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The legendary British Rhythm’n’Blues band Dr. Feelgood are set to release a new album entitled 'Damn Right!' on 4th November 2022 through Grand Records. Their first album of original songs in twenty six years! The album consists of eleven brand new songs with not a cover in sight! Guitarist Gordon Russell and vocalist Robert Kane were responsible for writing all the tunes. The album was recorded in Southend and was produced by renowned bassist Dave Bronze, who also did a stint in Dr. Feelgood between 1991 - 1994, engineered by Rees Broomfield with Gordon Russell as musical director. The album was recorded over four days, with the band all playing together in the same room to capture the energy. The last studio album to feature original songs, including a few covers, was 'On The Road Again', released back in 1996.
The current lineup of Dr. Feelgood does not contain any original members but it does feature long time members Kevin Morris on drums, who joined them in 1983, as did Phil Mitchell on bass (1983 - 1991, 1995 - present), vocalist Robert Kane who came on board in 1999 and guitarist Gordon Russell, who is now into his second stint with the band after a thirty three year break (1983 - 1989, 2021 – present).
Dr. Feelgood formed in 1971 in Canvey Island, Essex, by school friends Lee Collinson (Lee Brilleaux), Chris White (Chris Fenwick), John Sparkes (Sparko), John Wilkinson (Wilko Johnson) and John Martin (Big Figure). They were named after a 1962 record by the American Blues pianist and singer Willie Perryman (also known as "Piano Red") called "Dr. Feel-Good". 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. Chris Fenwick decided he would be better suited to managing rather than playing. He continues to manage the band to this day.
Their debut album 'Down By The Jetty' was released in 1975 with a second, 'Malpractice', being quickly recorded and released in the same year to monopolise on their widening profile. Their major breakthrough happened in 1976 when their live album, 'Stupidity', reached number one in the UK Albums Chart. Sadly, after the 1977 album 'Sneakin' Suspicion', guitarist Wilko Johnson left the band. Stoically the band continued on and recruited a relatively unknown guitarist called John 'Gypie' Mayo (John Philip Cawthra). The band went on to further success in the late 70s 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 with former Count Bishops axeman, Johnny 'Guitar' Crippen. He lasted 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 that Dr. Feelgood had 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 80s, less grit and more polish! Well it was the 80s! 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. In came guitarist Steve Walwyn (Steve Marriott/Roger Chapman), who features on the live release 'Live in London' (1990) and 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. 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 bands vocalist to this day. They released the Blues covers album 'Chess Masters' in 2000, the live album 'Speeding Thru Europe' in 2003 and the classic Dr. Feelgood reimagined covers album 'Repeat Prescription' in 2006. 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.
Sadly, long serving guitarist Steve Walwyn decided to leave Dr Feelgood in 2021 after thirty two years of active service to pursue other projects, one of those being the formation of a new three piece Blues Rock band with The Specials bass player Horace Panter called 'The Dirt Road Band'. It is a shame that Dr. Feelgood haven't released any new material in the last twenty six years whilst Steve Walwyn was still in the band. Steve is a phenomenal songwriter having written one the band's best ever songs 'Instinct To Survive' which first appeared on the 1996 'On The Road' album. With the return of Gordon Russell in 2021 it would seem that the band have had a new lease of life. A burgeoning creative relationship started to blossom between Russell and vocalist Robert Kane, the result being a whole album of new songs. Better late than never!
Opening up 'Damn Right!' with unassailable intent is 'Don't Pull Your Punches'. A vibrantly lively Rock infused track with an irresistibly insistent guitar string bending riff and foot to the floor solidly tight rhythm. “Say what you want, say what you need, say it loud, say it clean, call me any kinda days, you don't have to fake it, shoot me down in flames, you know I can take it, don't you, don't you, don't you pull any punches.”
'Put The Blame On Me' is a greasy, gritty uptempo Blues track with that Feelgood classic stabbing Telecaster guitar chop reminiscent of the Wilko Johnson era. An energetically muscular harmonica solo punches with much weight. “What I am is what you got, maybe devil maybe not, don't put the blame on me.”
'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is' is another energetic Blues stomper with eloquent attitude laden vocals from Kane. A pleasing wide-open sound with lots of depth and clarity. Super tight playing from all with a tasty Rock 'n' Roll styled guitar solo from Russell. “Now when your walking, yeah you walk the big walk, when your talking, yeah your talking the big talk, so put your money where your mouth is, don't take too long, put your money where your mouth is.”
'Damn Right I Do!' is an effervescently fast paced struttin' R&B flavoured slice of Punk Rock! A hard driving track with expressively adept vocals and a sparklingly vivacious guitar solo. This is the sound of a band refreshed and out to prove that they still have something to offer. “Who feels it knows that's so true, I've gotta a feeling that’s right for you, do I, do I, do I want you, you can bet your life, damn right I do!”
