Too Late to Stop Now
High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective (Omnivore)
Reviewed by Scott Jordan, Fri., Dec. 16, 2016
Five decades, five discs, five eras, and four distinctive lineups crystallize the genius of musical lettermen NRBQ. The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, long championed by admirers including Keith Richards and Elvis Costello, rode the grand piano/keyboard/clavinet of group savant/constant Terry Adams, visionary captain of a band channeling Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra explorations, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash's rockin' narratives, and the harmonic pop of the Lovin' Spoonful and the Beach Boys. Adams' vision is contextualized here, each group configuration getting its just due. The beloved 'Q lineup of bluesy chicken picker Al Anderson, crooner/bassist Joey Spampinato, and playful wunderkind drummer Tom Ardolino rightfully commands two discs, '71-89, with a parade of timeless jukebox singles like "Me and the Boys" and "Ridin' in My Car." The gritty garage vibe of the Sixties-era crew (including late guitarist Steve Ferguson's barnburning "Flat Foot Flewzy") stands shoulder to shoulder with zanier cuts from axeman Johnny Spampinato's 1990-2005 tenure (i.e., "21-50 to Headquarters," "Ain't No Horse"). Meanwhile, the pure melodic sweetness supplied by Adams' current six-string foil Scott Ligon on "Waitin' on My Sweetie Pie" and "Keep This Love Goin'" brings the journey full circle and full steam ahead. Nineteen superb unreleased live tracks help make NRBQ's High Noon a Gary Cooper-worthy bull's-eye.