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CD REVIEW: Rick McCracken - Smoking Medicine Show
By Cyrus Rhodes - 05/11/2012 - 03:40 PM EDT

Artist: Rick McCracken
Album: Smoking Medicine Show
Label: Ryder Roo Records
Genre: Americana rock
Sounds Like: Wild Cherry, Paul McCartney and Wings, Steel Wheels, Elvis Costello, Blues Brothers
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: One Taste is too Many, If you Please, Slow Motion Nose Dive
Weakness: Dated Sound, Winded Songs, Marketability
CD Review: San Francisco based Rick McCracken releases his latest CD entitled:  Smoking Medicine Show released in 2012. McCracken is no stranger to the Music Business having played for years around the Bay area with bands like Elvin Bishop, Mickey Thomas and Jo Baker. Now McCracken has released his first solo recording Ryder Roo records)

The CD kicks things off with “Psychedelic Sock Hop” an upbeat intro piece that serves up classic Psychedelic rock groove against slamming R&B guitar and driving rock rhythm. Track 2 “Female Razor” shifts gears with its smooth as slik flowing rhythm, heartfelt vocals and thought provoking lyrical content from McCracken. Track 3 “Now Nothing” is a sizzling melody that dishes out impressive Saloon style piano, well placed saxophone and horn accents that peaks and valleys it’s way through to emotional fruition. As this CD slowly unfolds I can hear many different musical soundscapes reminiscent of such classic acts like Wild Cherry, Paul McCartney and Wings, Steel Wheels, Lyle Lovitt, Elvis Costello, Blues Brothers and even Delbert McLinton.The music itself is an impressive blend of Classic rock, Psychadelic Rock and R&B-Americana. You definitely get an unmistakable guitar driven Psychadelic Rock vibe from the catalouge which all the Flower Children will die for. I get the impression McCracken and company are having a lot of fun just letting it all hang out with these songs. He’s definitely one of those guys that’s a whole lot of fun to listen to. The musicianship from McCracken and company is equally as impressive. I might add his vocal abilities hold their own pretty good with an impressive vibrato and passionate baritone delivery. You will notice lush layers of instrumentation layered everywhere, from impressive solo guitar licks, amazing harmonies, piano, impressive Hammond Organ chops, Keyboards, slamming Saloon style Piano, Horn Sections, Saxophone and a thick low end rhythm scion. But the most impressive thing about this release besides the amazing 10 song line up is the feel good groove and musical personality you from Rick McCracken. The CD and music is very likable and carefree – very much like the artist himself. It's fari to say McCracken knows how to write a great song. From heartfelt “If You Please” and Slow Motion Nose Dive” to slamming One Taste Is Too Many” to rocking “It’s Her Money” and melodic “The Ballad of the West Coast Sheiks this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Almost Home” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

Perhaps McCracken needs to modernize his sound just a tad. It’s fair to say this catalogue sounds a bit dated with musical overtones popular over 30 years ago. I willa dd this could be done without compromising the Psychedelic Rock foundation. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Not crazy about the multi song line up and I’m still trying to wrap my head Track 6. I fully realize this is a subjective art form but many of the aforementioned issues do affect the CD’s marketability.  

From start to finish Smoking Medicine Show from Rick McCracken is a barnburner of a release. The music is consistent, uplifting, and extremely fun and entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really a weak piece of music on this entire CD. The writing and playing abilities of Rick McCracken and his band are rock solid. Last but not least Rick McCracken is a masterful guitarist and songwriter. He's one artist that’s not afraid to just let it all hang out musically, and that's what world class artists do the best. 

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