'Take A Second Look' is a superb 1960s style R&B track with wonderful guitar hooks and a crisp clear sound. The playing is super tight with a well-balanced mix of vocals and instruments. “Might not be what you want, might just be what you need, when your feeling down and alone, I could be your friend indeed, so take a second look, take a second look, the cover don't tell you about the book.”
'Blues Me' is a mid-paced 12 bar Blues with that unmistaken Canvey energy and Thames Delta vibe. Kane has his own unique vocal style and inhabits the lyrics with committed conviction. “Take me over, take me down, run for cover, go to town, go for tension, go for stress, no need to mention, don't care less, I don't care if you use me, just Blues me.”
'Keep It Under Cover' is a tenaciously spirited slide guitar based Blues. Lee would certainly have approved! “We got something nobody knows, an undercover lover keeps you on your toes, meetin' in the shadows, talkin' on the phone, trying to find a little time so we can be alone, we can tell, we can say, keep it undercover every night and day.”
'I Need A Doctor' is a slow slinky Blues that slithers and snakes along with some exquisitely evocative guitar lines that add to the overall atmosphere. “Well mamma mamma I feel so ill, send for the doctor to give me a pill, doctor please will I die? Yes sir, yes sir, and so will I! Give me some medicine, give me a pill, a miracle cure for all my ills, a little pick me up doc don't you know, just a little something for my get up and go, I need a doctor!”
'Mary Ann' was the first song from the new album to be aired online. A mid-paced Pop infused Rock track with bright upbeat guitar chording that jauntily jangles along. The perky guitar solo features much expressively dextrous string bending! This track shows the lighter Poppier side of the Feelgoods that was evident back in the mid-80s when Russell was the guitarist in the band at that time. “Mary Ann, something for nothin' is her only plan, Mary Ann, is all she's every known, Mary Ann, does the best she can, Mary Ann doesn't know she's born.”
'Inside Out' is an unrelentingly bouncy stomper with an infectious descending guitar riff and decisively steadfast drumming. “I just wrote a letter, I hope it gets to you, I just wanted you to know, and see what you can do, inside out, inside out, you turn it inside out. Every time I see you it thrills me to the bone, each time I'm away from you I can’t wait to get back home, my nerves are on the outside, my heart is on my sleeve, I'm shaking down from my head to my toes.”
The final track 'Last Call' is a lively fast-paced Freddie King style Blues shuffle instrumental complete with bass solo! Some fine exuberantly, ebullient guitar soloing from Russell. The track ends with the sound of laughter in the studio, which exemplifies the fun atmosphere and good feeling within the band whilst making this album.
Overall, this is a great vibrant sounding album by a well-rehearsed and refreshed band, with all their chops well and truly intact. They are clearly having a lot fun and this album proves that they are still a relevant creative force to be reckoned with!
Steven C. Gilbert
This is a superb first release from the Manchester trio, who, after checking out their website, are clearly no spring chickens, but still manage to sound as spritely as the friskiest of young gun outfits. It’s a terrible name but the music is terrific. Mark James Ross is the main driving force here, taking the vocal, guitar and keyboard duties as well as writing the songs and producing (he probably makes a nice cup of tea too).
The songs are bursting with melodies, which flow over the top of mostly soft, rhythmic, reggae tinged guitar grooves; the keyboard parts are melodically inventive and provide a counterpoint to the strong vocals and really nicely flowing and lyrical guitar lines.
I can’t think of another new album that has grabbed my interest so immediately for a long while. These are superbly crafted songs. The playing is excellent throughout. The guitar soloing at times has a bit of a Dave Gilmour feel, particularly on ‘Why Did You Leave Me’ and ‘The Road’, the latter being another example of the atmospheric groove that sets this band apart.
It’s hard to single individual songs out as the standard is consistently excellent throughout, but opener ‘Invisible’ and ‘Flesh And Blood’ will tell you all you need to know. There’s even a whistled solo on ‘Light As A Feather (Jenny’s Song)’. What more can you ask for? Music for adults!
What else can you do during a heatwave other than lie back and listen to an instrumental album full of Summer goodness? Credit must go to the album cover art work for invoking 70’s style halcyon days. Mike Ross’s latest effort, in his recently prodigious output, offers not just a suite of Southern Rock but, by golly, as John Thompson’s character out of the Fast Show would intone, “This is Jazz”.
He opens the album with the familiar Allman licks of his guitar before what goes into a 14-minute title-track jam of extraordinary musical chops by all players concerned. Accompanied by a Hammond-organ attack supplied by Rob Millis, he slaloms into changes in mood and tempo before slicing through with a riff driven extended solo which segues into a cow-bell inspired (Darren Lee on drums) rhythmic dance through guitar chords. Cue some dizzy Rhodes piano soloing (Matt Slocum) and there is even a sly 'Son of a Preacher Man' motif thrown in before returning to the opening melody: Simply mesmeric.
This is followed by an acoustic re-working of 'Amazing Grace' exuding a warm camp-fire interlude that takes the Gospel church into the cabin in the woods: Short and sweet.
