Dr Feelgood are a hard driving Punk/R&B British Institution! More punk than Punk! It could be argued that they actually invented Punk! What marks them out from other mainstream Punk bands is their superior musicality and deep-rooted love of Rhythm 'n' Blues. They basically took the Blues and sped it up! 2021 marks their fiftieth year of existence, and to celebrate this momentous occasion they have just released a forty one song double CD 'Greatest Hits' collection on Grand Records. The compilation was put together by Kevin Morris, the bands current drummer and mainstay since 1983. The set was re-mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering, with sleeve notes by Stephen Foster and artwork by Elless.co.uk. Calling the album 'Greatest Hits' is a bit misleading, as most of the songs on this collection were never really hits! In reality this is more a selection of some their best songs from their extensive back catalogue.
Formed in 1971 on the infamous Thames Delta that is Canvey Island in Essex by school friends Lee Collinson (Lee Brilleaux), Chris White (Chris Fenwick) and John Sparkes (Sparko), they initially got together to play Skiffle music for fun, eventually settling on calling themselves The Pigboy Charlie Band. By 1971 John Wilkinson (Wilko Johnson) joined them on guitar and from then on things got serious! With a mutual love of Rhythm 'n' Blues they decided to change their name to 'Dr Feelgood' after a 1962 record by the American Blues pianist and singer Willie Perryman (also known as "Piano Red") called ‘Dr. Feel-Good’. The song was also covered by The Pirates, which featured Wilko's guitar hero and main influence Mick Green. The band were on the lookout for a decent drummer so Wilko introduced the others to his friend John 'Big Figure' Martin. The chemistry was instant and they were off and running! Chris Fenwick decided he would be better suited to managing rather than playing. He continues to manage the band to this day. The original Dr Feelgood line-up was Lee Brilleaux on vocals and harmonica, Wilko Johnson on guitar, 'Sparko' on bass and the 'Big Figure' on drums. They developed their chops and perfected their stage craft by relentlessly playing the local pubs in around Canvey Island before heading west to London to blow unsuspecting people's minds with their hard hitting R&B.
With their impressive performances and growing legions of fans flocking to the pubs of London the band started to get noticed by record companies eager to snap them up. United Artists offered the best deal, the first single 'Roxette', written by Wilko, was released in late 1974 with their debut album 'Down By The Jetty' being released in early 1975. Produced by Vic Maile and recorded in Mono, it captures the band's raw energy perfectly and still sounds vital today. The band were immediately sent out on a hugely successful package tour entitled 'The Naughty Rhythms Tour' with Kokomo and Chilli Willi and The Red Hot Peppers. The second album 'Malpractice' was quickly recorded and released in the same year to monopolise on their widening profile. Another fine album brimming with energy and vitality, it proved to be highly successful, reaching number seventeen in the UK album charts, with the single 'Back in the Night', also written by Wilko, being released to critical acclaim.
Their major breakthrough happened in 1976 when their live album, 'Stupidity', reached number one in the UK Albums Chart. The album captured the Feelgoods at their ultimate best delivering a tsunami of high octane full-tilt in-your-face R&B. The trouble with this quick rise to commercial success was the pressure by the record company for them to come up with new material as good as before. With Wilko being the only songwriter in the band all that pressure landed on him. Conflict inevitably reared its ugly head particularly between Wilko and Lee Brilleaux, and sadly after the 1977 album 'Sneakin' Suspicion', Wilko left the band for good! Despite the crumbling relationships within the band, the album went on to do quite well in the UK album charts reaching number ten, however, the material wasn't as strong as the two previous albums. After leaving Dr Feelgood, Wilko went on to form the Solid Senders who released one album of the same name in 1978. After the quick demise of that project, Wilko went on to forge an enduring solo career with The Wilko Johnson Band that continues to this day. On a short break from his solo work he made a brief sojourn as guitarist for Ian Dury & The Blockheads on their 1980 'Laughter' album. These days Wilko is often cited as a major influence on the emerging Punk movement of the mid-seventies and has been lauded the accolade of being one of Britain’s national treasures by many a journalist.
Wilko leaving Dr Feelgood left a major hole, not only was he the only songwriter in the band but he was a formidable and unique guitar player whose aggressive staccato guitar style was a major part of their sound. Bravely the band decided to soldier on and recruited a relatively unknown guitarist called John 'Gypie' Mayo (John Philip Cawthra). As luck would have it Gypie could hold his own, bringing his unique guitar playing style and song writing ability to the table. The band went on to further success in the late 70’s with the release of a string of quality albums including 'Be Seeing You' (1977), 'Private Practice' (1978) - the single 'Milk & Alcohol' written by Gypie Mayo and Nick Lowe reached the UK top ten giving the band their most successful single - 'As It Happens – Live' (1979), 'Let It Roll' (1979), 'A Case of the Shakes' (1980) and 'On the Job - Live' (1981). By 1981 Gypie Mayo was burnt out from the relentless touring and recording schedule and decided to leave the band for the good of his health. He would later go on to further success as lead guitarist with the reformed Yardbirds, staying with them for eight years from 1996 – 2004. Sadly Gypie died of cancer in 2013.
Undeterred by another guitarist leaving the band, Brilleaux soldiered on and went on the hunt for a replacement. Former Count Bishops axeman, Johnny 'Guitar' Crippen secured the position. He would last two years and features on the 1982 album 'Fast Women, Slow Horses'. By the end of 1982 both Sparko and The Big Figure decided they'd had enough of the relentless touring and retired from the band. Brilleaux was devastated and decided to take some time out himself, but after just three months he decided he wanted Dr Feelgood to continue and so he set about reforming the band with all new members. In came guitarist Gordon Russell, bassist Phil Mitchell and drummer Kevin Morris. The sound of the band evolved through the 80’s, less grit and more polish! Well it was the 80’s! This line up lasted seven years and produced four albums, 'Doctors Orders' (1984), 'Mad Man Blues' (1985), 'Brilleaux' (1986) and 'Classic' (1987). Sadly Gordon Russell left the band in 1988 due to the tragic death of his child.
Saddened by Russell leaving, but determined to forge on, Brilleaux decided that Dr Feelgood needed to get back to the hard edged Blues sound of the early years. Fortunately he found the perfect guitarist to help him achieve this in the form of the great Steve Walwyn (Steve Marriott/Roger Chapman), a formidable guitarist who reignited the fire in Dr Feelgood and is still with them to this day. One of his first gigs with the band was at the sold out Town & Country Club in London’s Kentish Town. The show was being filmed for television, but despite the pressure on the "new boy" the gig was a resounding success and was later released as the album 'Live in London' (1990).
