No Reservations – Review by Mark Doherty

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Mark Doherty – Rhythms Magazine June 2002:


I was a big fan of The Bellhops’ first album Room Service, which appeared a coupla years ago, so I was well and truly ready for another shot, and No Reservations delivers big time. This Sydney sextet deliver jumpin’ R&B with its roots in the music of Louis Jordan and Roy Milton, represented here by covers of ‘Boogie in The Barnyard’ and ‘RM Blues’, but they’re willing to steal from all eras, as well as writing more than a few themselves. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Ian Dittman accounts for four numbers and is the more serious of the band’s two songsmiths. Lead/slide guitarist John Russell has a nasty, not to say grubby sense of wit, and unleashes it on seven tracks, including the lascivious ‘Hard For Me’, ‘Rise And Shine’ and ‘Curiosity’. No, I can’t say more, you’ll just have to hear the CD.
Russell is not a traditionalist, and his tasty guitar work is rooted more in the later decades of last century. This has the effect of broadening the band’s appeal – something for everyone…well, almost everyone. Since the last album, singer/harmonica player Steve Trew has been replaced by baritone sax Ed Schots. He combines with tenor/soprano sax man Steve O’Connell for some seriously bootin’ section work.

The horns are fattened for this recording by the inclusion of Mark Diamond (alto) and Ralph White (trumpet, trombone). Ace keyboard man Don Hopkins is also on hand, and the incomparable Ron King adds superlative harmonica to three tracks, including chromatic harp on the jazzy ‘Trouble Again’. The session was recorded and mixed by the magical Jeff Cripps. The Bellhops cover plenty of bases, including Nawlins R&B and mock-flamenco, but mostly they are about energetic, well-played, good-time blues and R&B. I can’t think of anyone who does it better.

Mark Doherty – Rhythms Magazine.