When I heard…

Jonny Blu was cutting a ukulele album, I have to admit I figured it for probably a very fun, but lightweight release … more of an EP with maybe half a dozen numbers heavier on schtick than production value.

I was on the money regarding the fun, but could not have been more off base on the production quality of The Ukulele Experience, Vol. One. Jonny delivered a serious LP with this Dao Feng Music release.

Not serious in the academic sense — like say, a flight of Mozart’s best ukulele concertos — but serious from the standpoint that this is a supremely polished and well conceived LP release.

Jonny does a “seriously” good job creatively re-envisioning and arranging a wildly diverse set of songs for (wait for it) … yup, the ukulele.

Now if someone had just warned JB about the hazards of white linen pants and water .. yikes!

JB clearly set out…

…to deliver a full-on concept album and he delivered the goods in fine fashion. The Ukulele Experience, Vol. One may not be in the iconic neighborhood of Sammy Davis Jr/Laurindo Almeida, but the great song selection, accompaniment and production quality has Jonny Blu and his ukulele in easy walking distance to the high concept albums that were so popular in the 50’s and 60’s.

Like the those classic theme albums, Jonny’s song selection is key to the album’s overall success. Classic standards, Broadway/film soundtrack songs, a Beatles number and original material blend together well … this is a cool LP. I was actually surprised that I didn’t get worn out listening to a dozen ukulele driven songs — a testament to song selection that lays perfect for Jonny’s naturally smooth vocal style.

JB’s ukulele is accompanied by simple but nicely balanced percussion, upright bass, accordion, harmonica … and I swear I heard a kazoo in there! The accompaniment is complementary — adding depth without competing for the stage. The bass work is particularly well done … counter balancing the light, up tempo strumming ukulele with a bass track that brings structure and definition to these numbers.

Crazy diverse Track List…

The CD back-cover art with the full track list is laid in below. Like I mentioned the song selection is all over the map, but some of the standouts from my perspective … I really like the first track “You Feel Right” — a breezy summer love song (Jonny Blu original) that sets the tone and quality production bar for the rest of the LP.

The classic standard “You Belong to Me” is a wild mashup of Dean Martin meets Simon and Garfunkel and — don’t ask me how — but it works wonderfully! I know, I know … you’re rereading that last sentence thinking “no way”. Give it a listen below (with JB permission of course) and tell me you don’t see Simon and Garfunkel in your minds eye on this number (especially during the whistling bridge sequence)!

“You Belong To Me” — Track 1 is Jonny … threw in the classic Dean Martin version (second track) for comparison*

Jonny retooled a few songs off his earlier In Just That Kind Of Mood LP to nice effect. I like the original tempo and sax accompanied version of “Ooh Wee” a bit better than the ukulele edition, but “Your Birthday Song” lays really well for the ukulele treatment.

I’m not yet dead…

Without a doubt the funnest song of the bunch for me is “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” from the film “Life of Brian”. I was lucky enough to see “Spamalot” on Broadway and Jonny’s ukulele treatment of this song is great fun … especially the “Yellow Submarine” ish chatter on the way out “Everybody just be happy!” OK, I got to play this one too …

“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” – Jonny Blu*

You can have Adele, I’ll take Jonny…

Jonny takes a swing at Adele’s hit “Someone Like You” … call me crazy (again), but I like Jonny’s version better! JB and his ukulele carries off the sweet pain sentiment of the song without the typical Adelian over wrought hyper-angst. Don’t believe me?

“Someone Like You” – Jonny Blu*

The Ukulele Experience is out of the Blu summer fun … get some!

…but careful around the water in those white linen pants man! 😉

 

[*These tracks are streamed with the artist’s permission.  Please remember that any songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and not intended as a substitute for the original record company product. Give it a listen and support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels, NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.] 

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