Phil Mitchell stepped down from bass duties around 1991 being replaced by Dave Bronze (Eric Clapton/Procol Harum). This line up lasted a further three years and produced two studio albums 'Primo' (1991) and 'The Feelgood Factor' (1993). Devastatingly Brilleaux was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1993 and sadly passed away in April 1994. Before he died, Brilleaux's last wish was to record one final live album, miraculously he managed to achieve this! The result was 'Down At The Doctors' recorded over two nights (24th & 25th January 1994) at the bands own pub, the Dr Feelgood Music Bar on Canvey Island.
It was Brilleaux's dying wish that the band should continue without him, and so in May 1995 new vocalist Pete Gage was announced as his successor. Phil Mitchell returned on bass after Dave Bronze departed. Gage lasted four years and made one album with the band 'On The Road Again' (1996). Robert Kane (Animals II) replaced Gage in 1999 and remains the band’s vocalist to this day. They released the brilliant 'Chess Masters' in 2000 and the great live album 'Speeding Thru Europe' in 2003. Every year since Brilleaux's death, a special concert known as the Lee Brilleaux Birthday Memorial has been held on Canvey Island, where former and current Feelgoods have celebrated the music of Dr. Feelgood, and raised money for The Fair Havens Hospice in Westcliff-on-Sea. Despite not featuring any original members, Dr Feelgood continue to go from strength to strength, partly boosted by Julien Temple's 2010 critically acclaimed documentary covering the band's explosive impact on the UK music scene, 'Oil City Confidential'.
This double album is a fitting way to herald half a century of one of the truly great British bands, kicking off in style with five Wilko Johnson penned bangers 'She Does it Right', 'I Don’t Mind', 'All Through the City', 'Keep it Out of Sight' and 'Roxette', all from their exceptional 1975 debut album 'Down By The Jetty'. 'Roxette' was the band’s first single released in 1974, but the version on this collection is from their explosive 1976 live album 'Stupidity'. These songs set the benchmark for the Feelgoods sound and are as vibrant and exciting to listen to today, as I am sure they were back in 1975! 'I Can Tell' is a Bo Diddley cover from their second 1975 Vic Maile produced album 'Malpractice', hardened up and given the full on Feelgoods stamp! The only song in this collection to make the cut from the 1977 Bert de Coteaux produced album 'Sneakin' Suspicion' is the title track, one of Wilko's last offerings to the band and definitely the strongest track on the album.
It's back to the 1976 seminal live album 'Stupidity' for the next three tracks, two of which are Wilko Johnson penned classics, 'Back in the Night' and 'Going Back Home', the latter being co-written with Wilko's guitar hero Mick Green from The Pirates. The last track on this set to feature the original line-up is the monumental live version of the 1954 Leiber and Stoller classic 'Riot in Cell Block No 9'. Wilko makes this track his own, with his manic machine gun guitar antics, a highlight of the band’s live set at the time. All three of these tracks also appear on their second studio album 'Malpractice'.
The Gypie Mayo era is well represented over the next nine tracks starting with two superb high energy rockers 'She’s a Wind Up' and 'That’s It, I Quit' from the excellent 1977 album 'Be Seeing You', the former being one of the first songs written by the whole band and the latter being written by Nick Lowe, who also produced the album. The next album, and best from the Gypie Mayo era, 'Private Practice' was their last studio album to chart. The two tracks featured on this set are 'Night Time', which was written and originally recorded by The Strangeloves in 1965, and the single 'Milk & Alcohol' written by Nick Lowe and Gypie Mayo. With its infectious riff, vibrant drumming, snarly vocals and gritty chorus, makes this one of Dr Feelgood’s most prodigious songs.
The Gypie Mayo penned soft rocker 'Put Him Out of Your Mind' is from the 1979 Mike Vernon produced 'Let it Roll' album. More of a melodic Pop tune than a Feelgoods rocker! Unfortunately, the polished, saccharine smooth production takes away the song’s edge. 'Shotgun Blues', is a slow brooding Chicago style Blues, also from the 'Let it Roll' album, however, this beefed up version is from the 1981 live album 'On the Job'. The next three tracks 'No Mo Do Yakamo', 'Jumping From Love to Love' and 'Violent Love' - an acoustic cover of a 1951 Willie Dixon track - are from the final studio album to feature Gypie Mayo and last to appear on the United Artists label, 1980’s 'A Case of the Shakes'. Despite the Nick Lowe production, much of the hard edge grit synonymous with earlier material has been smoothed away here.
Rounding off the first disc are 'Rat Race' and 'Crazy Bout Girls' from the only album to feature Johnny 'Guitar' Crippen, and only album on the Chiswick label, 1982’s 'Fast Women & Slow Horses'. A couple of fine energetic and jaunty tracks that sit quite well with previous efforts, having Vic Maile back on production duties certainly helped balance out the overall sound and provide focus.
The first offering on the second disc is 'Dangerous' from the 1984 Mike Vernon produced album 'Doctors Orders' - a full tilt chugging stomper from Brilleaux's new Dr Feelgood line-up of Gordon Russell, Phil Mitchell and Kevin Morris. 'Mad Man Blues' and 'Dimples' are a couple of 1950’s John Lee Hooker covers from the 1985 album 'Mad Man Blues', worthy authentic interpretations, with the former still featured in the live set to this day. The Gordon Russell/Will Birch penned 'Hunting Shooting Fishing' from the 1987 Pip Williams produced album 'Classic' is a lively up tempo song, however, the syrupy 80’s production dates it somewhat! The Dave Edmunds produced single 'See You Later Alligator', a cover song originally from the 1986 album 'Brilleaux', is overly brass heavy and quite a departure from the typical Dr Feelgood sound. Again, the slick 80’s production value dates this one too!
Proceedings get back on track with the arrival of guitarist Steve Walwyn on the storming live version of 'King for a Day' from the 1990 'Live in London' album, originally featured on the 1980 album 'A Case of the Shakes'. The infectious 'Baby Jane', also from 'Live in London', and originally featured on the 1977 album 'Be Seeing You', lifts the excitement levels up a notch or two with more intoxicating guitar action from Walwyn! The next two excellent tracks 'Sugar Turns to Alcohol' and 'Down by the Jetty Blues' are from the 1991 Will Birch produced album 'Primo'. The latter being a tenacious groove laden 12-bar Blues that illustrates the oil refinery's around Canvey Island and lifts the title from the first Dr Feelgood album. A live version would have been more welcome, as the band take it to another level when performing it live, much more ferocious and menacing, with Walwyn getting to stretch out and show what he can really do on the guitar! A highlight of the set to this day! My only gripe about the 'Primo' album is the dry sterility of the heavily gated reverb sound on the snare drum, reminiscent of typical 80’s production values!