This offers a fitting prelude to the piece de resistance of this mini-LP, 'Galadrielle'. A glorious mash-up of Moog Gospel soulfulness on the keys, and a complementary rhythm section of grooving bass (Derek Randall) and drumming. This is all topped-off with a reverse tape-loop a la Stone Roses 'Don’t Stop' to concoct a heady brew with Psychedelic overtones.
This flows into the plaintive cover of Free’s 'Don't Say You Love Me', a nod to the fellow North-Easterner Paul Rodgers, and a demonstration that Mike is not just an accomplished guitarist but also an emotive and sensitive singer. This all sets up a beautiful finale, a musical paean to his departed father 'Derek and Me', which begins with a nostalgic doo-wop chord progression that morphs into a Blues acoustic and grows into a soaring electric conclusion.
Ivan De Mello
For the ordinary Joe, delving into the back of a cupboard might at best uncover an old tour t-shirt, strangely several sizes too small. For musicians like Bernie Marsden, a similar investigation is more likely to uncover something more interesting, as is the case with this selection of numbers that the artist recorded with drummer Jimmy Copley and bassist David Levy back in 2007, which have been gathering proverbial dust since.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why these very tasty nuggets have been overlooked until now. Fortuitously, given the almost accidental way that the recordings came about (trying out a new studio and having a bit of a jam) and the random choice of songs, which thematically fell into the category of monster numbers performed by power trios, led by some of the best guitar players there’s been.
It’s a testament to the unassuming guitarist that he tackles numbers by artists like Jeff Beck (‘Black Cat Moan’) and Jimi (‘Drifting’ and ‘Spanish Castle Magic’) and, without attempting to re-invent them in the slightest, still brings a freshness of approach through his excellent guitar work and equally impressive vocals, that makes this album a highly enjoyable listen and a bit of a drool-fest for lovers of Classic Rock fretwork.
Blues From The Heart Live
Hot on the heels of her first all Blues album released last year, comes a blistering live album from Joanne Shaw Taylor that includes the majority of ‘The Blues Album’, plus a selection of live favourites from her growing back catalogue. The listener knows they’re in for a treat from the opening notes of Peter Green’s ‘Stop Messin’ Round’. This is a real peach of an album, as not only is each song a gem in itself, but we get to hear extended soloing from an exceptional guitarist right at the top of her game to flesh out these numbers.
As well as being backed by a couple of musicians who have worked with Joe Bonamassa recently, the laconic Steve Mackey on bass and Rob McNelley on second guitar (whose slide playing on ‘Dyin’ to Know’ really enhances a classic guitar number), the man himself joins for the three closing numbers: ‘Don’t Go Away Mad’, replicating their duet from the ‘Blues Album’, a bluesy ‘Summertime’ from the ‘Wild’ album and finally a fresh, powerful version of Delaney and Bonnie’s ‘Only You Know and I Know’. These two make a great pairing and while this is definitely JST’s showcase, I can’t help but think that on this evidence these two friends would make a cracking album together.
Further guitar treats are served up by a guest appearance by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who burns it up on Albert King’s ‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me’. The addition of a single sax player and two backing vocalists as well as Jimmy Wallace on keyboards help to recreate the soulful groove of the recent studio recordings and with the lady’s vocals reaching new heights, this is both an essential listen for existing fans and a good place to start for newcomers. An accompanying DVD shot with the typically strong production values associated with KTBA releases, beautifully captures the action from the Franklin Theatre in Tennessee and helps make this a very tasty package.
One of the refreshing things about this excellent debut from the Portsmouth centred outfit is, not unsurprisingly given that the lyrics mostly come from the female side of the band, that the songs are written from the female perspective. So, instead of notches on the bedpost bragging or references to lemons being squeezed etc. there are unashamedly honest (and witty) songs like 'What’s Your Name Again' from the viewpoint of the woman waking up in a strange bed after one too many the night before.
Another thing that sets this collection apart is that the band is fronted by two very powerful female vocalists in Lindsey Bonnick and Chloe Josephine, who’s vocal styles complement each other perfectly as they soar over, what turns out, on repeated plays, to be a bit of a classic Blues rock album. The track that epitomises the beauty and grand scale of the vocals is 'Break Me', which is a brilliantly tortured song about a love triangle and, as well as featuring a mini choir to create gloriously layered harmonies, has a burning guitar solo from Ed Clarke, who’s guitar playing throughout is fiery, controlled and interestingly creative.
This track is going to be featuring on many playlists, as are many other songs on this, such as the high adrenalin riff driven opener 'Heart Attack', which also highlights the tight and crunchy playing of Donna Peters on drums and Billy Dedman on bass. There’s probably more Rock than Blues influences on display but either way these are 12 absolute bangers that represent really fine song writing and production values, not to mention outstanding musicianship.
As mentioned, the vocal arrangements are to die for, especially on the Bluesy 'Come Down'. The solo on this track is another scorcher, with each note counting, but it is a pleasant change to listen to a track like this where it is the individual vocal sections that make you want to come back for more. This is an outstanding debut and will undoubtedly be one of the standout albums of the year.
