Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2: Mother Superior, "Deep"

Artist: Mother Superior
Album: Deep
Year: 1998
Label: Top Beat

Fusing together the energy of rock and roll with the sound and style of the blues is one of the most basic of all the musical genres. However, though countless attempt the combination, very few do it well. Most bands who try to blend the styles usually end up just copying their influences, or simply not bringing enough soul to the sound.Avoiding both of these pitfalls and presenting some of the greatest blues-based rock ever recorded were the Los Angeles, CA trio, Mother Superior. Having worked with everyone from George Clinton to Iggy Pop to Emmylou Harris, the band remains one of most well respected, best kept secrets in recent music history. After hearing just a few notes of the music, one quickly realizes how amazing and pure a sound one finds in their music. Rising out of the L.A. club scene, the band has recorded ten amazing albums over the past fifteen years. While their self-recorded demo, Right In A Row, is absolutely fantastic (and tough to find), it is their sensational 1998 album, Deep, that stands as their crowning musical achievement.

The appeal of the sound of Mother Superior truly runs the gamut, with their raw, honest sound pleasing music purists, and their edgy, catchy songs satisfying the more casual, or hip music fans. One of the most notable aspects to Deep is that is was produced by Henry Rollins. During the recording process, Rollins was so impressed with the band that he eventually used the band as his own backing musicians. Deep is far heavier in sound than their previous recordings, and this is most due to Rollins' influence on the record. With breakneck paced songs like the title track, which is a far more musical version of speed-metal and punk, Mother Superior is clearly in their finest musical hour of their career. The crushing "start/stop" of "Superman," which is also filled with brilliant solos is one of the greatest, most devastating blues-rock songs ever performed. The album also showcases the bands' talents in "jamming" out certain sections of their music more than their other records, and this gives Deep a far more "live" mood. This is perhaps no more apparent than on the dazzling, meandering track, "I Saw The Sun," where the mood moves from a slow, ballad-like song, into a furious explosion of devastating blues exploration and soloing. Throughout Deep, the listener is treated to everything that makes Mother Superior such a brilliant band, and each track on the album is nothing short of perfect.

Mother Superior flawlessly blend deep, soulful blues with the high octane, classic sound of the greatest rock bands that ever lived. Creating an often stunning amount of sound for just three musicians, each band member is absolutely scorching throughout all of Deep. Jim Wilson is easily one of the most underrated guitarists of all time. Pulling as much influence from Stevie Ray Vaughn as he does from Toni Iommi, he sound is simultaneously beautiful and pulverizing. Drummer Jason MacKenroth navigates each song brilliantly, flowing perfectly through the various mid-song tempo changes. Much like Wilson, he is able to draw upon a myriad of musical influences, and his drumming finds the middle-ground between sheer power and technical mastery. Rounding out the band is bassist Marcus Blake, who like his bandmates, has rarely sounded as superb as he does on Deep. Finding, forming, and following some of the funkiest grooves possible, Blake's basswork is truly the backbone of Mother Superior's phenomenal sound. It is this importance placed on having a solid groove that further sets the band apart from their peers, making their blues-rock sound far more soulful than their contemporaries and making Deep a truly mind-blowing album.

Mother Superior takes a very simple, straightforward lyrical approach, with minimal backing vocals on Deep. Handling lead vocal duties along with his phenomenal guitar talents, Jim Wilson also possesses what is perhaps the quintessential rock and roll voice. Bringing a wide octave range, and just enough grit to make his voice have the "edginess" that makes blues-rock so great, Wilson's voice is largely unparalleled amongst his contemporaries. There are many times when Wilson is singing with so much power and emotion that his voice truly becomes another instrument in the band, and this is another aspect that makes the music of Mother Superior so unique. Whether belting out powerful lyrical lines or singing slowly and softly, all of the vocals on the album are truly flawless. Wilson also sings with a great amount of soul, and it gives the songs on Deep a far more authentic, and often times almost "southern" mood. The songs themselves are varied in theme, with songs like "D.T.M.M.Y.F.G.?" coming off as one of the greatest "bar rock" songs ever written. Deep also features more typical songs of love, and the frustrations found therein, such as those found on "Superman." Topping off the sensational music with the excellent vocal work of Jim Wilson makes the music found on Deep a truly amazing musical experience time after time.

Though they remain relatively unknown, Mother Superior remain one of the best blues-rock bands in the world, and the artists they've worked with serve as a testament to their talent. With each member of the band clearly giving all they have to the album, along with the masterful production of Henry Rollins, Deep is a brilliant concoction of heavy, blues rock, with and gritty, intense overtone. Staying true to their love of the classic sound of rock and roll, and perfectly blending it with a deep, bluesy mood, Mother Superior rises high above their peers, as their music is nothing short of hard-rock bliss. The band uses the album to prove that, not only are they some of the most accomplished musicians on the planet, but they show that there is still much that can be explored within the hard rock genre. The "jam" sections found throughout are phenomenal, as it is clear that the band feels relaxed enough to explore every nuance of the songs, and the results are exceptional. Every song on Deep is outstanding, and their foot-stomping sound brings the uncontrollable urge to "rock out" to fans of nearly every musical genre. Simply put, Mother Superior are a truly extraordinary band, and the blues-laden hard rock they play is perfected on their electrifying 1998 album, Deep.

Standout tracks: "D.T.M.M.Y.F.G.?" "Superman," and "I Saw The Sun."

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