Although this is nominally credited to Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, really this is a 22-track various-artists compilation with Holland's ensemble serving as the house band. The lineup of old and new, superstar and cult talent is impressive, even if many of them are past their prime: Sting, John Cale, Stevie Winwood, Taj Mahal, Jamiroquai, Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Dr. John, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Paul Carrack, and Eric Clapton are some of the artists given a track. Holland has described his music as big band blues, and that's an apt description for a good deal of the songs, whether it's Sting's "Seventh Son," Taj Mahal's "Outskirts of Town," or Morrison's "Back o' Town Blues." Actually, though, some of this is soul, AOR rock, or ska. That doesn't necessarily count as a strike against the record, it just makes the groove less consistent. There is
a consistent, hepped-up party mood, though one that's unrelenting yet slick enough so that it's rather like a party that tries too hard to succeed and goes on too long. Certainly it will attract the most attention for George Harrison's "Horse to the Water," his last recording (done shortly before his death in late 2001). Harrison was a great musician, but this is not a great or good track; the song isn't much, and his voice, unfortunately, sounds like it's in faltering shape. For the most part it's amiable and unmemorable, hitting its finest note on Steve Winwood's "I'm Ready," in which he (or someone, the part is not detailed in the credits) rips out some organ work straight from the spirit of his Spencer Davis Group days. The ska cuts by Suggs and Jamiroquai actually make for a nice change of pace from the grand blues strutting. There are also some missteps that might have been better left uncontributed, like Paul Weller's cover of Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles" and Stereophonics' version of the Beatles' "Revolution."