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Album Review

Chicago's Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials are, and have always been, a hard-rocking, blues-fueled dance band, the kind you hope to catch down at the local bar on a payday Friday night, but just like the aftereffects of a Friday night spent down at the local bar, the music on this, the group's sixth album for Alligator Records, loses clarity and starts to slip from memory as soon as Saturday's sun hits the sky. Sure, everything on Rattleshake rocks, and the energy is undeniable, but in the end, little of this set stays in mind. The opener, a rousing take on Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Leaving Here," starts things off nicely, but somehow things rock along from there without featuring much substance, and most of the set blends into one long dancefloor romp where what ends up being most memorable is the cold beer you throw down at the end. Oh, "Icicles in My Meatloaf" is certainly memorable, but only because it is so ridiculous. The real highlight here, and easily the best track on the album, is a moving version of Billy Joe Shaver's "Tramp on the Street," which shows that Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials can do more than just rock the house with generic stompers when they choose to do so. They're a great live band, and in their natural habitat — on-stage — they're tough to beat, but in spite of several albums, they still haven't figured out how to translate that raw energy to the studio. An album is different than a Friday night at the local bar. In the latter, a mediocre song done with energy by the band will still get folks dancing and bopping. On an album, the song better be good, because all the energy in the world won't save it if it isn't.

Rattleshake, Lil' Ed
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