by RANDALL PARRISH
Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames have a new release on the Delmark Record label titled Slip Into A Dream. The basic group consists of Dave Weld (bandleader, guitars, vocals), Monica Myhre (vocals), Jeff Taylor (drums, vocals), Dave Kaye (bass), and Harry Yaseen (piano). This capable group is strongly supported by uplifting guest appearances from Bobby Rush, Sax Gordon, Greg Guy, and Graham Guest, plus a few others. Slip Into A Dream was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Riverside Studio in Chicago, Illinois.
Dave Weld and Monica Myhre share a synchronicity that works well on their compositional collaborations with a total of six co-writes included on the release. A bona fide meeting of the minds exists between these two forming a soul deep level connection. In addition to the six previously referenced songs, Weld has one solo composition, Myhre contributes four songs, and drummer Jeff Taylor furnishes a most memorable one. The only non-original included on Slip Into A Dream is a cover of “20% Alcohol,” a song by J.B. Hutto, a world renowned Bluesman and also a major figure in Weld’s life.
“Our concept was to go through the process, do the really hard work correctly and honestly, to bring the audience our best effort, our best ideas, our best expression of emotion, in relation to what we see as commonality in human nature. And we just wanted to go in the studio and play our ass off!” ~ Dave Weld
The title track “Slip Into A Dream” bookends the release. The 6 minute 27 second version that opens the album is menacing with conceivably double-entendre lyrics set to a pulsating rhythm. Maybe it’s just me, but the “slip into a dream” context (complete with gentle but urging “ooh wop” background vocals could suggest more. If so, that practice of double-entendre keeps the set centered in the American Delta Blues tradition. If not, it is still one Hell of a good song. The first verses are seductively sung by Dave Weld pending Monica Myhre’s seizing her turn at the lead microphone. Dave and Moncia join together to harmonize on the chorus’ and further verses. Weld’s guitar solo is raw-edged distortion filled bliss and the excellent organ work by Graham Guest casts foreboding shadows. When the song reappears at the end of the CD in its greatly shortened instrumental reprise (I’m not counting the doo wops as vocalization) it is even more darkly menacing in the face of Weld’s guitar tone being cleaner than before while biting like a cobra snake’s fangs. “Slip Into A Dream,” in both approaches, constitutes fine work from the writing team of Weld/Myhre.
The only non-original song contained on Slip Into A Dream is “20% Alcohol,” written and released on J.B. Hutto & his Hawks album Hawk Squat on the Delmark record label. Delmark is a well-respected label based in Chicago since the mid-fifties concentrating primarily on American Jazz and American Blues music. This reverent take of “20% Alcohol” on Slip Into A Dream rivals the gritty original even considering legendary piano man Sunnyland Slim had a key presence on J.B.’s record. The artistic inspiration Dave Weld received from J.B. Hutto cannot be overstated. His years of friendship, the sage advice received, and the astute tutelage on slide guitar and the idiosyncrasies of being a bandleader all live on in Dave Weld’s music. On this tribute rendition the living blues legend Bobby Rush, at nearly 80 years of age, provides inspired blues harp that endows the song with a breathtaking Chicago blues authenticity that is not easy to create; even with the wealth of local talent available in the Windy City. The rhythm section cooks and Dave soars on his traditional guitar slide break (primitive and effective) and his vocal delivery is earthy and muddy as the Mississippi Delta.
A top contender for top album track, the funk-fest “Dorothy Mae” is sooooo fine. The song begins with Jeff Taylor stating “you know that’s funky; check this out….” Taylor’s drums are up front in the mix along with his Boz Scaggs-ish lead vocal (high praise here). Super fine production mix on this track by Steve Wagner adds to its luster and patina. Dave Weld’s guitar lead is economical and stinging, and bassist Dave Kaye is exuberant. Sax Gordon (Gordon Beadle), as usual, is squarely on the R&B/Blues/Soul mark with his saxophone, as are the groovin’ organ fills provided by Graham Guest.
