Review: Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel, Carnival – Live In Austin

Live albums from Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out to Mad Dogs and Englishmen have staying power because the magic is captured simultaneous with an authenticity that brings listeners back time and again. Coco Carmel and Bobby Whitlock have achieved that intangible on this marvelous recording from Austin, which they call Carnival.

“John the Revelator” brings in elements of the Band, Doobie Brothers and believe it or not Christopher Cross, all in a good way. It’s pure Bobby Whitlock with a surging wave of power – Coco’s sax, the wah wah guitar, Whitlock’s keyboards and pounding drums. The gospel/blues elements combining to generate a special blend that lends itself to repeated spins.

“Got To Get Better” opens the 11 song set with an intensity that sets the tone. It doesn’t let up when “Anyday” and “Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad” from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – both co-written by Whitlock and Eric Clapton, are not only superb rethinkings of these classic, for the deep-track fan base, these recordings are an additional treasure. More than bonus tracks to boxed sets and the great original studio set, these have a new feel and added texture, to be played in addition to the original work, not as an extension but as a complementary separate entry into Layla’s – and Whitlock’s unique place in music history.

That the CD is enriched with mastering engineer Rob Fraboni’s secret sauce, something he calls “real feel,” is an added extra touch. Fraboni’s work with Clapton and the Rolling Stones – engineering on producer Jimmy Miller’s classic Goats Head Soup lp and producing Clapton’s “Hello Old Friend,” – is a like-mindedness from the era with the luxury of being in control of modern technology.

When I say that every track is in the pocket and solid it is no overstatement. As the Dominoes embraced “Little Wing” in such a way that those unaware of the Jimi Hendrix masterpiece would think it was co-written by Whitlock and Clapton. It’s one of the rare takes on Hendrix that can fool the average listener. Whitlock and Carmel keep that important element intact on Carnival, staying both true to the original intent but adding their own styles to bring about a work that is satisfying and essential. A real find…and a keeper.

1. Got to Get Better (Live) 6:00
2. Anyday (Live) 6:24
3. Why Does Love Got to Be so Sad? (Live) 6:44
4. Nobody Knows (Live) 4:05
5. Keep On Growing (Live) 4:54
6. River of Life (Live) 4:43
7. Devil Blues (Live) 3:59
8. It’s Not the End of the World (Live)
9. Little Wing (Live) 5:23
10. John the Revelator (Live) 5:00
11. Tell the Truth (Live)

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for,, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.