CD Reviews – John Mars: Whasup? (Blue Star)

The news is out…here’s what critics are saying about “Whasup!”

100% pure unadulterated rock’n’roll! John Mars and a dynamite all-star band (Michael Fonfara, Mark French, Alec Fraser), led and produced by CDN rockin’ legend Jack de Keyzer (guitar), pump plenty of soul and swagger into these lucky 13 cuts of rootsy rumble. Hopefully John will be taking these tunes out for a road trip out so we can all get a bit’a rockin’ in! A marvellous version of Joe Tex’s “I’ll Never Do You Wrong” is but one of the standout cuts. Watch for the opening number, “Good ‘n’ Bad,” or “Wild At Heart” to be gettin’ a fair chunk of airplay on any station, with even a modicum of good taste, near you. Yeah! (13 tracks. 46:23 playing time.)

Originally from Brantford, Ontario, singer-songwriter John Mars has been kicking around the Toronto music scene since 1972, when he was vocalist and drummer for John Mars & The Martians. Through the late 70’s and the 80’s he performed as part of a jazz duo with pianist Stuart Broomer, and later as lead singer for Brian’s Children. It was through the Children’s drummer, Teddy Fury, that John came to meet Jack De Keyzer, when Fury had gone on to found rockabilly revivalists The Bop Cats, and that leads us to John’s first solo album.

John’s love of early rock & roll shows all over this recording, co-written and produced with the help of his good friend, Jack De Keyzer. Jack plays all the guitar on the album and makes use of his backup band of Mark French and Shane Scott throughout. The end result is a collection of rockin’ tunes that harken back to the rock and roll of the 50’s and 60’s. There are a couple of nice ballads thrown in, a few jazzy touches, and a sprinking of horns that take me back to the Jersey sound made famous by the Asbury Jukes. John’s vocal style is very reminiscent of many 60’s pop records, pretty smooth, and he wears all his influences right on his sleeve. The songwriting is first-rate, with Jack’s guitar work outstanding as always. Some nice sax work by Chris Robinson also, especially on the album closer, “Friday Night Gig.” Some other standout cuts include “Good N’ Bad,” “I Want A Girl Like You,” “The Girls Are Rockin’,” “L’il Suzy Sue,” and a cover of Jack’s “Wild At Heart.”
THE NAIL (Niagara Falls)

Toronto, Ontario’s John Mars boasts quite an extensive pedigree, including musician (Brian’s Children, Broomer And Mars), sportswriter (with an exhaustive look at the NHL in the works), music critic (including a lengthy stint as a Blitz Magazine columnist) and record collector. As such, Mars has been able to call upon several friends in high places to assist him in this solo debut, including Rhinoceros’ Michael Fonfara, Teenage Head guitarist Gordon Lewis and Canadian rockabilly stalwart, Jack De Keyzer. But the vision realized within is totally Mars’ own.

The inspirations in “Whasup?” are diverse, from “Sticky Fingers”-era Rolling Stones to Stax/Volt and rockabilly. Mars especially excels at the latter, as evidenced by “Lil’ Suzy Sue” and “Pristine Christine”.
Thoughtfully chosen covers like Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown” and Joe Tex’s “I’ll Never Do You Wrong” are not only competently executed, but serve to demonstrate that Mars’ muse is well-grounded. If nothing else, “Whasup?” is proof that spending too much time with one’s record collection is not necessarily an exercise in futility.
Blitz Magazine (Los Angeles)

Canadian Rock’n’Roller JOHN MARS has been playing with assorted Ontario-based combos since the late 60’s; he also spent over a decade as the drumming half of a duo with jazz-based pianist Stuart Broomer. Mars was the singing drummer in his first band, The Martians, but, for his solo debut-“Whasup?”- he’s set aside instrumental duties to focus solely on singing. He’s enlisted the help of a host of pedigreed players, all of whom fall in line to support the simple and sturdy songs; producer-guitarist Jack de Keyzer, for instance, understands the strength of a solid foundation, and, the rhythm section of drummer Mark French and bass player Shane Scott is the pumping heart of the album. Filigree is minimal but potent when utilized – the backup vocals and organ on “There’s A Hole In My Soul”, the horns on Joe Tex’s “I’ll Never Do You Wrong”, the percussion and handclaps on “Good ‘n’Bad”.

Mars wrote or cowrote nine of the set’s 13 tunes, and, he’s clearly learned from his decades of listening and playing – the songs are flush with the verve, flair and confidence of Eddie Cochran, British Invasion flagbearers and Memphis soulsters. Mars and de Keyzer also have added two solid new entries to the litany of girl-name songs (“Danielle” and “Lil’ Suzy Sue”).
Metroland “The Capital Region’s Alternative Newsweekly” Albany, New York

Philly Diner
“Diner – Philadelphia” by John Mars 8″ X 12″ Colour Photograph (signed on reverse)

Everyone always asks what that picture is on the back of John’s CD…
$75 CDN unframed…so now you know!

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