The Christopher Dean Band are a hard-gigging outfit who work in and around Central New Jersey and ‘What I Need’ is their third long player. My guess is that the album’s contents represent the band’s live work. It’s a great mix of blues and soul and consists of originals and well-chosen covers. Of those covers the most ambitious are takes on David Ruffin’s ‘Walk Away From Love’ and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ ‘The Love I Lost’. Clearly, a small combo working on a tight budget can’t hope to match the production mastery of Van McCoy and Gamble and Huff but they sure have a good go and what the Dean versions lack in polish they more than make up for in gusto and enthusiasm. Equally, Dean is no Ruffin or Pendergrass but he acquits himself well and is ably supported by a tight brass section and well-honed backing vocals.
The album’s other covers are versions of Mel Waiters’ ‘Hole In The Wall’, Omar Cunningham’s ‘Check To Check’, Johnny Rawls’ ‘Lucky Man’, Magic Sam’s ‘All Of Your Love’, Junior Parker’s ‘Mother In Law Blues’, Bo Diddley’s ‘Dearest Darling’ and Nat King Cole’s ‘You Call It Madness’. ‘Hole In The Wall’ is a strong opener with a great Southern soul feel to it, while on ‘All Of Your Love’ and ‘Dearest Darling’ Dean gets to show off his guitar skills and manages to invest both with new shadings. The biggest surprise is the subtlety on ‘You Call It Madness’. The cut finishes the album and till then it’s been a lively, exuberant, in-your-face ride, but here we’re taken to a smoke-filled, late-night 50s jazz lounge… nice.
Given Dean’s penchant for the blues guitar, it’s no surprise that the album’s three originals allow him to show what he can do and ‘What I Need’, ‘I’m Through’ and ‘All She’ll Ever Need’ are all good examples of modern blues-based pop/rock. On them –and indeed throughout – I’m reminded of James Hunter and if that’s the kind of organic, uncluttered soul and blues that you like you’d be well-advised to check out The Christopher Dean Band. Find out more at www.christopherdeanband.com or www.lostworldmusic.com