 5/5
"Alone" is a much slower tune through part of the song. It is also based upon an acoustic chord progression that Chan made up, that sounds rather nice. Soon enough, Blues Traveler break into a fantastic groove, and a now even better electric chord progression. Popper's vocals are fabulous, and the drumming is much heavier than usual. The song has some great attitude. The two lead players even give up some of the spot light occasionally to the rhythm section. And, I also hear that a 12 stringed guitar solo, which lies inside the song, is played by Popper. If so, he should play guitar more often. This is a good song. And I believe Blues Traveler based the rest of their career more so in this style, opposed to the style they perform in "Gina" or any other similar heavily Blues based song. 5/5
Sweet Talking Hippie
With title that interesting, there is no way this song can be bad! Well, it isn't. The attitude level Popper produces is very good. He adds much to the song just from that. The song is very rhythmic. With then exception of Popper's playing. Which rarely falls to rhythm, and stays lead. The drumming and bass playing flow well together, but do not stand out all that much. Almost mid way through the song the guitar and harmonica start to intertwine; sounds great. The song is also quite a jam. Filled up with various solos revolving round Popper and Kinchla, but each being more unique and different than the next. The rhythm also gets more solid throughout the songs. And the base playing seems to lead the key and tempo changes. Pretty good. 4.5/5
Well, once again this album is pretty good. But there are far better and more underrated album by this fabulous band. 4/5