British Prog/Electronic Rock band Pure Reason Revolution are set to release their fifth studio album 'Above Cirrus' on Friday 6th May 2022 through Inside Out Music. ‘Above Cirrus’ contains seven songs that continue many of the musical through lines that fans have come to expect; maintaining a balance between sombre reflection and intrepid exploration. The striking album cover features an art piece called “Deaf Mute” by artist Jill Tegan Doherty. The art depicts a rather traumatised polar bear that’s out of its normal environment and partially covered in slow thawing ice. The musicians on the album are Jon Courtney - guitar, vocals, keyboards, Chloë Alper - bass, vocals, keyboards and Greg Jong - guitars, vocals.
Pure Reason Revolution began life as a Reading Indie band called The Sunset Sound, which featured Jon Courtney, Chloë Alper and Jim Dobson, but it was during their time at the University of Westminster (2000 - 2003) where Courtney, brother Andrew, Chloë Alper, Greg Jong and Jim Dobson came together to form Pure Reason Revolution, going through a number of name changes along the way including "The Wow" and "Pendulum Dawn". The band's name was inspired by Courtney's University thesis on the nature of genius and its application to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, for which he studied Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant.
Their first single 'Apprentice of the Universe' was released on Alan McGee's Poptones label in 2004. By autumn 2004 they signed to SonyBMG and the following year saw the band releasing two singles - 'Bright Ambassadors of Morning' (the title is from a line in Pink Floyd's ‘Echoes’ on the ‘Meddle’ album), and 'The Intention Craft' - plus one mini-album, 'Cautionary Tales for the Brave'. Their first full-length album, 'The Dark Third' was released in April 2006, and was produced by Paul Northfield (Rush, Porcupine Tree, Gentle Giant, Dream Theater). Sadly, due to low record sales, Sony dropped them in December 2006.
The second album 'Amor Vincit Omnia' was released in March 2009 on the Superball Music label and was a departure from their more dreamy, Classic-Prog style of 'The Dark Third', with electronic elements now becoming a greater and more prominent part of their sound. The title of the album is Latin for 'Love Conquers All', alluding to Vergil's famous line from Eclogue 10.69. It is also a reference to the painting Amor Vincit Omnia by the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio, completed circa 1601. Their third album 'Hammer and Anvil' was released via Superball Music in October 2010, co-produced by Courtney and Tom Bellamy (The Cooper Temple Clause). The new music continued the dark, electronic themes of 'Amor Vincit Omnia', and was partially inspired by themes of World War I and II.
The band parted ways in November 2011 following touring in support of their 2010 album 'Hammer and Anvil', releasing their final EP, 'Valour' in November 2011. Since then, Jon Courtney formed an electronic duo with vocalist Sammi Doll called Bullet Height and released their debut album ‘No Atonement’ in 2017, while Chloë Alper formed a new Rock band with Grammy and MOBO nominated multi-instrumentalist Mat Collis called Tiny Giant in 2015. Their first single 'Joely' was released in May 2016, which won them a nomination for the Limelight (New Band) award at the Progressive Music Awards Eon Music. They released a further three singles, 'School of Hard Knocks', 'Draw me a Line' and 'Thirsty & Sad'.
In June 2019 Courtney and Alper re-united as Pure Reason Revolution and played the Midsummer Prog Festival, Openluchtheater, Valkenburg, Netherlands. Courtney and Alper were the only returning members. The reunion was a huge success and with refreshed enthusiasm and renewed chemistry they set about writing and recording their first new material in almost ten years. The resulting landmark comeback album 'Eupnea' was released in 2020. By the time ‘Eupnea’ was released, the band had spent a moderate amount of time anticipating their first tour in over ten years supporting the record. But as the picture of current events became clearer and clearer, and shows kept getting pushed back further and further, the plan changed - and work on ‘Above Cirrus’ began.
The opening track 'Our Prism' storms in with a maelstrom of jarring angular guitars and relentlessly violent pounding drums. A heavy monstrous track to kick things off. The potent blend of Cortney and Alper's vocals meld with intricate complexity and longing intrigue. “And I feel connected and hurt, Body infect the soul, And I feel the wrath spin and pull, Body defect the soul.”
'New Kind of Evil' starts off slow and menacing gradually building into a bewildering cacophony that weaves in and out of the storm with gloomy shades of darkness and timorous foreboding. “She spits wild, now we hasten attack and forsake her, Don’t go today, God I need her, Don’t show a trace, so adored, Don’t turn away or deceive her, Don’t stoke the pain or remorse, As tidal waves spin, New kind of evil burns here, You cut into my life & bend, New kind of evil… Bare!”