'Wolfman Callin’' is from Lee Brilleaux's last studio album with the band, 'The Feelgood Factor', released in 1993 and just nine months before he sadly died. Written by Dave Bronze and Kevin Morris, this track pays homage to Brilleaux's hero and major influence, the great Howlin' Wolf. He could pull off the Wolf's trademark growl with ease and panache. Brilleaux's final live performances, 'Down at the Doctors', fittingly is testament that The Feelgoods always deliver live, and this album is no exception. The three tracks featured here include the 1959 Bo Diddly classic 'Road Runner', the Mickey Jupp penned title track from the 'Private Practice' album, and the Nick Lowe penned 'Heart of the City' from the 'Primo' album. Indeed, a superb collection of exceptional performances from the great Lee Brilleaux, who would sadly pass away three months after these recordings were made.
The one and only record to feature Brilleaux's successor Pete Gage, 'On the Road Again', was released in 1996, with three tracks featured on this set including Steve Walwyn's finest ever self-penned song, the blistering juggernaut that is 'Instinct to Survive', the Tom Waits cover 'Going Out West' and the 1956 John Brim Blues 'You Got Me'. A strong, vibrant and authentic sounding record, Gage had his own distinctive Blues growl that suited the band well.
The final four songs feature current vocalist Robert Kane, and mainstay since 1999, including the Bo Diddley classic 'Who Do You Love', Sonny Boy Williamson's 'You Gotta Help Me' and the J.B. Lenoir/Alex Atkins penned 'Gimme One More Shot' from the 2000 Dave Bronze produced Chess Records covers album 'Chess Masters'. A dynamically thrilling and spirited record that sits jubilantly in the Dr Feelgood catalogue. The last song on this expansive collection is the recent single, a cover of the Willie Dixon penned 'You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover' made famous by Bo Diddley on the Chess label in 1962 - an exhilarating and vehement rendition from one of Britain’s finest hardworking Rhythm and Blues stalwarts.
It’s often said that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. It’s especially true of musicians that hold a place in your heart or just seem to repeatedly hit your musical sweet spot, often without you realising it. It’s also true that a lot of musicians that you followed in your impressionable youth, die a commercial death and fade from view long before their physical body follows suit. In the case of others, they keep going, playing live and putting out occasional new releases, and if you’re a fan, you always look forward to something new from them and somehow expect them to be a constant. Sadly, the Grim Reaper sometimes steps in and snatches your heroes away way too soon. While that puts an end to all the new music they could have recorded, it does often lead to a hunt through the vaults to identify what is there, which can be surprisingly fresh.
The Beatles Anthology series really highlighted how much interest there is in alternate takes and unissued material. Music fans of course are fascinated by the thought of tapes lying forgotten in old studio store rooms and it never fails to amaze how frequently you hear that 20-30 songs were recorded for an album, from which a slender 12 or so were picked. Naturally, the leftovers won’t be first choice material, but like the football substitute that wasn’t on the first team sheet but comes on late to score the winner, lesser regarded things can still be very good. This is a long preamble to a review of a brand-new album of previously unreleased material from the late, great Gary Moore, which is bound to have his fans drooling in anticipation.
How deep did those musical archaeologists have to dive though? Right down to the bottom of the barrel? Not in this case. Apart from one track that sounds like it was a home demo, these are all really fresh and powerful recordings that fans of the guitarist’s Blues playing work can listen to without any fear of disappointment. These are mostly cover versions, perhaps why they were excluded in the first place in favour of originals, starting with an absolutely exhilarating version of Freddie King’s 'I’m Tore Down', that showcases the elements that make the guitarist’s playing so enjoyable, that fat, rich tone, the confident fluidity, the crystal clarity and the fabulous sustain and vibrato of his soloing. Just sensational.
'Steppin’ Out' is one of the most famous Blues instrumentals, with EC’s version on the 'Beano' album the benchmark. Gary just burns it up with a homage to the EC version and adds another classic rendition to the canon. 'In My Dreams', an unreleased Moore original, is similar to 'Parisienne Walkways', with those piercing, sustained notes that ripple straight to your inner musical bones; just gorgeous. The title track is the iron horse of a number that become one of BB King’s core live performance highlights. The opening phrasing and selection of his notes is exceptional and brings to mind Peter Green (in his interpretation of BB King), which is the highest praise you can give. This is another exceptional take on a classic that in other hands could have been a drag. Here it shimmers and shines.
'Looking At Your Picture' is another original number and is more of a Blues rocker. This is the one track that, while enjoyable, has an element of a work in progress. It’s easy to overlook what an effective singer he was, and his vocals are highlighted on the ballad 'Love Can Make a Fool of You', a different version of which appeared on the remastered version of the guitarist’s 'Corridors of Power' album. 'Done Somebody Wrong' is an Elmore James cover and features a searing, snarling guitar tone that is just exquisite. 'Living with the Blues' is another of those superb slow burning Blues, where subdued Hammond chords play the changes and those fat Moore licks and runs explode in the gaps. The solo is achingly melodic and soulful.
This is a brilliant addition to Gary Moore’s Blues recordings which makes you hope that there may yet be some unopened cupboards and unexplored loft spaces for studio tapes made by him. In the meantime, this is essential listening.
'Powercut', in a word, seems quite apt for a title of an album released as a mini-LP in the middle of Lockdown. Shorn of the opportunity to go on the road and promote anything new, the band have decided to pare down their sound and produce an acoustic set, but with the shrewd retention of the lap steel guitar.
They have been labelled in the Metal press as “Heavy Grass”, referring to their Blue Grass influences and instrumentation, and one would be forgiven for thinking they give off the air of a group of muso pals engaging in a nonchalant post-work jam-session, however this piece is anything but ramshackle. Moreover, so convincing they are in their in Americana stylings, it is hard to comprehend that they originate from Southampton.
They eschew the usual Country Blues clichés, and there is a hint of the decadence of 'Exile on Main Street', especially in the lyrics of 'Chicken Fried Snake'. The lilt of the lap steel on 'Got it Made' just lulls the listener in, before breaking into the toe-tapping 'Back to Georgia'.
The masterstroke was employing the gospel-tinged vocals of Trish Burke Manser on the track 'God Knows' and the closing number 'Send Some Whiskey Home'. It is here where they recall Primal Scream on the finer moments of their 'Give Out, But Don’t Give Up' Stones-inspired LP.
This must be the second time in AC/DC’s history that a release is overshadowed by potential career threatening situations. The first time was most notoriously in 1979, when after original singer Bon Scott’s death the Young brothers thought about calling it a day, but the band soon after recruited ex-Geordie, iron-lunged, blow-torched singer Brian Johnson, and as we all know by now, bounced back from an awful tragedy to release what was possibly their most successful album to this day, namely their 1980 classic "Back to Black". Fast-forward to 2014, and after years of apparent stability in AC/DC’s camp, first came news that Malcolm Young was not returning due to a debilitating dementia diagnosis and as if this wasn’t enough, drummer Phil Rudd then proceeded to get himself charged and facing prison on accounts of heavy drug possession (not to mention the "threat to kill" moment he’s suspected of pulling as well!!). However, even with all of these unfortunate events, Angus Young & Co.have managed to return to the spotlight once again with a new record, showing that AC/DCalways manage to overcome such hard situations and stay on top with all guns blazing.
