Back In 20 Gary U.S. Bonds
CD Review by Ray D'Ariano
/ 10/2005

Track listing
1. Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks 2. Murder In The First Degree
3. Take Me Back 4. She Just Wants To Dance 5. Fannie Mae 6. Bitch/Dumb Ass
7. I've Got Dreams To Remember 8. Nothing But Blue 9. She Chose To Be My Lady
10. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late 11. Every Time I Roll The Dice 12. Don't Do It Here

Label: M.C. Records / Release Date: June 1, 2004

It's always a thing to behold when the worlds' greatest rock and roll band roll into The Garden. It's as if the venue and The Stones were made for each other. It could be a 14-degree December night outside, but when Mick and the lads are center stage it's as hot as a muggy night in Gainesville. And so there they were mid-concert and Jagger slurs, "Ai'd like to change me trousers, bit moist from all the runnin' about, not noice, is it? So Ai'd like to bring out a good friend of ours to do a number, Gary U.S. Bonds!"

Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts kick it off and, as Mick dances away stage left, Gary walks tall toward the mike passing Keith who smiles that smile, and strums his guitar simultaneously. With a funky Bayou beat boiling, Gary nods to the grinning Woody and sings, "She got a roof that don't leak&&." and wham, bam, they are off!! It's Gary and The Stones, a match made in the Memphis section of heaven.

"Every Time I Roll The Dice," a funky delta groove, drips over the 20,000 standing, dancing fans. Bonds, Bobby Keys and the horn section, the back up singers and The Stones kick this "nasty round the edges" blues rocker through the round roof. It's a twenty-first century version of "Honky Tonk Woman" meets "Let It Bleed" interpreted by a cat who was innovating before the Stones were a band all those years ago. Then before the purists in the crowd can remember just which Stones album this gem comes from it's over and the crowd roars their delight and approval. Moved by they're overwhelming response Bonds pounds his hand on his chest and nods toward the balcony. Then the smiling Richards and Wood surround and hug him. Wearing fresh trousers Jagger returns to center stage to say, "Gary US Bonds." The crowd roars again, Gary bows, waves his right arm in the air, runs over for a quick hand shake with Charlie Watts and is off stage as The Stones kick into "It' Only Rock And Roll."

That was the scene in my head when I heard "Every Time I Roll The Dice," not from a Stones LP, but from Bonds' CD, "Back In Twenty." That was my rock fantasy and I'm sharing it with you in an attempt to convey in words what that song sounds like. I trust you get the picture and there's more good news, it's only one of a dozen must be heard tunes on this CD. It comes in at track 11. Now I don't know how they arrived at the sequencing, but back in the day we used to arrange songs in descending order. In other words the tune we thought was the best was the first cut, and down the line to the last song. This killer, "Every Time I Roll The Dice" comes in at 11. Could the songs that precede it be better?

Fact is, some really are and the rest are equal!

So Mick, Charlie, Keith, Woody, and Bobby aren't really on this CD. Gary is backed up by his own brilliant band The Roadhouse Rockers. There are guest stars here however; Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Phoebe Snow, and the great Dickey Betts. They all turn in great performances, but when you take in the whole CD you realize that those friends are just the opening act and when they leave it's star time.

In fact when you get to track 7, "I've Got Dreams To Remember" bring a lunch because before you move onto the next cut you're gonna wanna hear this one at least a half-dozen times. Otis Redding wrote it and this is the kind of record Atlantic and Stax/Volt used to make in the 60's. It's a genre you don't hear much anymore called soul music. Gary squeezes every drop of emotion from it. The man's soul and pain sweats from every pore of his body with a performance on the level of Mr. Redding's "These Arms Of Mine," and "I've Been Loving You Too Long." This is a cut that I'm sure has Joe Tex looking' down, smiling. It's a performance so pure that Solomon Burke has to be wondering why it isn't on his CD. This is Percy Sledge, Al Green, Sam and Dave all rolled into one. You know what? That's not true. In fact, this is Gary US Bonds! If the CD just contained this song 12 times in a row it would be brilliant.

I could write a lot more. But I'd rather listen to the CD so here's a quick rundown of some other highlights:

"Murder In The First Degree" Question, how could a song that contains the line, "I call my baby murder 'cause she's always killin' me" be anything less than sensational?

"Take Me Back" With Southside on harmonica we get the story of a man in trouble. Although not the same tune, it's a new variation on a theme by Little Anthony and The Imperials . . . excellent production.

"She Just Wants To Dance" with Dickey Betts on guitar and a piano reminisant of Billy Powell from Lynyrd Skynyrd in the middle. This little girl returns and she just wants to dance.

In addition you get "Fannie Mae," a classic tune from a classic artist and an excellent appearance from Southside . . . you get Dickie Betts and Phoebe Snow joining the man on "Bitch/Dumb Ass," a soulful salute to Otis and Carla, Ray Charles and Betty Carter that contains the line, "He thinks he's a stallion , but he ain't no Stallone&"Too Much, Too Little, Too Late"&ain't the Johnny Mathis tune, but rather a tribute to San Cooke. This has a very smooth vocal from Gary proving he could have had a hit back then with "Cupid." The question is, could Sam have had a hit with "Quarter To Three?"

There's so much more, but before we check out, a look at the opening cut is in order. "Can't Teach A New Dog Old Tricks" . . . Springsteen and Southside join the man in a kick-ass opening that sounds like an outtake from Bruce's second album. The thing is, Gary and Laurie Anderson wrote it, not Bruce! Here Mr. Bonds throws down the theme of the entire CD&he's done it all. Maybe his career didn't follow the same path as Paul Anka, Cher or Tom Jones, but he was there. He was out in the pits with all of 'em; on the bus with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars; at Murray The K and Alan Freed Holiday spectaculars; hanging out with "This Little Girl" at The Stone Pony, but the important thing is it's 2005. This old dog may not learn new tricks, but he's still howlin'!

This is a wonderful blues/soul/rock and roll CD. It's a rarity, a gem that anyone interested in rock and roll has to hear many times.

Note to Gary: Don't take so long to come back next time.