'Phantoms' is a full on disco inferno! Awash with electronic beats and trembling synths, but then halfway through thundering block guitar chords enter guiding the momentum into Heavy Rock territory. The vocal harmonies between Courtney and Alper are sensationally devine! “Break, naked and cracked, Show me you rag and bone crooked fear, Chase, raid and attack! Show me your ransacked book of dreams.”
'Cruel Deliverance' starts off sparse, mellow and meandering before gradually building in intensity, filling the air space with clattering dissonance and roaring aggression culminating in a seething mass of discord and disquietude! Again the vocal harmonies between Courtney and Alper are sublime. “It’s a cruel deliverance, in our words, in our wounds, It’s a cruel deliverance and a rush too far, You scold, explode, I run! Now thunder burst, we pull the earth, Messiahs come, allure the earth.”
'Scream Sideways' is ten minutes of mayhem with metamorphosing moods and juxtaposing tempos. The track starts of slow and moody, but once the drums enter everything gets crazy! Intense moments of angst permeate with kaleidoscopic reverence and seething deference. “Scream till you hit the core, Storm after fire now falling, Silence to make you sore Echoes that fight now run, fear!”
'Dead Butterfly' enters with slow moody piano arpeggios and celestial breathy vocals before relentlessly heavy attacking electric guitars come crashing in splattering the soundscape with grinding intensity! The electronic backing makes a spikey bed for the melodies and harmonies to oscillate and float with earnest. The beautiful harmonies from Courtney and Alper are truly infectious, “New enemies revealed on earth, Torn by beasts and beat to dirt, All I feel, pervert alone, The mantle weeps.”
The final track 'Lucid' commences with assiduous vocals from Courtney over delicate piano chords before boundless electric guitar riffs engulf the spaces between the notes, splashing over the drama like a tidal wave hitting the shore! Layers of sound dip and weave enveloping the listener into an aural tunnel of tingling sensations. Vocal harmonies twist and wind creating an atmospheric vortex. “You were lucid for a while then bent dead, You waited for a while, lamented, Take aim my love, It’s murder when the eyes unveil.”
Overall an exuberantly intense, rumbustiously tumultuous listening experience that will leave you quite emotionally exhausted but somewhat rejuvenated at the same time. The stunning vocal harmonies from Courtney and Alper are the albums crowning glory and make this an essential album to hear.
The band also finally managed to re-schedule their tour and played their first UK shows in over ten years. Sadly Chloë Alper didn’t join them due to her current touring commitments with 90s Brit Pop band James. In her place was singer songwriter Annicke Shireen.
Steven C. Gilbert
Shining in The Half Light
Sometimes it’s not just about hitting the right notes, but having a voice that hits the sweet spot in your preferred range of vocal timbres. We all have different tastes of course, but certain voices have the ability to resonate widely. It’s not just vocal dexterity; some voices have that additional and indefinable charismatic quality, which is the case with the very charming Elles Bailey, displayed here to great effect across ten superbly crafted songs tracks of outstanding quality on her studio follow up to the excellent 'Road I Call Home' from 2019.
The album was originally intended to be recorded in Nashville, but Covid scuppered that plan. Less glamorous, but no less effectively, the songs were instead recorded primarily at Middle Farm Studio in Devon under the direction of producer Dan Weller. This has not resulted in any loss of sonic quality or musicianship, which are both top notch, in particular the consistently tasteful contribution of long term sideman, Joe Wilkins on lead guitar. A little of the music city sheen was added with the tracks being mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville.
These numbers fairly crackle with a vibrant energy. Opening track 'Cheats & Liars', a dig at the Government, begins with a brooding, tremolo laden guitar figure, punctuated by a crashing drum effect that sounds like a score of work gang chains crashing simultaneously into a wire fence. This builds to a powerful chorus, heralded by the introduction of some sumptuous backing vocals that burst into life along with Elle’s seemingly effortless main vocal, “turn, turn, turn, world keeps a turning, deal us scraps from your silver spoon”. Instantly memorable and bristling with power.
Each of the ten songs has been co-written with a number of different collaborators and this has resulted in an early contender for Blues album of the year. 'The Game' is another melodic uptempo romp with a strong chorus propelled along by Joe Wilkins’ fat riff and effective slide runs. The singer’s honey edged, but tough vocals, cope equally well with the faster numbers as well as slow builders like 'Colours Start to Run', which has some superb keyboard work by Jonny Henderson and strong, Gospel flavoured backing vocals.
'Different Kind of Love' is a heavenly slice of soulful Blues with a simply gorgeous vocal delivery; the inflexion on “kind” in the opening line “won’t you whisper something kind” has an engaging, emotional sincerity that is rarely heard. Absolutely lovely. 'Sunshine City' is another stomper with a great guitar part and some greasy slide playing. 'Riding Out The Storm' has a real Dusty in Memphis vibe, which is as good as it gets. There are no weak tracks. Elles Bailey deserves to be heard by a wider audience and build on her growing loyal fan base. With music as good as this, greater success can only be a matter of time.
