by Constance Tucker
Does the vocal quality always judge a vocal performance, or is the charm of the delivery also a pairing that should be considered? Enter, Larry Wolf, and unlikely crooner of the youthful age of 85, best known as an ensemble member of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.’s legendary catalog of satirical films. The two most notable being, Putney Swope and Pound, both considered avant-garde even today, perhaps even more so than in the febrile artistic ground of the 1960s and 70s when they were created. Wolf has been singing since the 1960s.
As the lead singer of The Electric Chair Rock band, another collaboration with Robert Downey Sr., Wolf provided lead vocals to such tongue-in-cheek originals as “Bow Wow Wow” and “Cremation Blues.” And as alter ego Vegas lounge singer Johnny Slime, he performed a satirical rendition of the Lord’s Prayer that prompted the then-fledgling Saturday Night Live to call him upon seeing it. But, as luck would have it, the entire production staff was replaced right at that time, and Johnny Slime never graced the SNL stage.
Wolf like Dylan, is not necessarily regarded for his vocal quality, rather his earnest and stylistic delivery, it is here where the listener finds the nugget. Like his acting work, Wolf caresses the lyric with reverence. His genuine and footloose approach is endearing. The album is titled Mood Swings, and it’s an album brimming with nostalgia. Filled with songs that Wolf grew up on as a youth, he treats each tune with at times sardonic, at times light-hearted and at times veneration.
Busy Los Angeles musicians join Wolf: Adrianne Duncan on piano and backing vocals; Jason Luckett on guitar, harmonica; John Tegmeyer on clarinet; Edwin Livingston on bass and Dan Schnelle on drums. Two cameo appearances by Nancy Wolf, who provides added vocals on “You Are My Sunshine,” and Adam Wolf, who also provides vocals on “Motherless Child.”
Could this be considered a vanity project by some? I guess one could deem it that, but I would like to frame it as a loving addition to the catalog of Larry Wolf, a multi-faceted talent who at the tender age of 85 is still showing us, kids, how to do it, and how to do it with pizzazz.