BLACK OAK ARKANSAS: The Devil's Jukebox (2023)

Despite his seventy-five years, Mister Jim Dandy Mangrum returns with a new album. Well, if the record is new, its content is much less so because it is an album of covers marked by the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. In 2021, Jim Dandy lost his old mate Ricky Lee Reynolds. The guitarist died just as the recording of this Devil’s Jukebox began. The two accomplices had known each other since middle school and had started their musical adventure together. Jim Dandy also pays tribute to him on the back of the sleeve. Guitarist Tim Rossi has taken over and he knows how to use a six-string. The rest of the musicians performs well and the ensemble remains at a very good level. As for the songs, they are delivered rather well with a very personal style. Note the following covers: “Sympathy for the devil” (by the Rolling Stones) is quite interesting, “All along the watchtower” by Bob Dylan (in the Jimi Hendrix version) aces badly. The magic of the sixties is in the spotlight with “California dreamin’” (The Mamas and the Papas). We will appreciate the “killer” guitar solo on “Rock’n’roll woman” from Buffalo Springfield. The shadow of the great Jimi returns with “Bold as love” and we are treated to a muscular version of Neil Young’s “Southern man” (with an effective six-string). The country-tinged ballad “Goin’ Back” (by composers Gerry Goffin and Carol King) would have deserved a guitar solo. What a pity ! More Buffalo Springfield with a awesome rendition of “Mr Soul” which is embellished with an almost hard rock guitar. As a tribute to his old friend, Jim Dandy offers the ballad “Christmas everywhere” (composed by Ricky Lee Reynolds). Well, it all looks very good, both in terms of the choice of covers and the technique of the musicians. Now, there's just one thing left that might confuse some. The voice ! Jim Dandy Mangrum sings from start to finish with his crow cawing. And what was only a simple one-off effect (and which had become his trademark) became a style of singing in its own right. And that can get boring in the long run. However, his voice must have transformed over time because in recent interviews online, he speaks the same way he sings. Did he damage his voice? Despite this slight defect, this production turns out to be very well made. And then, old Jim Dandy will forever remain an unforgettable phenomenon. After all, he is the David Lee Roth of southern rock (the same David Lee who saw Black Oak Arkansas in his early days at Whiskey A Gogo at the dawn of the seventies and... who must have been really influenced by the unbridled stage performances and the “flashy” outfits of this exuberant southern singer). Of course, Jim Dandy's current singing style may come as a surprise. Yes, we are far from “Jim Dandy (to the rescue)” (appearing on “High on the hog” in 1973) or the sublime version of “Dixie” (on “Street Party” in 1974).
But when a legendary singer releases an album at seventy-five, you shouldn't be too picky because Jim Dandy Mangrum is a survivor of the great era. And for that alone, he deserves respect! Southern rock to the rescue!

Olivier Aubry

Close Window