Shelter of Bones
An album three years in the making, is usually a sign of artistic malaise, indicative of musicians struggling to make anything of their half-baked ideas. In this case, circumstances allowed Dan Patlansky the time to revisit and refine a group of songs in the best tradition of an artist always wanting to improve their creation; the result being a rich collection of strong, powerful tunes that further showcase the vocal and instrumental talents of the South African musician.
Unlike many other Blues musicians, he appears to focus primarily on the quality of the songs first, rather than using them purely as a framework to hang some solos onto. Their subject matter also have a bit more depth than we usually see. ‘Soul Parasite’, for instance, opens the album with a classically punchy Rock riff and lyrics railing against the failings of political leaders. Whereas many others would be content to pound that riff relentlessly into oblivion, the song leads to a divertingly melodic chorus and contains subtle turns that are characteristic of the skilful production throughout.
‘Snake Oil City’ is the purest Blues number, and again points the finger at corrupt politicians, at an up-tempo shuffle pace over which there is an abundance of deliciously clean soloing. There is much variety of pace over the 10 numbers, including a number of really excellent ballads, the first of which, ‘Lost’, has the sort of sensitive organ playing and phrasing that gets to me every time. Despite the diversity of sounds, the guitarist’s solidly Blues-based phrasing runs through each song like the stripes on a stick of rock.
One of my personal favourites is ‘I’ll Keep Trying’, a beautiful ballad with a sumptuous production, and is one of the three numbers that remain from the original concept of the album produced by Tom Gatza; the producer has teased a sweet, restrained vocal performance from the guitarist, not to mention some gorgeous soloing, and the result is a memorable highlight.
‘Hounds Loose’, released as a single taster for the album, is another take on the old Blues theme of selling your soul to the devil and dealing with the eventual payback. Fittingly this features some scorching lead playing that brings SRV to mind in its intensity. This is a really strong set of cleverly arranged tunes that reveal something new on each repeated listen.
Doing a little research on Mr. Townend, I noted that he moved to Essex in 2001 and gave up music for 10 years. Essex can do that to you of course, but this gent has made up for it since and thank goodness he did. I caught his band a few years back and really enjoyed his guitar playing and the quality of the songs. His singing voice did not have the same effect but, nestled in among the lavishly arranged tunes on this fine collection, his Knopfler-esque vocal style sounds more at home, effectively conveying the sincerity of the lyrics.
Opener ‘Got to Pay Your Dues’ sums up the position of many musicians supported by a relatively small number of ageing music lovers, “We got small town gigs with big long drives, day time job to pay for these lives, low on money after the show, and sleepy old eyes with a 100 miles to go”. This motors along like an old tour van heading up the M1 fuelled by its middle period Chris Rea riff and a variety of guitar tones with some echoing slide. The arrangements of these well-crafted songs raise these numbers well above the average.
‘Just the Way It Was’ is a delightful gentle paced song with a theme of nostalgia “we watched the grainy images of a man standing on the moon, Armstrong and Frankenstein and a baby boom” and has some gorgeous harmonies. ‘Everyman’ is elevated by the excellent guitar work by the top cat in this combo, some trademark elegant Country style bending and careful note selection. The same could be said for the melodic groove of ‘The Picture’, which has some beautiful soloing.
Although the album was recorded over lockdown in a number of locations, with the band accessing remotely (some from Russia), it certainly doesn’t show. On the title track the songwriter sings “I want to write a story that touches your heart” and I’d say, mission accomplished, particularly listening to ‘Cruel to Be Kind’ (not a Nick Lowe cover), with its sad Country lament. ‘Listen up a Little’ is a joyous acoustic tub thumper with some lovely Chet Atkins runs and would have fitted in nicely on the Notting Hillbillies album. The boys with the more tuneful vocals add some happily corny backing on this to give it a good fun rating of 10 out of 10.
‘Lord It’s Time’ is a similarly enjoyable Gospel-tinged romp laced with some more stand out harmony work and a layered arrangement that builds beautifully underneath tasty picking. This is melodic heaven. This artist deserves a wider level of recognition for sure. This album is a good place to start if he’s not been on your radar before.
English Progressive Rock band Lifesigns released their third studio album ‘Altitude’ in March 2021. The album was recorded remotely and completely crowd funded. Consisting of eight tracks spanning just over fifty four minutes, all tracks were written by founder and leader John Young, produced by Steve Rispin and John Young, engineered and mixed by Steve Rispin at Lifesigns Studio 2, mastered by Robbie Bronnimann at Recognizer Studios, Bristol, with artwork and cover design by Be Wilde. Musicians on the album include John Young (keyboards, vocals), Dave Bainbridge (guitar), Jon Poole (bass, vocals), Zoltán Csörsz (drums) and Steve Rispin (Engineer, keyboards). Guests include Robin Boult (acoustic guitar), Peter Knight (violin), Juliet Wolff (cello) and Lynsey Ward (backing vocals).