The 16th album “Rock or Bust” definitely isn’t your typical AC/DC record. Well, at least when having in account the situations that surrounded its recording. For the first time in the band’s history, Malcolm Young didn’t play or write a single note of music, having been replaced by his one-time touring substitute back in ’88, three years younger nephew, 59 year old Stevie Young. This was of course a natural choice, given the fact that he’s played with the Young Brothers since the ‘60s, understands the band’s sound, and is also a member of their close family that runs band affairs in a fashion all too similar to the tightness of a typical family business.
And oh yes.... about Stevie’s playing, if anyone had any doubts that he could effectively replace Malcolm, the hyper-catchy opener “Rock or Bust” brings them all to the ground, as Stevie starts the song with an infectious simple four-chord riff, bearing almost the same rhythm style and a practically identical guitar sound to the one his uncle used over the years on all of the band’s iconic records. “Rock or Bust” shows that the band still means business. He may be approaching 70, but Brian Johnson’s vocals haven’t lost a bit of their trademark raspiness. He sounds like he could sing this kind of material for another decade or so. Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams still make one hell of a tightly locked rhythm section and Angus keeps delivering his trademark electrifying solos.
This last phrase could be pretty much used to describe every single song on the record, however, the boys still kept a few interesting tricks up their sleeve. “Play Ball” is for me another classic AC/DC staple with lots of tasteful bluesy guitar doodles and is destined to be a sports show soundtrack. “Rock the Blues Away” has a slick groove that takes you back to ’79 and makes you think of how it would sound with Bon Scott singing. Other tracks that stand out are the mid-tempo cut “Dogs of War”, the “Flick of the Switch” reminiscent “Baptism by Fire”, the ridiculously catchy “Rock the House”, which has one of the record’s one-million-dollar riffs and is possibly the closest AC/DC have come to the slippery fluidity of Led Zeppelin. Yes, there are the usual dodgy odes to womanhood ("Miss Adventure","Sweet Candy") and the swag-filled finisher “Emission Control” could be the loudest Viagra jingle ever !!!!.
“Rock or Bust” is a short album. It’s under 35 minutes long and nearly 21 minutes shorter than the previous album, 2008's “Black Ice”, but if anything, this shortage of time actually keeps the record interesting and easy to listen, instead of making the listener swim through seas of filler. Of course, some tracks aren’t exactly the most memorable they’ve ever wrote, and at times, even though Stevie picked up the rhythm guitar masterfully, you can feel that Malcolm’s writing style probably gave more punch and strength to AC/DC’s material and some of the album’s more forgettable moments could have benefited from his touch…So he is missed for sure....
Still, “Rock or Bust” is effective, hard-edged, dirty and infectious hard rock, filled with great bluesy riffs, lots of party references and the usual naughty boy, double entendre sexual references. “Well, what’s new then?” you might be asking…The answer is: nothing. And actually, in their case, that’s great. They’ve managed not to grow whatsoever for 40 years and the time to demand a more progressive rock masterpiece from them is long gone. We’ve grown to love them for what they are. AC/DC may have no interest in ever improving on their core sound, but that also means they'll never run the risk of ruining it, which is fine by me !!.
So, continuing the WTS summary mode, “Rock or Bust” is good old AC/DC, it’s what we want from them and once again it showed us(well me anyway !!) that they’re still the best at what they do. No, it's no "Back in Black," or "Highway to Hell" but if this is their last record, which is a possibility, it’s a pretty solid way to go off, and for all of those wrinkly rockers like me who are always about to rock, they have once again saluted us with one of their best!
1. Rock or Bust 2. Play Ball 3. Rock The Blues Away 4. Miss Adventure 5. Dogs of War 6. Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder 7. Hard Times 8. Baptism By Fire 9. Rock the House 10. Sweet Candy 11. Emission Control
Take a huge chunk of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a slice of Blackfoot and a sprinkling of Grand Ole Opry - and what have you got? You have Tennessee band Skinny Molly, here with a new CD released late last year. 'Hear for a good time' is a mixture of older Mike Estes songs along with some brand new tunes.
As soon as you hear the opening riff to the title track you are pulled in for a ride of the best Southern rock and country, and these lads have just got better and better. Formed in 2004 just for a one off UK tour, this has now grown into a major undertaking with regular visits to UK, Germany, France, Spain as well as a growing fanbase in the US.
It's good to hear some of Mike's older songs given a makeover...'When the Going gets Tough, the Tough go Fishing' is just one that rocks along while the sheer beauty of 'Dust it Off' really relaxes and is more rocky than the acoustic original. I did mention a huge chunk of Lynyrd Skynyrd, not only was Mike a member, 2 songs here are co-written by surviving members. 'Snakebit' was co written by Gary Rossington and was originally on Mikes CD with 'Brave new South', while 'Make it Easy' is a new tune co-written with Ed King, who also plays on the track and is the first thing he has recorded in a while, so we are really honoured to hear this.
For me, the best track on the CD is 'Ride'...light and shade at it's best, play this one loud. Ending of with a fun track called 'Girls like you' this really is a quality CD. Mike's lyrics can lift you, inspire you, make you laugh, make you thoughtful - but best of all, they stay with you.
You can catch Skinny Molly on tour in the UK during January .... but this wrinkly will be at Swansea and maybe even Evesham .... you will be able to get the CD from all gigs. Look forward to seeing you there.
For the past decade or so, Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke have been carrying the torch for gritty, ass kickin’ southern rock, which is clearly alive and well. Don’t let that tag scare you off; these guys are no paint by numbers Lynyrd Skynyrd or Outlaws tribute band. Though their roots are in that same dirt, they have been able to craft those influences of Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, Georgia Satellites and the Black Crowes and twist them into their own thing. They carry the Southern rock banner proudly.
With their new record Holding All the Roses — their fourth studio effort — they’ve come up with an impressive batch of 12 songs that wear their influences on their tattered sleeves while still sounding fresh and vibrant and expertly blending melodic pop smarts, Southern rock fire, and good old country comfort. Producer and fellow Atlanta native Brendan O’Brien takes control of the boards here, mixing in the right amount of grit and spit with just enough polish to make it shine, and in the process, captures the high energy of the band. He has worked with massive artists such as AC/DC, Pearl Jam, The Killers and Bruce Springsteen and represents somewhat of a feather in the cap for Blackberry Smoke, proving their star is definitely on the rise.
