Can’t Stop The Rain



It’s 1972 all over again.

I’ve been on a Manassas kick. Happens every once in a while, I need to hear “Johnny’s Garden,” but this time I started at the top of the double album and as the tracks were playing it occurred to me if this was released today people’s minds would be blown, they’d be testifying, the band would be the hippest and most credible in the land. Instead Stephen Stills is nearly a pariah, it’s got something to do with “arrogance,” even though the Manassas album is really just a part of the CSN continuum, it’s just that damn good.

So I just got an e-mail about this new Neal Francis track, as you will remember I testified about him not long ago:

So, I pull it up on Spotify and at first it’s good, but not special, and then Derek Trucks STARTS TO WAIL! And then after one time through, I had to play it again, and again.

This is not music made for the hit parade. This is not music made for you to scroll your smartphone to. This is the type of music that infects you and makes you move your feet, it’s high energy without pandering, it’s all about the music and not the trappings.

Somehow Neal Francis has amalgamated all the elements to create music that’s just one step higher than his competitors, the acts on the jam band circuit who can all play but don’t entice you with their material. It’s not like he’s the best singer, nor the best player, but you put it all together, with the arrangement, and you GET IT! If you want to know what it was like going to college in the early seventies, THIS IS IT!

Music was our release. There were no video games, never mind no internet. When you wanted to cut loose, you dropped the needle on a record, turned it up and squeezed out the rest of the world, the noise that was holding you back, you felt you could make it through.

And once the formula became obvious corporate rock came along and killed it. Then again, Francis is closer to southern rock and…Leon Russell. It’s hard to listen to Francis’s music without thinking about the Master of Space & Time, who’d been around forever, even written hit songs, never mind hit licks, but once the public got a taste of him on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour it was all over, Leon even eclipsed Joe Cocker, the man he was lending his skills to as a supporting musician. And like Francis, Russell didn’t have the best voice, he wasn’t the best player, but when he took all his influences and distilled them into a whole, a cut, the end result was magic, you might not be able to describe it but you could certainly feel it, it was irresistible!

So at first I thought the sound was too trebly, too upper register, but then I switched to Apple Lossless and “Can’t Stop the Rain” sounded so much richer, so much better!

Now most of today’s tracks you hear once and you get them, but not “Can’t Stop the Rain,” every time through more is revealed, and the more that penetrates the more you’re drawn in, the more you like it, the more you’ve got to play it.

Derek Trucks has been a phenom since joining the Allman Brothers. But at first he was playing in that classic act, and since then there hasn’t been a specific new cut that he shines on, that is irresistible, but on “Can’t Stop the Rain” he shines like Duane, coming in from the hinterlands to push Eric Clapton’s Dominos over the top, don’t forget it’s Allman that plays the lick in “Layla.”

Not that guitarists mean anything in today’s pop world, and it’s hard to believe they will in a world where music is made on computers in bedrooms. “Can’t Stop the Rain” is the antithesis of this, it’s a band, firing on all cylinders, turning into an unstoppable speeding lorry. If you’re a young ‘un and you hear Derek wail here you won’t be able to ignore it, he’s so tasteful, yet with an edge, his guitar is incisive, like being pricked with a pin over and over again, but in this case the pinpricks FEEL SO GOOD!

Proving once again you can’t make hits on paper. No computer can do this. It takes human beings to conceive of music like this and lay it down. It’s about a vision, it’s not about building brick by brick, but turning on the amplifiers and wailing, having fun. And no Fortune 500 company will want to sponsor Neal Francis, but he doesn’t need one, if he’s half as good as this live his rep will grow… Maybe he needs to tour on a double bill with Tedeschi Trucks so Derek can sit in, maybe the two acts could even combine and be a modern day Mad Dogs & Englishmen, bringing that elusive magic back. I’m really feeling it now, I don’t want to stop playing the track, I don’t want my mood to evaporate, I just want to stay in the cocoon of this concoction of blues, soul and rock and roll…THE ROOTS NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE!

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