In The Name Of Freedom

Richie Onori's Blues Messenger

Revolutionary. That was my first impression when I received and heard Richie Onori's Blues Messenger's In The Name Of Freedom. That was the first word that came to mind when I saw the cover art, and then as soon as the first track faded in with a pinch of Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner" riff, that the "revolutionary" would take on a new meaning, and it went beyond that.

There is a message on this disc. And, given the clarity of the sound (Read: no muddy lyrics or overpowering screaming), the listener is transported to a time when people actually gave a shit about what real freedom they had. Sure, people can claim they are free. However, Onori's message is that in spite of what you believe, freedoms are being compromised. The message is received loud and clear: People must raise some hell if they don't want freedom and democracy to slowly disappear.

My first impression was that Onori, known as the drummer of Heaven & Earth and Sweet, is a gifted and passionate musician. Instead of writing songs about things that already have been written about (girls, cars, mysticism, death, etc.), he writes about things that are important. There's strength in his conviction. How he delivers it on this CD demonstrates that he thought long and hard before committing to the project.

"Power to the People" plays on the belief that the dark clouds that can compromise freedom already are here! That there are forces working against us, warns Onori, means that eyes must be opened. "Hey You" alerts people that the "leaders" aren't necessarily looking out after your interests. "Law books... cameras..." all will be employed to keep freedoms down seems to be the overriding message behind the message. The driving riffs, punctuated with old school leads, were what really inspired me to give this CD repeated listenings. "Hey You" nails it! The bluesy driven riffs, tight leads and real-world lyrics that one can relate to are all here.

"Long Live Rock" reminds us that rock and roll rules, and that a guitar and an amp are the only prerequisites to a good time. The opening riff gives the listener a sound of familiarity, yet old school in its approach. Onori's skills as a lead guitar player are evident with licks that encourage a little head-banging. "American Fighters" is a solid stand-up-and-shout song about reclaiming the American way. Lyrics like, "time to clean it up and turn it around..." might inspire the listener to consider the intention of Mr. Jefferson, and encourage others to "make a stand, today". Onori's vocals are tame and deliberate on this track, and underscore the true vocal capabilities demonstrated by this sharp artist. Clearly one can hear the earnestness in his voice and, coupled with a terrific chorus, one might believe this to be the strongest song off the entire disc.

Freedom is the underlying message throughout the entire CD, and "Buffalo Nation" cements that notion. With lyrics suggesting that America needs a "do-over," Onori goes no-holds-barred on this masterpiece, proposing that we return to the days when Native Americans understood what real freedom meant. A fresh start. Rebuild on the last century. This is the kind of music that causes one to think about just how far America has come, and not necessarily in a good way.

A full run through of this disc, and I mean real and active listening, should arouse in the listener a sense of duty, of working towards returning the good ole' USA to its roots. Sadly, today's youth is more interested in twerking, social networking, and music that nowadays is absent any real redeeming social value. Today's youth needs a wakeup call... and Onori is the messenger. My only disappointment, and this is unrelated to the CD, is that he has no upcoming performance dates (of which I am aware at press time). I'll be keeping my eye out for his next gig.

Finally, kudos and nods to Dave Jenkins for his contribution on the Hammond B3 and the production and engineering of this most awesome sounding disc. I admit I've listened to this CD numerous times and it now accompanies me wherever I go. This is not background music. It's clear Onori spent considerable time on the songs, arrangements and concept to make In The Name Of Freedom an exceptionally powerful collection.

~ Jim Shelley

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