Graded on a Curve: The Ronnie Wood Band, Mr. Luck, a Tribute to Jimmy Reed & John Lodge, The Royal Affair and After

Two recent live releases from Ronnie Wood and John Lodge stepping out from their main gig are well worth checking out.

Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones returns with the second of three live tribute albums. This one is, Mr. Luck, The Ronnie Wood Band, a Tribute to Jimmy Reed Live at The Royal Albert Hall. The first tribute album of the trilogy was Ronnie Wood with his Wild Five Mad Lad A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry, from 2019. The third in the series has not been announced just yet.

While the previous tribute was available as a single CD, vinyl disc release or CD/vinyl box, this new one is available as a CD or a double-album vinyl set on limited edition blue smoke-effect vinyl. The previous release featured guest vocalist Imelda May and the vinyl and CD/vinyl box are both out of print. This release features Mick Taylor on guitar, along with Paul Weller, Mick Hucknall, Bobby Womack, and Tommy Hare, and was recorded in 2013.

The Mississippi blues guitarist was born in 1925 and passed away in 1976, living long enough to see the enormous influence he had on the electric blues guitar bands from the UK that sprouted up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Some of the Reed songs covered here were staples of the set lists of British R&B bands—“Ain’t That Loving You Baby;” “Honest I Do;” “Shame, Shame, Shame;” “Big Boss Man;” and “Bright Lights, Big City”—and Wood and his band clearly love playing these songs.

It’s so great to hear Wood paying tribute to these blues and rock n roll pioneers. Wood is one of British rock’s most beloved figures, whose guitar style is all feel and instinct. He never plays fancy, shows off or hides his pure joy in getting on stage and playing music. If it’s possible, this release is even better than the Berry tribute.

John Lodge from the Moody Blues has come up with his first live album and it’s a winner. There are nine songs here from the Moody Blues and one from Lodge’s time as part of the duo the Blue Jays, the group he was in with fellow Moody Blues member Justin Hayward. The Blue Jays released two studio albums.

These performances are taken from two different solo tours in 2019—the “Royal Affair Tour” and “Performs Classic Moody Blues” tour. When an artist takes classic studio tracks and performs them live, it can be tricky. When the artist tackles such tracks without the aid of his other bandmates, it’s even more of a challenge. The key is to remain faithful to the originals, but freshen them up just enough to avoid simply making carbon copies of them.

Fortunately, Lodge finds just the right balance on this release. He is backed by a crack band that, through the use of judicious keyboards, along with cellos, among other instruments, fleshes out the symphonic side of the music of the Moody Blues albums in a subtle and sparse way. Lodge is joined on two Moody Blues classics—“Nights in White Satin” and “Ride My See-Saw”—by Jon Anderson of Yes. Even better, he is joined by Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge on “Late Lament.”

It’s wonderful how Lodge takes some of the Moody Blues songs that were written and/or sung by other members of the band (“Legend of a Mind,” written by Ray Thomas; “Late Lament,” written by Graeme Edge; “Nights in White Satin,” written by Justin Hayward; “Sunset,” written by Mike Pinder) and remains honest to the original and gives the songs his own take, all while paying tribute to his esteemed mates, particularly Thomas, who died in 2018, and Edge who died in November of 2021.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Moody Blues, as Hayward had some medical issues in 2019 but seems to have bounced back and is currently on tour as a solo act.

The Ronnie Wood Band, Mr. Luck, The Ronnie Wood Band, a Tribute to Jimmy Reed Live at The Royal Albert Hall
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John Lodge, The Royal Affair and After
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