Things kick off with ‘Let Me Help You (Find the Door)’ which really rings out like some long lost Crowes classic, adorned with a driving Rolling Stones meets AC/DC style riff. Once the lead break rips in, the deal is sealed: These guys are out to rock and roll. The album’s title cut clips along in genuine “crank it up” mode. Mix in some Hammond B3 organ and fiddle? Yeah, why the hell not! Lead guitarist Paul Jackson has a great "cut to the chase" style that suits these songs perfectly. Another key selling point here is the vocal style of lead singer Charlie Starr. He is able to maintain a down home sort of feel, but doesn’t succumb to cliche. The band, thankfully, has a great melodic sense, which plays nicely off the s–t eatin’ grin rock and roll they are putting forth. Also of special note is keyboardist Brandon Still, who holds convincing court on piano and Hammond organ, and adds tasty keyboard accompaniment to the guitar-centric tracks.
‘Living in the Song’ is a pop rocking gem, while ‘Rock and Roll Again’ almost sounds like something from the songbook of NRBQ or Dave Edmunds — always good paths to roam. ‘Woman in the Moon’ finds the guys in ballad territory, and just before it starts to border on generic, they sidestep the obvious to include a sweet, almost George Harrison-esque guitar solo. ‘Too High’ is a straight forward country tune that rings as true on them as does the gritty rock and roll. Traces of the Stones and Faces run right alongside the dander of Steve Earle or Marty Stuart — but it never comes off as anything but sincere.
Most likely, ‘Wish in One Hand’ will have heads boppin’ and fists pumpin’ with its heavy riff and country cliches, but the lyrics are a bit too, shall we say, “down home.” Things get back on track with ‘Lay It All On Me’ — it’s another pure country number with some nice barroom piano and pedal steel guitar. The album ends with the riff heavy rocker, ‘Fire in the Hole,’ which manages to get in a funky section that recalls Rosco Gordon’s old R&B classic, ‘Just a Little Bit'.’ The song is the perfect way to wrap up the album. So in summary, this album is a breath of fresh air in an era of neatly packaged, polite power pop and it is, quite simply, a kick in the sonic behind.
By 2015 standards, Blackberry Smoke are probably too rock for the country radio, and too country for the rock stations — but I doubt they’re losing a whole lot of sleep over such pigeonholing. Simply put, if you like no frills, straight ahead ’70s styled Southern influenced rock, Blackberry Smoke will be right at home in your collection. They are certainly in mine......!!! Southern rock is alive and well, and Blackberry Smoke carry the banner proudly and long may they continue. I’d be really surprised if the band don’t continue to grow an even bigger fan base than they already have.
When the Scorpions announced their retirement way back in 2010, neither Germany's biggest selling band (100 million records world-wide) or their fans would never have dreamed they would still be here in 2015 celebrating their fiftieth anniversary! Better still was the news of a new nineteenth Scorpions studio album, Return To Forever to be released. It all started with the band planning on re-recording eight songs for a fan only release - but new material was written in the studio so eight songs turned into a whopping nineteen! Twelve songs have made the cut to the standard format and seventeen to the deluxe edition. So much for going for a pension !!
"Return To Forever" is certainly not the sound of the Scorpions treading water in their twilight years. In fact these songs are so vibrant it makes it my favourite Scorpions album since the 1982 release of Blackout. Yes it really is this good. Klaus Meine’s vocal delivery is as powerful as ever on the rockers and sublime on the ballads. When it comes to rock ballads the Scorpions always deliver and the three here are as gripping as ‘Holiday’, ‘Still Loving You’, ‘Always Somewhere’, ‘When The Smoke Is Going Down’ etc. As the teasing blue grass intro leads into the seismic riffs for the chorus and even some Rolling Stones like guitar lines midway to the aptly titled opener ‘Going Out With A Bang’ proves that this is no nostalgia trip but the sound of a band chomping at the bit. They continue with the radio-friendly stadium anthem ‘We Built This House’, It’s ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ like intro, use of “whoa oh oh oh’s” and a chorus that gets straight in your head make it my track of the album for what its worth..
Other highlights are ‘Rock My Car’, full of hefty ‘The Zoo’ like riffs and an over the top guitar solo from Matthias Jabs as Klaus bellows “Rock, rock, rock my car, lets put some pedal down to the metal”. Yes, he really does sing that ..! The first of the three ballads is next. ‘House Of Cards’ has a spine tingling vocal over acoustic guitars with minimal stabs of electric. You can see the arenas now with all the phone lights on and a superb electric guitar solo mid-song just tops it off. ‘All For One’, an on the road song brings the heaviness back with a abrasive main riff and a huge chorus of “All for one, standing tall through high and low”. 'Rock'n'Roll Band' is a fast rocker that reminds me of the early days of the band. The guitars are roaring, the rhythm section is pushing - a song that is right to the point. One of the best of the new songs for yours truly....
The almost Sweet like intro to ‘Catch Some Luck And Play’ gives way to a thick, almost grunge like main riff with yet another razor sharp Matthias solo midway. The Rolling Stones vibe raises it’s head once more with the main riff of ‘Rolling Home’ akin to ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ as James Kottak’s thumping drum patterns lead to a monstrous chorus. ‘Eye Of The Storm’ strays into power ballad territory with the wistful vocal of ”Another year running is through my veins, some moments wasted, some will remain”. The languid opening verses are given a shot in the arm when the power chords kick in.'Return To Forever' ends on the third and final ballad ‘Gypsy Life’ - which is another on the road number with the lyrics reflecting on relationships whilst on tour.
And so to sum up..: 'Return To Forever' is a huge exclamation mark in the career of this legendary band. It combines all the strengths and trademarks this band is known for. For sure there aren't any experiments here and the Scorpions deliver what they can do best, but within the genre. 'Return To Forever' shines with its variety and great performances by all band members. If the Scorpions can hold this high level I really hope these guys have returned to stay with us forever!. However, if this indeed is the last album, then thank you for the music guys... And see you at the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Festival in Maidstone at the end of July at your only UK show for yet another farewell appearance !!
Track listing :-
1. Going Out With A Bang 2. We Built This House 3. Rock My Car 4. House Of Cards 5. All For One 6. Rock'n'Roll Band 7. Catch Your Luck And Play 8. Rollin' Home 9. Hard Rockin' The Place 10. Eye Of The Storm 11. The Scratch 12. Gypsy Life 13. The World We Used To Know (Bonus Track) 14. Dancing With The Moonlight (Bonus Track) 15. When The Truth Is A Lie (Bonus Track) 16. Who We Are (Bonus Track) 17. One And One Is Three (Bonus Track)
It has been a bizarre time to be a Bon Jovi fan, and it isn't too difficult for those rock listeners who have been left outside of the feud between lead vocalist and main man Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora to understand why. After Jon gave Sambora an ultimatum, which would either result in the founding guitar player heading back out on the road and into the studio or spending time with his family and being kicked out of the band, Sambora chose the latter. The remaining members of Bon Jovi would then head back on tour with the aid of guitarist Phil X without actually naming him as the official replacement for Sambora, before heading into the recording studio to record and release the band's thirteenth album ‘Burning Bridges’.