The band initially formed in 2008 by keyboardist and vocalist John Young (Bonnie Tyler, Scorpions, Greenslade, Qango, Asia), drummer Frosty Beedle (Cutting Crew), sound engineer Steve Rispin and bassist Nick Beggs (Ellis, Beggs, & Howard, Steven Wilson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Kim Wilde, Belinda Carlisle, Iona, Kajagoogoo, Rockets, The Mute Gods). Their first album, ‘Lifesigns’ was released in February 2013 and featured notable guest stars including Steve Hackett (Genesis), Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson), Thijs Van Leer (Focus) and Robin Boult (Fish). Shortly after the album’s release, Beggs left to be replaced by Jon Poole (Cardiacs, Wildhearts, Dowling Poole). The touring line-up was completed by former Steven Wilson guitarist Niko Tsonev.
The live album/DVD ‘Under the Bridge - Live in London’ was released in 2015 and was recorded at the Under The Bridge Club at Chelsea Football Club. Their second studio album ‘Cardington’ was released in 2017 and was completely funded via a pledge music campaign that met its target in just 48 hours. The album also features guest appearances from Robin Boult, Dave Bainbridge (Iona, Strawbs, Celestial Fire) and Menno Gootjes (Focus). After the release of the album, Tsonev decided to jump ship to pursue his own solo career, he in turn was replaced in the band by Bainbridge on guitar and second keyboards. ‘Cardington’ reached the top ten in the Amazon national chart and was number 4 in the UK Indie chart, all without any mainstream airplay. In 2020, Frosty Beedle left just before the release of the ‘Altitude’ album, and was replaced by Zoltán Csörsz (Flower Kings, Karmakanic).
The album kicks of in formidable style with the monumental fifteen-minute title track 'Altitude'. Opening with a dreamy cascading piano phrase, that dances over sweeping keyboard flourishes, which gradually build weaving in and out with lush sweeping strings augmenting the mood. The intensity increases when bass guitar and drums enter the fold raising the energy levels to greater towering heights. The insistent piano phrase repeats throughout as do warm cello interludes. Soaring guitar adds to the overall magnitude of the piece and elevates the listener to a higher altitude! This song is about the sorrow, pain and perils of wartime aviation. “Imagine what we could do, no wars flying over you, this is our world no weapons here, one day soon, they'll pass your door, all these things, and so much more”. Stirring vocal delivery from Young.
'Gregarious' is a musically lighter song with a delectably hooky melody line and insistent staccato piano chords dominating. Sumptuously lavish guitar lines from Bainbridge add sparkle. Much critical self-analysis in the lyrics. “Sometimes when we fall, it makes no sense at all, how we criticise, all the things we do, it all comes down to you, how we analyse”.
'Ivory Tower' is awash with atmospheric keyboard layers interspersed with soaring melodic Gilmouresque guitar lines that reach for the sky. Funky bubbling bass kicks in half way through advancing the track to a higher plain of consciousness. This song is about heartbroken lament of broken trust. “When I'm looking for perfection, for an angel in disguise, but something pulls me back towards the night, yeah I'm looking for an answer, for an end to all these lies, and I still believe we'll make it to the light”. A sublimely emotive vocal performance from Young intensifies the sentiment.
'Shoreline' has lashings of lush Moog segments with intricate counterpoint rhythms to trip the listener up. Cosmic melodic solo guitar runs from Bainbridge astound with resplendent vocals from Young conveying the spiritual ambience, sounding uncannily like a certain Peter Gabriel in places! “Take me to the shoreline, and let me stare into the sea, this is where the journey started, as we touch the air we breathe”.
'Fortitude' is a ten-minute epic about seeking inner strength. “Do you care?, Do you care?, waiting for moments, searching for words to say, trying to find a way, find a way here”. A visceral journey juxtaposing between light and shade with moments of tranquil aural space, allowing the listener to catch a breath before diving further into the sonic ether.
'Arkhangelsk' is a very short keyboard soundscape interlude before the penultimate track 'Last One Home' enters. A heart-wrenching ballad which is a re-imagined Quango song, co-written by Young and erstwhile band-mate John Wetton. Young’s emotive vocal delivery is quite remarkable and Bainbridge’s guitar work dazzles throughout. “A wall of sea surrounds him, confronting all his fears, this seething mass sustained him, a friend for all these years, and now the tide is turning, he can feel the undertow, the only sound is water all around”. 'Altitude' (reprise) closes the album with a brief electronic re-visitation of the main theme of the title track.
Overall, the album has a clean smooth and crisp production, impressively rich songwriting with effectively stirring arrangements and formidable musicianship. Sure to appeal to admirers of Prog Rock giants such as Genesis, Yes, Camel, Marillion and Gilmour era Floyd.
Steven C. Gilbert.
The more I play it the more I love it! This essential Blues album, which was written during the time of Covid lockdown, brings you songs of life, the difficult direction it can sometimes travel in and shows that with acceptance of circumstance and positivity, you can grow within it. Simo shares with us “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done because it was just very natural” revealing what an incredibly cathartic experience the production of this album was for him.
