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The Hollywood Blue Flames (and The Hollywood Fats Band)
2 CD set
Deep in America & Larger Than Life, Vol 2

Delta Groove Productions

Disc 1: 14 songs; 51:35 minutes; Library Quality

Disc 2: 12 songs; 68:35 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Classic styled Chicago Blues, West Coast Jump Blues, & Acoustic Country Blues

Hey Baby Boomers, remember buying a vinyl album to get one particular song, and then falling in love with the entire package? That is undoubtedly rare in these days of single Mp3 file downloads, but I would buy “Deep in America” just to get the live version of the song “Nit Wit” with incredible, blistering guitar intro and mid-song solo by the late Hollywood Fats. At that, I would gain two wonderful CDs of uncompromising classic Blues for the price of one: today’s The Hollywood Blue Flames and the bonus CD of The Hollywood Fats Band recorded live in 1979 and 1980.

The song, “Nit Wit,” about a guy who gets himself “messed up in a house of ill repute,” appears on both Discs. The “Flames” version is newer, shorter (2:13), and more polished with Junior Watson on guitar. The “Hollywood Fats” take from 1979 runs 4:55 minutes and includes extended, break-neck-speed soloing by Mann that is played in rounds featuring monster tone and tight, clever licks. Such playing influenced later work by guitarists like Kid Ramos and The Insomniacs’ Vyasa Dodson.

Michael "Hollywood Fats" Mann is one of the icons and heroes of serious blues guitarists around the world! Given his moniker by Buddy Guy, he was still under appreciated in his own time. Having died too soon at age 32 in 1986, Fats helped define and refine the T-Bone Walker Swing Blues sound into what is now known as the West Coast Blues sound.

Disc one, “Deep In America,” gathers together a collection of recordings by The Hollywood Blue Flames drawn from some newly recorded songs and various studio sessions over the years with previously unreleased material that includes outtakes and alternates.

Disc two, “Larger Than Life, Volume Two,” contains more, rough, vintage live recordings taken from a variety of source materials by the original Hollywood Fats Band, showcasing the amazing talent of Mann and the evolution the band was undergoing before his untimely death. The tapes were forgotten in storage until now when bassist Larry Taylor discovered them in a box while cleaning out his garage. Al Duncan, session drummer for Chess/Checker and VeeJay Records also appears on four Fats’ songs.

“Deep in America” is the continuing story of what happened to the Hollywood Fats Band after his death. The Hollywood Blue Flames began life in 1975 as The Hollywood Fats Band, led by Mann, and featuring one of the best traditional blues line-ups ever – bassist Larry Taylor fresh from Canned Heat, Richard Innes who had recently been with Rod Piazza, Lloyd Glenn protégé Fred Kaplan on piano, and featuring the multi-talented Al Blake on vocals, harmonica, and acoustic guitar. Replacing Fats on lead electric guitar is alternately the stellar Junior Watson and Kirk “Eli” Fletcher. This is their third CD under the name The Hollywood Blue Flames following their 2005 Delta Groove debut “Soul Sanctuary” and 2006’s “Road to Rio.”

Other price-worthy gems: Freddie King’s “Hide Away” interpreted smartly by Hollywood Fats, “Jalopy to Drive” showcasing the Flames’ ability to remake a great Sonny Boy Williamson I song, a moving slow Blues by Blake – “Rambler & A Rollin’ Stone” – with guitarist Junior Watson, “Hushpuppy” - Fred Kaplan solo on piano rocking a tribute to pianist Roosevelt Sykes, group written “My National Enquirer Baby,” Al Blake’s three Acoustic Country Blues numbers, and Fats’ and Blake’s burning cover of Tampa Red’s “She’s Dynamite.”

“Deep In America” stands as a testament to the strength and power of The Hollywood Fats Band which became The Hollywood Blue Flames. Blues purists looking for a bargain should jump on this one; it is a classic leaving the idea of “buy it for one song” only a faint memory!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

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