The release of a 13th Bon Jovi studio album won’t change many minds. After a three-decade career, most listeners have already formed an opinion on the New Jersey rockers’ rousing stadium-filling choruses. A new album offers little more than a fresh excuse to refill the coffers and add a few more set fillers to a multimillion-dollar touring juggernaut that is still dining out on 1980’s anthems.
So what, right? Most casual fans need relentlessly reminding that – despite the egotistical name – Bon Jovi are a band, not one man, and Jon Bon Jovi wrote most of said band’s biggest hits alongside a certain sparring partner. It’s not quite in the same league as Mick touting The Stones sans Keith, but a Sambora-less Bon Jovi is a significant loss, for sure – more akin, perhaps, to Axl Rose fronting Guns N’ Roses without Slash (a sacrilege many fans will never forgive).
If Sambora’s departure offered any chances for the remaining band members to reconnect or reinvent themselves, they have been squarely ignored. JBJ, for example, could have revisited the confessionalism of his 1997 solo album, Destination Anywhere’. Keyboard player David Bryan – the composer behind Broadway musical ‘Memphis’ – might finally have been given a moment to shine. They could have tried, well, something new. Instead, ‘Burning Bridges’ is the sound of a band at its least inspired – many of these tunes are cast-offs from old sessions, dusted off and, presumably, spitefully overdubbed with new guitar parts (no credits are included).
The acoustic ‘Fingerprints’ treads water for six, leaden minutes, despite opening with finger-picked guitar reminiscent of the classic ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’. Stomp-rocker ‘Who Would You Die For’ lumbers along like a lorry struggling up a steep hill. “I’m not afraid of burning bridges, because I know they’re going to light my way,” wails JBJ on ‘We Don’t Run’, twice, which comes complete with a shredding, 1980s-style guitar solo, concocted solely to rub Sambora’s face in it. Still bloody good though!.And perhaps that’s the point – proof that it’s business as usual, that JBJ can continue to churn out by-the-numbers rock fluff all on his own, thank you very much.
That’s not strictly true, though, as all but two of the tunes here boast a co-writer. One of those is Sambora, on the album’s first single – and best song – a mature rejoinder to ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’, called ‘Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning’. But does he play guitar on that track, or any others? It's hard to say. Musician credits aren't included, and since these are, in some cases, old songs, it's possible that, in some cases, the band may have used old tracks instead of starting from scratch.
Even JBJ has washed his hands of ‘Burning Bridges’, decreeing it a “contractual obligation fan album” (isn't every album a fan album by the way !??). The country-flavoured title track is a tongue-in-cheek send-off to Mercury Records with scathing lyrics – “the last song you can sell” – the band’s home for 32 years. But no more... as the band and label could not agree on adjusted terms for the band's recording contract. There is apparently a “real” post- Sambora album set to follow on a new label in May next year. This predecessor is a stopgap “fan record”, rushed out to coincide with the band’s upcoming tour of Asia, which will stop off in Abu Dhabi on October 1st.
So the burning question remains: Is the latest Bon Jovi album ‘Burning Bridges’ a "new" album? That depends solely on what you consider "new" to mean. They're fresh recordings with the band's current line up, and I'm sure some interpretations were included along the way. One or two of these tracks like ‘We Don't Run’, are also some of the finest hard rock compositions to arrive from Bon Jovi in some time, (since ‘Have A Nice Day’ in my view). Rather than questioning the status of what we find on ‘Burning Bridges’, it may prove to be more worthwhile to turn towards the future of the band. If all Bon Jovi can do is rely on the previously abandoned scraps of earlier efforts when Richie Sambora, someone Jon Bon Jovi seemingly can't bury the hatchet with, was in the line-up and writing material, this progression may be over just as soon as it begins.
Iron Maiden transcend their own music. They are the true survival story of British heavy metal, now in their landmark fortieth year together. The elaborate live productions, the ubiquitous merchandise and the iconic visage of ‘Eddie’ are as much a part of the Iron Maiden aesthetic as Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines and Bruce Dickinson’s scream. There is a culture to Iron Maiden fandom; the band is like a musical genre unto itself.
The 2009 tour documentary Flight 666 puts this into perspective as the band takes its private jet plane to various exotic locales across the lower hemisphere. At each show - many in isolated countries where the band rarely plays - thousands of fans donning Maiden shirts descend in a communal celebration of their favorite band. They shout the lyrics to each and every song, even if it’s not in their native language. Something about the escapist quality of Iron Maiden, the progressive arrangements and the epic storytelling, gives them a worldly, universal appeal, which in turn gives them the longevity to keep going. Their dedication to craft is rivaled only by their fans’ devotion, and the band, even as its core members approach their 60’s, works tirelessly to do good on that devotion, whether it be a tour through previously unvisited countries or a massive double album. Metalheads disagree on many things, but they all agree on one thing - no band personifies the genre more in all its absurdities and glories than Iron Maiden.
The band’s cartoonish image obscures the fact that these are deeply serious players with the compositional skills of classical musicians. The best Iron Maiden songs are long, but they are never dull. The band understand too much about melody, tempo and musical tension to be boring and this sixteenth studio album ‘The Book of Souls’ is beyond anything we could’ve expected from Iron Maiden this far into their career. It was certainly not done by halves, that's for sure! Billed as their lengthiest, most epic work to date and first ever studio double album, it’s a record that only Iron Maiden could get away with an hour and a half of wildly theatrical power metal. The Dickinson-penned opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’, originally intended for his solo album, casually pushes eight minutes, moving from a hooky drop-D riff into bass-driven prog grooves. The chorus is pure fatalist Maiden: “Waiting in line for the end of your time/ If eternity should fail.” Having just beaten tongue cancer, Dickinson struggles to carry some melodies, but the rawness of his delivery and the unfiltered production give his vocals a specific catharsis that other, highly polished latter-era Maiden albums have lacked.
The first song to be released from the album, namely ‘The Speed of Light’ is the closest you’ll get to a ‘Trooper’ or ‘Aces High’ on ‘The Book of Souls’, as all 11 tracks brush the five-minute mark at least. But Maiden is a different beast now, and conceptual magnificence takes priority over instant gratification in 2015. ‘The Red and the Black’ represents this perfectly, clocking in at nearly a quarter hour. Written by Steve Harris, the legendary bassist manages to coat the listener’s ears with one of Iron Maiden’s richest soundscapes to date, sweetened by the breathtaking use of keyboards. ‘The Red and the Black’ is an unyielding riff and solo fest, even honing a gigantic section of Iron Maiden “WOAH’s”. ‘When the River Runs Deep’ breaks from the flow slightly by picking up the pace, while the album’s title track showcases the somewhat unsung compositional talents of guitarist Janick Gers. ‘Shadows of the Valley’ comes soon after, and it adds yet another Maiden epic to an album already packed to the barrel with gunpowder. It begins with a riff reminiscent of ‘Wasted Years’, but quickly breaks from further comparison with some unconventional guitar breaks and a super powered chorus from Mr. Dickinson that just begs to be sung by a stadium filled with Maiden fanatics.
