Lenny Williams’ new CD, Still in the Game, is a testament to his staying power. The 12-track album has a little something for everyone, from contemporary R&B to smooth jazz to down home blues. Actually, Still in the Game evolves from contemporary to old school, but still in a contemporary package, musically speaking. As with many independent albums released by legendary R&B artists, on Still in the Game the keyboard is used to replace horn arrangements, and all too often the drum program can take away from both the song and the artist. Those flaws aside, the album does grow on you as it progresses.
A hip hootenanny from vibist Terry Gibbs – hardly the folksy set you might guess from the title, and instead a lively batch of small combo tunes that grooves better than most of Gibbs' work from the 60s! Most tracks are of traditional origin – folk tunes, if you will – but the jazz inflections of the group quickly takes them bast their roots, using the core melodies mostly as a framework for improvisation – featuring great vibes from Gibbs, plus tenor and flute from Al Epstein, guitar from Jimmy Raney, and piano from Alicir McLeod. Terry's vibes are nice and bold, and titles include "Michael", "Joshua", "John Henry", "Greensleeves", "Tom Dooley", and "Sam Hall".
Robin Trower's first rock, as opposed to blues, studio album in five years, returns the guitarist to the fluid, Hendrix-infused trio sound of his salad days. While the songwriting isn't quite up to the quality of his '70s work, Trower's snaky, echoed, languid guitar and his powerful duo's sympathetic backing make this a welcome addition to his extensive catalog. While the smooth, soulful whisky-soaked vocals of original singer Jimmy Dewer are sorely missed (Trower, who handles some of the singing here is at best adequate), the songs still shimmer with the uniquely silvery quality fans have come to expect from the guitarist.