“In loving memory of my mother, Maria Garcia, for that first big push on the stage when I was six, and all her hard work and love.” ~ Monica Myhre
If “Dorothy Mae” is not the top track, then it surely must be Monica Myhre’s “Louise.” It is a great party song with a rock ’n’ roll feel. Monica’s fervent lead vocal is raw as an exposed nerve and Gary Graham’s piano is cooking like Jerry Lee Lewis meets Little Richard. Dave Weld’s slide guitar is throwing off sparks while the Taylor/Kaye rhythm section cements the firm foundation. Hard blowing Sax Gordon answers Weld’s guitar with a scalding hot saxophone outpouring. The “Louise” lyrics reveal a cautionary tale about a cheating man who is gonna break her heart someday. The background singers’ chorus of “who’s that girl” snaps as catchy as a well-baited mousetrap. Roll over Beethoven and give Louise the news; this song is a sure-fire winner.
“Too Bad, So Sad” is another Monica Myhre composition of high quality. She exhibits a spirited sassy vocal lead and proclaims “too bad, so sad, bye bye” to her ex-lover who went far past the domestic violence boundaries by throwing her down the stairs. The song features a frantic guitar duel with Weld fencing with Greg Guy in an aggressive careening clash. Taylor on drums is rollin’ and tumblin’ with bass player Kaye keeping up the frenzied pace behind the guitar quarrel. Greg Guy is the son of the great Buddy Guy. Greg not only facially resembles his father, he has large hands and plays a hard as nails guitar (sometimes a polka dot model) like his dad.
A Myhre/Weld composition titled “Sweet Love (Dulce Amor) utilizes a swinging Chi Town horn section consisting of Hank Ford (tenor sax), Bill McFarland (trombone), and Kenny Anderson (trumpet) to splendid advantage. The guitar work of Dave Weld is nearly “Thrill Is Gone” emotive and the Monica Myhre vocal which blends English with a fair taste of Spanish is doubly sweet. The rhythm section is fine as frogs hair and Graham Guest on piano comes in strong at song’s end.
The drums and bass are in lock-groove-step creating a head boppin’ rough rockin’ rhythm as legendary Bobby Rush adds his iconic mouth harp to Myhre’s “Looking For A Man.” Monica delivers her vocal with an urgency broadcasting that she is in search of a man she can trust. Dave’s old-style licks on slide guitar are dirty as can be.
“Take Me Back” is a Weld/Myhre fast blues shuffle with Weld’s gritty blues vocal rasp and explosive guitar work (Bo Diddley with George Thorogood chainsaw touches dominating). Soaring horn section (Rajiv Halin on tenor sax, Parris Fleming on trumpet, and Bryant Smith on trombone) give the tune a retro Stax Record feel. The song narrative relates a desire to take them back to the better days of the past. Both Dave and Monica keep repeating “take me back” and the lyrics provide keen Chicago imagery such as “back yard party the place to be/old Jay Bird let his dogs run free/funky old blues on Maxwell Street/living easy, parking free.”
Another Weld/Myhre song is “Sweet Rockin’ Soul.” Harry Yaseen pounds his piano and Weld provides some topnotch Johnny Be Good guitar play alongside some of Weld’s finest soul/rock vocals. The gal described in the lyrics has some sweet rockin’ soul, and so does Dave Weld. The refrain of “I Like You” by the background singers fits snugly in this good timey song.
“Walk On Down” slows it down and is a slow jazz/blues number which shows off the talents of the group perfectly. Monica is excellent on her coquettish vocals with a Mae West “come up and see me sometime” alluring vibe. Weld’s guitar work on this track is my favorite work of his on the album and he answers Monica’s request with his guitar talking. The lyrics, despite being simple and direct, are brilliant. Monica again offers her pleas to “walk on down, can’t you hear me” and this time it is the jazzy piano of Harry Yaseen who gives the reply. This one would be a great slow dance number when performed live.
I have a deep respect for all the blues musicians that play the music they love while operating well outside the mainstream. Very few make the crossover to mass recognition; that’s just a fact of life. These hardworking artists must build their following by working night by night in small smoky clubs or, if lucky, show their stuff to crowds in attendance at Blues Festivals.
Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames are known for their musical dedication to primal house-rocking Chicago electric blues. The collection of party atmospheric songs within Slip Into A Dream makes for a solid and complete album. On this record Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames have few discernible missteps. The experienced tight-knit ensemble effectively capture that barrelhouse excitement found in live shows. On Slip Into A Dream Dave Weld and his group demonstrate plenty of power and bluesy clout.
“We fulfill the songs’ potential” ~ Dave Weld
Here is a video of the group performing “Talk Dirty” from a live performance in 2012.
Watch: “Walk On Down”