With their recent release “Under the Influence,” Vancouver-based The Mojo Stars have ended a seven-year recording hiatus that saw them add color to their sound with B3 and saxophone players. As terrific as their previous release, “Devil’s Advocate,” was, the added instrumentation takes their sound to a welcome new level.
“Under the Influence” includes eleven tracks, six of which were recorded live during a performance in New Westminster, BC. The group’s performances are equally energetic whether live or in the studio. The record opens with the bluesy, pulsating title track, laying down a terrific groove that really shines when paired with guitar solo and B3. “Why Can’t I Be True” provides a surprise to the listener by veering into the realm of country blues, while “No Use in Crying,” the first live track, provides a slow and soulful counterpoint featuring great sax lines and terrific sung harmonies.
“26 Banks” is a highlight on the album for me – a clever shuffle of a tune that tells the tale of a bank robber who really should give up the criminal lifestyle but is completely unwilling to do so. Once again, the saxophone and B3 find multiple opportunities to shine, as do the group’s other instrumentalists. (Clocking in at just over six minutes, the entire band has ample time to strut their stuff in this track – and they do, to great effect.)
“Stay a Little Longer” steps into 1960s-era soul sounds with its delightful, horn-based riffs, while “I Ain’t Feeling as Good as I Look” is a danceable, wry nod to all of us who find ourselves on the wrong side of cool sometimes.
For me, this album has been a delightful introduction to The Mojo Stars’ sound. If you enjoy the blues and want an album that will have your toes tapping (safely, of course, if you’re driving!), well played and performed, you should by all means give “Under the Influence” a listen. The live tracks in particular provide a tantalizing taste of what the opportunity to hear the band in concert must be like – I can only hope that they’ll venture east at some point, so we can have the chance to experience them live for ourselves.