Solitary Pleasure - James Leg (Alive Naturalsound)
If James Leg's record sounds uncannily like the guy who sings for the Black Diamond Heavies it's because he's John Wesley Myers of that same band. "Solitary Pleasure" dips into common musical paint pots (bluesy keyboards, greasy soul and raucous garage), mixes in a bit more pop and splatters the lot over a wide canvas.
Leg's guttural vocal is at the heart of this music and his trademark Fender Rhodes accompaniment isn't going anywhere soon. He's joined by drummer Andrew Jody (Oxford Cotton, Pearlene, Barrence Whitfield) and the album was recorded in an analogue studio on Tennessee in a converted church (during the dead of winter, if it matters.) The needles stay just out of the red - a departure from the Heavies' "distortion is king" ethos. A few friends augment the sound with occasional bass, horns and backing vocals. Leg plays a lot of bar room piano.
Leg's eight original songs are about messed-up or messy girls, blown dough and the rigours of coming down from the road (so he shares common ground with The Wiggles.) Two covers flesh things out: "Drinking Too Much" is an inspired version of a great song by West Australian band The Kill Devil Hills, but there's a twist in that Leg's keys add a jaunty feel. The chestnut "Fire And Brimstone" gets a reworking that sounds minimalist and more than a little wild-eyed,although the Nomads' version with J Thunders remains the benchmark for me.
"Do How You Wanna" is a heavy blues that belies the minimally-configured line-up behind it. In this instance, blunt-edged guest guitar helps. So yes, Leg can lay on the blues thick, just like he can take a detour into left field with a song like "No Licence (Song For The Caged Bird)", a real curio with a waltz feel, Salvation Army brass and Three Stooges outro.It sounds like he enjoyed the freedom breaking out and working with someone else brought.
"Whatever It Takes" is the reflective pause for breath, the mid-album song where restrained horns and a laid-back feel takes things into an entirely different place. It's also a tune where Leg flips the vocal switch from bullfrog - and it really works well. "Georgia" also lives on the same block, but it's weird to hear Leg reverting to vocal type while he and Andrew Jody sit on a smooth, soulful groove.
"Solitary Pleasure" was mixed by Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit, so that alone should give you some clues. Every vaguely garage-sounding band should get their shit mixed by Jim Diamond.
Ray Manzarek never sounded like this.