The River Styx Blues Emporium emerged from the predominantly soul scene in Trenton, NJ. This disc features mostly instrumentals and a few tracks highlight their unique vocals.
River Styx Blues Emporium: Preston Harrison (vocals, harmonica, bass); Tom Miller, Charlie Miller (guitar); Jim Horner (drums).
Personnel: Tom Miller (guitar).
You know how those '60s "rediscoveries" usually work -- a CD with a cool-looking band on the cover with Beatles' haircuts, with some of the best instruments that money could buy, who end up playing songs that are ultimately too dull or crude to make the cut in 1966, much less in the 1990s. Well, this isn't one of them. The band has cool instruments (especially the Vox guitar one of them is holding) and they make use of them. Preston Harrison was a better bassist than 95-percent of the competition and that comes out in the early sides, where his playing is highly animated and inventive -- as a singer, he's also got a perfect balance between white-blues whine and psychedelic explorations of the astral plane, depending on what era. His harp playing is also very expressive, even in a psychedelic context (e.g., "Understanding's Hard to Come By"). The rest of the band isn't just along for the ride, however; the lead and rhythm guitars are always going somewhere on the long jams that is worth following, and on the blues-based sides they're going into territory that Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Chris Dreja first opened up with the Yardbirds. Even the extraneous sound effects over the experimental numbers are lean and tasteful (and sometimes weird). The influence of the Rolling Stones circa Aftermath/Between the Buttons can also be discerned on the '60s tracks. The early-'70s sides, strangely enough, aren't that different, only a little more sophisticated and the drumming more aggressive. The sound is good throughout, even on the Capitol demos that open the disc. ~ Bruce Eder