Raoul and the Big Time

Raoul and the Big Time
Hollywood Boulevard

Big Time Records

By Lady K.
October 2014

Raoul Bhaneja (harp, vocalist and songwriter) and the Big Time (Darren Gallen, guitar; Terry Wilkens, stand-up bass; Tom Bona, drums) are out of Toronto, but for Hollywood Blvd Raoul included an additional, large, unofficial band of big names, mostly from the West Coast. That ‘other’ band includes: harp - Curtis Salgado; guitars - Rick Holmstrom, Rusty Zinn, Junior Watson, and Frank Goldwasser; bass - Jeff Turmes and Larry Taylor; drums - Stephen Hodges, Richard Innes, and Mark Mariash; saxophones - Pat Carey and Alison Young; trumpet - Jake Wilkinson; accordion - Johnny Sansone; piano - Tyler Yarema; violin - John Showman; and backup vocals - Donny Gerrard.

Full of variety, there’s just nothing not to like about Hollywood Blvd. It’s mostly original tunes by Bhaneja, with just a few covers. “Someday” by J. Green is a slow, sad love song, with a warning: “Someday you’re gonna miss me, someday you’re gonna cry / someday you’ll see, when I say goodbye.” Allen Toussaint’s“Get Out of My Life, Woman” is a great cover – Lady K loves this version; it’s bluesy, soulful, funky and sexy. “Why Am I Treated So Bad” is a terrific rendition of the Staples Singers’ tune, and Holmstrom’s guitar ‘sings’ lead during instrumental sections.

One of Lady K’s favorites is the traditional blues tune “In the Shadow of the Pine.” In addition to Bhaneja’s vocals, there is Sansone’s accordion, Showman’s violin and Wilkins’ stand-up bass. This track is not for dancing - just listen.

Bhaneja wrote “Nothin’ Gonna Take Me Down,” which is a super funky tune with even funkier guitar. Aiming for a better life: “Now my time has come and a hard time to survive, but my children gonna eat, my wife ain’t gonna cry / No matter what troubles this world has for me, you can take me to the next world before you’ll hear me cry mercy.” The name of this tune is also the chorus, which Bhaneja repeats continuously (and softly) during instrumental interludes. It’s cool.

The title track, “Hollywood Boulevard,” has a bit of a Latin beat (salsa or cha-cha time?) It’s a funky instrumental with lots of piano / harp duets. “High Roller” is a mid-tempo blues rocker – AKA “time to get down and boogie” music. Living big doesn’t pay: “My hands are dirty / My wife done left me, told the kids that I’m dead / Bank says I’m a debtor, my credit all gone bad / Fortune’s smilin’ upside down / I’m a high roller with a frown.”

Another Lady K favorite is the instrumental “Amphetamine.” It’s an apt name for this up-up-tempo track with absolutely insane harmonica throughout – talk about high-energy – Bhaneja must blow out a harmonica every time he plays it. Lady K supposes that when he does this number at a live show, it’s just before what is undoubtedly a much-needed break.

Another incredible instrumental is “Left Coast Fred,” an up-tempo tune, with some swing – just perfect for swing-dancers. Junior Watson’s guitar is a perfect blend with Kaplan’s keyboards – and Taylor’s stand-up bass

“Tired” is yummy - slow, with a lonely feeling. The up-tempo “Spoken For” has a lovely piano intro, and it’s all about Carolyn from Memphis. “She’s a tall drink of water with long blonde beautiful hair / When she walks down Beale Street All the men shout her name / There’s a line-up of men standing outside her door, she don’t pay them no mind / She just pass by and say hello / She loves her man, she’s spoken for.”

“Curtis Charm” is a slow instrumental and my favorite track. It’s beautiful with both Raoul AND Curtis Salgado playing harps. Lady K is fond of saying the only thing better than two great guitars in a tune is three. Same can be said for multiple harps – the more the betterer.

Hollywood Boulevard is definitely a keeper!

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