If ‘The Book of Souls’ were to take its bow after ‘Tears of a Clown’, the band’s farewell to Robin Williams, and ‘The Man of Sorrows’, a piece filled with melancholy and soul, we’d all be left in a euphoric haze praising our metal heroes for yet another life affirming release. However, an extra 18 minutes is given to a little prog cut called ‘Empire of the Clouds’ written by Bruce Dickinson at the piano. And ladies and gentlemen, this is where ‘The Book of Souls’ goes from simply fantastic to an undeniable classic. Bruce begins the journey behind his piano with a light interlude of strings adding atmosphere and substance to the ethereal solemnity of Dickinson’s melody. Attempting to articulate the scope of this song feels like an injustice. Suffice to say this track alone is worth the price of the record and an experience any metal fan should welcome. Comparisons are already being drawn between this pièce-de-résistance and the band’s storied epic from 1984, ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.
With ‘The Book of Souls’, Iron Maiden has further cemented its iconic status among the rock and metal community. This record is but another grand and fulfilling chapter in a legendary career that is distinguished by deft musicianship, intelligent lyrics and masterful songwriting. Kevin Shirley‘s production is understated yet flawlessly brilliant. Whether ‘The Book of Souls’ is the final chapter in Iron Maiden‘s impressive and historic catalogue of music remains to be seen, but it is certainly among its most memorable offerings since the band’s seminal 80’s works such as ‘Number of the Beast’ and ‘Powerslave’. Obviously Iron Maiden can’t continue forever but with the band continuing to write vital songs, and constantly looking for new avenues, bigger ideas - and planes there is, thankfully, life in the old beast yet. Long may it continue, because metal without Iron Maiden will be be a strange world indeed. And it's already evident that ‘The Book of Souls’ will be a hit with fans, with the album having reached Number 1 in a mere 24 countries around the world debuting at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart (dated Sept. 26). The recently announced live 2016 world tour to accompany the album is set to be nothing short of exceptional with the band expected to visit 35 countries flying over 55,000 miles across six of the seven continents, taking touring to a whole new level by using a Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, which will be piloted by Bruce who is currently in training to qualify for his 747 license. First stop the USA. Can only be Iron Maiden can't it!! Can't wait....!!!!!!
1. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28 2. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01 3. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37 4. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33 5. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52 6. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27
7. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13 8. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32 9. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59 10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28 11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01
Buoyed by the success of last year's massively attended and enthusiastically received reunion Hyde Park gig, (organised after persuasion from Chris Evans during a radio interview) Electric Light Orchestra, that Brummie bunch with the multi-coloured spaceship and semi-orchestral sound have released their first album in fourteen years; or at least their front man has under the ELO banner. Jeff Lynne, the ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer has released fresh material just three years on from the release of his solo album, ‘Long Wave’, with an album promising to deliver a truer sound to fans of the band of which he epitomizes.
‘Long Wave’ was a self-declared solo but ‘Alone in the Universe’ poses as an ELO "branded" album; the acronym and the spaceship which has long been synonymous with ELO appear on the album cover but in truth, this is another Lynne solo, albeit better geared to an ELO loving audience. As Jeff himself recently told Rolling Stone magazine: "I did everything except the shaker and the tambourine". Even Jeff’s long-term friend and bandmate, Richard Tandy (the only other original ELO member to feature on 2001’s overlooked ‘Zoom’) is missing from this one. Founding ELO member Bev Bevan is long gone: the pair haven’t spoken for 30 years, hence the awkward legalese surrounding the band’s moniker. Steve Jay is accredited for engineering the album and Lynne’s daughter, Laura, supplies backing vocals on a couple of tracks but the rest is all down to the bearded musical genius with the sunglasses. Vocals, lead guitar, bass, drums, you name it, Jeff can, will and has done it for this record. Perhaps, ‘Alone in the Studio’ would have been a more apt title!!!
The striking thing about ELO is that their music continues to find new listeners, whether through compilations, car commercials, soundtrack placements, or G+ copies of ‘Eldorado’ in used record bins. On one hand, the band ought to have aged about as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Styx, which is to say, not very well. ELO’s best albums – ‘A New World Record’, ‘Discovery’ and 1977's double album masterpiece ‘Out Of The Blue’ in particular—are prime examples of the excesses of the '70s, with all the pomp and studio over-excitement of the most ambitious prog rock imaginable. And yet, Lynne deployed those techniques in service of songs that had all the exuberance and abandon of early rock 'n' roll.
Given their propensity for cosmic imagery (have you seen their web site?), the title of their latest album sounds all the more wistful, as though the absence of alien life is the saddest thing Lynne could ever imagine. That particular melancholy informs first single and album opener ‘When I Was A Boy’, which may sound slight but is animated by the kind of nostalgia often found in country songs. "Radio waves kept me company in those beautiful days when there was no money", Lynne sings, as though flipping through old photo albums. "When I was a boy, I had a dream." He’s still no wordsmith, but there’s something bracing about his directness; any lyrical pretensions would ruin the reverie. However, this is a true ELO track and arguably the best single to be released since the band’s heyday.
On the other hand, you have something like ‘Dirty To The Bone’. With its florid harps and thrumming drums, it’s an upbeat pop song in tone and tempo. But the lyrics are mean-spirited to a near-comical degree, as Lynne describes one of those she-devils who seem to exist only in old rock songs: "She’ll mess you up, she’ll move around… she’ll deceive you till the cows come home." That kind of cartoony straw-woman writing abounded in the '70s, but the casual misogyny, not to mention such threadbare cliché, feels profoundly out of place now. All a bit Whitesnake if you ask me..
‘Alone in The Universe’ fares best when Lynne is more generous, when he can contrast the downcast sentiments of the lyrics with the effervescence of the music. After a rocky side 1, side 2 picks up considerably, thanks to light-speed ‘Ain’t It a Drag’ and the zero-gravity ‘I’m Leaving You’ which pays clear homage to Roy Orbison, one of Lynne’s contemporary’s in supergroup The Travelling Wilburys. Likewise, there are strong hints of John Lennon (who once described ELO as the "son of Beatles") present on 'All My Life', which is no surprise given Lynne's self-confessed Beatles fixation, which remains in full bloom here.
The latter half of the album features ‘One Step at a Time’, a track that epitomizes the ELO of the 70’s and would have fit effortlessly on the masterpiece that was ‘Out of the Blue’; before flowing smoothly into the finale; the eponymous ‘Alone in the Universe’ with its ‘Time’ intro. This is a beautiful track with a whimsical guitar solo; although, not quite in the same league as the likes of 'Waterfall' or 'Midnight Blue'. More of an update of the 1976 single ‘Telephone Line’ I reckon..
