When Norman Connors made the transition from jazz albums to commercially successful R&B-oriented dates, the drummer found himself being lambasted repeatedly in jazz press (something Roy Ayers, Patrice Rushen, George Duke and George Benson could also relate to). Myopic jazz critics trashed Romantic Journey simply because it contains so much R&B/pop, as opposed to judging its merits as an R&B/pop-oriented album. Though not as strong as its predecessor, You Are My Starship, this decent offering has its strong points, including Philip Mitchell's vocal on the haunting "Destination Moon" and Eleanore Mills' performance on a likable cover of the Stylistics' "You Are Everything."
Percussionist Norman Hedman's medium-sized combo is well named; it plays an engaging blend of salsa, Latin jazz, bomba, samba, and just about any other warm-climate dance idiom you can think of. The flute occasionally has a hard time getting in tune with the brass but, other than that, the sound is lush, sweet, and gently, percolatingly funky – less a musical stew than a fruit salad. Hedman's influences include Cal Tjader and Armando Peraza, and while he also owes a clear debt to the big salsa bands, he deliberately avoids overwhelming the listener with too many layers of percussive polyrhythm.
It's hard to believe that Morning Glory Ramblers is the first full-length recording by Norman and Nancy Blake in eight years. Certainly they've been active, from playing on all 47 Down From the Mountain dates, performing on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Cold Mountain soundtracks, June Carter Cash's final album, Wildwood Flower, and various other projects. This album, recorded on the soundstage of the Western Jubilee Warehouse in Colorado Springs, is a dynamite setting for the material found here. There are 17 songs in this collection, seven of them traditional melodies, still others so old they've seldom been heard over the last century, a Hank Williams' tune, and a couple by friends of Norman and Nancy's that are so saturated in the deep country, they could have been written decades before.