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The Blue Band Turns Silver: Iowa Outfit Celebrates Anniversary with DVD, CD, and Quad Cities Show PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Wednesday, 13 December 2006 02:43

Bob Dorr & the Blue Band They're not quite in the league with The Who or the Stones, but Bob Dorr & the Blue Band are celebrating their silver anniversary this year. And to mark those 25 years, they've released a retrospective two-DVD set of live performances (produced with the help of Iowa Public Television) and a separate live CD of their 25th-anniversary concert recorded in April.

Both formats showcase a multitude of original songs - most of them not found on earlier Blue Band releases. The DVD set's first disc offers live footage from different configurations of the Blue Band, and it's amazing to see and hear the music and the performances over the years, all the songs mined from a deep repertoire of originals that are memorable after just one listen. (And it's fun to see the hairstyle and dress changes throughout the quarter-century.) Disc two of the DVD set is the visual version of the concert recorded for the CD. The DVD set and the CD are a must for Blue Band fans, and either one is also sure to please anyone interested in hybrid music ("25 years of soul rockin' blues") with a good beat.

Both will be available at this weekend's Mississippi Valley Blues Society holiday party, featuring a performance by Bob Dorr & the Blue Band. The event is open to the public and will be held on Saturday, December 16, at Creekside Bar & Grill (3303 Brady Street in Davenport). Admission is $5 for blues-society members and $10 for the general public. If you can't make the party, the merchandise is also for sale at the band's Web site (

Originally called "Bobby's Blue Band" (an obvious tongue-in-cheek play on blues icon Bobby "Blue" Bland), the Blue Band in 1984 headlined the very first Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Currently a five-piece group performing original and cover blues, soul, rockabilly, and R&B tunes, the band includes founding members Dorr (bandleader, lead vocalist, and percussionist) and Jeff Petersen on his 1968 Gibson Flying V guitar, lap steel guitar, and vocals. This year Dorr was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, and Petersen into the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Hall of Fame.

Iowa blues and jazz hall-of-famer Sam Salomone - on Hammond organ, organ bass, and vocals - has been on all Blue Band recordings since 1996, touring full-time with the group since January 2002. Saxman Nathan Peoples is the most recent member of the band; occasionally he's joined by saxophonist Heath Alan. Rounding out the sound and pounding out the rhythms is "The Chief": legendary Iowa City drummer Steve Hayes, who's recorded with Bo Ramsey and the Mother Blues Band.

Produced by Iowa Public Television's Jerry Grady, the 25 Years of the Blue Band DVD package features performance footage from 1981 through 2006. Disc one features 25 cuts, including a collage of versions of the funky "Good Legs," seamlessly edited so that you never know which year you're viewing (1988, '89, '90, '98, or 2001).

Other notable numbers include a few songs from the Blue Band's many Iowa State Fair appearances, where the band really plays off the crowd's energy: "Too Close to the Fire," "Arc Welded," and "Don't Sting, Bite, or Bug Me." A hand-held video recorder captured the band at the Crow's Nest in Iowa City in 1981 for "Simulation Stimulation," with the results visually grainy yet acoustically okay, given the circumstances. The sound quality on the first disc is consistently good, a feat considering the various venues and the process involved in transferring videotape to DVD.

Wearing his TV/radio announcer hat, Dorr occasionally shows up as a narrative guide on disc one by introducing the songs and venues. His insight is welcome, such as when he points out the lack of professional acting training he and Molly Nova had for the music video of "Too Many Cold Nights," a class project produced and shot by University of Iowa student Jon Soliday in 1986.

Another interesting inclusion is the "Living in Iowa Spotlight" segment that features live clips of the band as well as an interview with Dorr and archival photos from the band's history. This 2002 broadcast would have made a great opening for the first disc, as it shows Bob trying to explain the Blue Band's eclectic sound and its ongoing appeal to listeners in Iowa. That's followed by two numbers from 2002 that showcase the Blue Band's later horn-driven sound: "The Richest Man on Lonely Street," with the tight horn section of Alan and Gary King, and featuring guitarist Bryce Janey with Petersen on lap steel guitar; and "Back to Me," with horn riffs reminiscent of Van Morrison.

Disc one ends with a handful of performances from the Blue Band's 25th-anniversary show recorded for Iowa Public Television on April 22. Disc two is the complete 56-minute concert, and there are nothing but keepers here. Despite the lack of an energetic and dancing audience (the viewers were sitting in chairs in the studio), Bob Dorr & the Blue Band manage to ignite the atmosphere with the funky blues of "3 A.M. Backdoor Lady"; the infectious "Dance Dance Dance" (note how the band members kneel for a rave-up!); the Richard Thompson-like rock of "She's Got the Mojo & the Say So"; "Let Me Be Your Fire" with Peoples' incredible sax solo; and "Santa's Got a Lot on His Mind," where John Lee Hooker meets the James Brown horns.

The package itself is user-friendly. Graphics list the title and year of performance at the beginning of each song, and liner notes list all the performances in order. And you can easily access individual songs on both discs. All that's missing is a commentary track!

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