‘Alone in the Universe’ doesn’t simply unearth that classic ELO sound like some ancient artifact. Instead, it gently updates those elements to 2015, the year Lynne celebrates his 68th birthday and his 52nd year in the music business. These songs sound precarious, both musically and emotionally. Partly that is due to age and the slight quaver in Lynne’s vocals, which aren’t quite as robust as they used to be. Partly it is due to technology. Lynne has always used to the studio to define his band’s entire identity, and the difference between then and now is the difference between the air-brushed UFO on ‘A New World Record’ and the CGI saucer on ‘Alone in the Universe’. There’s a gauzy thinness to the sound, an inescapable two-dimensionality that occasionally hinders Lynne’s mission. Still, this is a fine addition to their catalog, perhaps not as consistent as 2001’s ‘Zoom’ but much better than these late-career revival albums tend to sound.
But, generally this 14th ELO album is a pleasing album showcasing some of Lynne’s best work as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter since the 80’s. ‘Alone in the Universe’ is a nostalgic romp and a quality album by an exceedingly talented musician with ample ELO qualities but don't expect another ‘Out of the Blue’. While ‘Alone In The Universe’ exists well within Lynne’s comfort zone, it’s never less than enjoyable and, at barely half an hour, doesn’t outstay its welcome. And the really good news is that it has provided the impetus for Lynne to take a band and ELO’s wonderful back catalogue on tour next year, so roll on the 02 Arena in April. And of course, the WRC will be there !!!
01. When I Was a Boy 02. Love and Rain 03. Dirty to the Bone 04. When the Night Comes 05. The Sun Will Shine on You 06. Ain’t It a Drag 07. All My Life 08. I’m Leaving You 09. One Step at a Time 10. Alone in the Universe
Danny Bryant said about 'Blood Money' - “I wanted to make this album ever since I began my musical journey 20 years ago as a 15 year old boy who fell in love with his parent’s record collection.” On 'Blood Money', Bryant set out to record an album that showed an introspective return to his roots and an appreciation of his Blues influences, by paying homage, as he puts it “to all the different influences and flavours of this wonderful music that I have loved for many years.” I only read this after I listened to the album and had started penning the review – DB listed his influences for some of the songs – I found myself listing my own and I am sure others will add theirs when they hear this excellent album.
'Blood Money' - the title track kicks of the album which is brave as normally the quality of the track the album is named after decides how good it is – no worries here as this track sets the tone. Walter Trout guests on this one and from the moment DB’s Joe Cocker like vocals kick in together with the choppy repetitive riffs you are waiting for the two to round things off with their solos – DB and WT don’t disappoint – now we know why this track is the opener.
'Master Plan' - I can picture it now – roof down, 90 degrees driving through the Florida Keys with 'Master Plan' blaring out – DB says he is a freight train in this one but it is my road song from the album – the repetitive riffs do remind you off a train rolling along but for me it’s a Cadillac – air guitar time unless you are driving of course!!
'Slow Suicide' - a haunting traditional Blues song with a beautifully played weeping guitar solo. The song builds nicely – a real lighters/camera phone job – enough said!!
'Unchained' shows us the funkier side of DB – I can imagine a lot of bumping and grinding going on to this one. The song has a great backing groove going complemented by DB letting go with a withering solo.
'On the Rocks' - I’m not a great instrumental fan but this is different as there is so much going on all the way through. I found myself imaging who could be jamming with DB on this – I came up with Chuck Berry – BB King – Thijs Van Leer on keyboard – now that would have been a line up. I am sure others will have their own thoughts.
'Sugar Sweet' is the single from the album and is another road song for me. For me it has Quo's 'In my Chair' and Canned Heats 'Let’s Work Together' feel, both of which I love so Key West here we come!!
'Fools Game' - more from funkmaster DB – and a song about not playing the fools game of gambling – I know a few who have been there and it is a place that has many ramifications not just moneywise but on other people’s lives – well written and hard hitting.
'Holding All the Cards' - no not another gambling song, but about a relationship where one person holds all the cards – been there as well – great keys from Richard Hammerton leads into another trademark DB solo – dare you not to foot tap, head sway, air guitar or all of them to this.
'Just Won’t Burn' with Bernie Marsden – this has everything starting as it means to go on with haunting piano, vocal, guitar solo intro, leading into vocals that feel the heartache of a relationship that has run its course – well for one of the two anyway. The other can’t let go 'Just Won’t Burn'. Hurting guitar solos from DB and BM - outstanding.
'Sara Jayne' - this song sounds very personal – I may be wrong. A real tear jerker – I can hear the audience joining in on this chorus – “miss the day, miss the night and I feel this empty space beside me, where are you tonight?”
Joe Bonamassa said that DB can make the Fender sing – there is no doubting that and just like JB you know that when he takes these tracks on to the stage the guitar solos will become even more immense than they are on the album – not a poor track on the album and I can’t wait to see the man himself at Leos Red Lion in Gravesend on Sunday 28th February!!
'It would be easy when reviewing this album for me to “big it up” simply on the basis that The Stevie Nimmo Trio are headlining our Kent BluesRockFest later this year. Let’s face it for a promoter to thumbs down a new release from the main act of one of his/her promotions would effectively be musical suicide. Thankfully I won’t be searching around for nice things to say because ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is one of the most refreshing albums I have heard in a long long while. The album has something for everyone from Rock, Blues, Country, Pop Rock and Acoustic and whatever your musical tastes you will find you yourself appreciating all the different genres due to the catchy riffs and wonderfully crafted lyrics.
The album opens with the riff laden ‘Chains of Hope’ (Sky Won’t Fall) and all I want to say about this track is “crank it up” give it plenty of head banging and air guitar – job done!!! – surely this must be the opener to every gig in 2016! The pace doesn’t slacken as ‘Roll the Dice’ Again continues the theme with more gut wrenching riffs - brilliant stuff. So the dye is cast then it’s a rock album, but no the next track ‘Change’ launches into 70’s disco funk in my eyes followed quickly by ‘Running Back To You’ which is a wonderful Bluesy experience that relates to a relationship so many of us have known. So we must be going back to Rock now but no the genre changes again as Stevie puts on his cowboy hat with ‘Walk the Thin Line’ – now I get to hear a lot of Country music on my trips to the USA and I challenge you to find a better country song than this - this needs releasing over there - end of!!!! Follow that - well Stevie pulls another rabbit out of the hat with the wonderfully soulful ‘I’ll Pray For You’.
Surely the album will run out of steam soon but no chance of that - the next two tracks ‘Still Hungry’ and ‘Gamblers Roll’ could have been taken straight off a Joe Bonamassa album and to be honest if you dropped them into one you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in quality - brilliant. To finish off as a dessert is the beautifully crafted ‘Love You More Tonight’ another country song with a Springsteen feel.
To sum up this album it is one that will be constantly on my ‘turntable’ for a long time as it has everything you could want to suit your mood. Trust me you will not be looking to skip tracks that are there to fill in because there aren’t any!!