Born in Chicago in the mid-eighties, J D Simo, after continually begging his parents for one, began playing guitar at the age of five. Only just in double figures, he regularly played in bars backed by older musicians and by fifteen had dropped out of school, formed his first band and toured continually before releasing a live EP which sold around 5,000 copies. “For six years,” he says, “I just lived in a van and played all over the country and never really had a home.” He earned a strong following in the Phoenix area where he performed regularly, appealing to all ages, through his dynamic stage performances and intricate guitar skills. Towards the end of 2006 he moved to Tennessee, establishing himself as the lead guitarist in the Don Kelly Band, which led to him being in high demand as a session musician, a capacity which he played in until 2011.
With joining bass guitarist, Frank Swart, and longtime seasoned collaborator, Adam Abrashoff, on drums, at the beginning of 2010 the Rock band SIMO was created. That year was then spent cutting tracks in a makeshift studio and with the addition of longtime friend, bassist-producer-engineer Adam Bednarik (Justin Townes Earle) they succeeded in bringing together an unconventional mix of shared influences. On tour with the release of their debut album, 'SIMO', in the November of 2011, this was brought to an end with a performance and homecoming at the The Basement in Nashville, the site of their very first show. A vinyl single of 'Shake It/AOH' was released by Sundazed Records on 25th, January 2013, with SIMO then being invited to perform at several festivals throughout that Summer. After opening shows for legendary bands such as Deep Purple and Gregg Allman, then also participating in Joe Bonamassa's inaugural cruise, they then carried out their first tour of South USA in 2015.
With friend Joe Bonamassa bringing the band to the attention of the Mascot Label Group and stating that frontman and guitarist JD Simo is “one of the best out there right now”, they were signed, and the release of their album, ‘Let Love Show The Way’, was in January 2016. With guitar tones courtesy of a '69 Plexi and 70's Traynor, this was Simo's second release, but debut album on Provogue/Mascot Label Group, and on Friday 29th January of that year, Ed van Zijl (CEO of Mascot) applauded it saying that “In the end it all comes down to the guitar, the instrument I adore. If played right it is the most expressive tool in music, after the voice of course.” Debuting on the Billboard Blues Chart in January 2016, this album generated positive reviews and international press coverage from music journalists including Rolling Stone and NPR (National Public Radio), who featured them nationally. Their first full and national tour began in June 2016 performing in a crucifying 37 states in less than 4 months, and totalling more than 80 shows. At the close of that year they had performed a colossal 215 shows in nine countries!
After spending over four months experimenting and adopting a different approach to their previous work, the group next created and released the album, 'Rise & Shine', in the September of 2017, with JD claiming that “much of the lyrical content was autobiographical and was hard for him to listen to at times because of its revealing nature.” JD explains that “If you go through my record collection and look at the more contemporary titles, you'll see the Roots, Wilco, Alabama Shakes and Ryan Adams. I listen to a lot of old Soul music, too. Isaac Hayes. Funkadelic. Bob Dylan. 'On Rise & Shine', I was just trying to cull from the vastness that is my normal music diet, and not trying to pander to some target that was easy to hit." This very expansive album of Blues Rock, with the odd Psychedelic twist thrown in, worked perfectly.
During lockdown in 2020, the band started cutting tracks in their Covid makeshift studio on a weekly basis. Joined by Abrashoff and Bednarik, they mused a proverbial soup of shared influences. 'Mind Control', which was released on 5th November 2021, is a product of this raw collaboration of these three like-minded friends making music to make them feel good. Using the creating of this album for self-therapy and enjoyment, simply because they had to, this soulful Psychedelic Blues Rock album brings us their most original, unique and rawest effort yet. Recently joining forces with the highly touted GA-20, JD and his band have just finished a colossal 60 date tour of North America with alternating headline slots.
With toe-curling demonic Blues vibes opening the first album track, 'Go Away Satan', this has a Psychedelic influence throughout, taking you on a crazy musical medley with lyrics reflecting the internal struggle one can have with bleak and tired thoughts. I found myself struggling to make out the song's verse lyrics as it progressed, but still captured the essence of the track, it's 60’s type retro sound and the weary plea for Satan to go fuck himself!
"I'm in Love' follows this, with a cruisy Blues guitar introduction, which develops throughout in a very mesmerising and rhythmic foot tapping way with Simo losing himself in his music and living entirely in the moment like the Blues greats of old. The guitar is the main focus of this track and it carries you on its waves as the voice of Simo's soul seeps into yours as you travel the song together.
'Let's Go' is an old school swampy Blues recording, which digs down deep inside you, making you ponder about life and its negativities, whilst imploring you to shake them off and free yourself, to break the cycle.
With trippy vibes focusing on how shuttered and ignorant these sort of people are on the album's first single, 'Know It All', released in August 2021, this track builds up then leads you away, before ending in a crescendoing finish. JD explains “the importance of humility, avoiding the knee-jerk response of speaking when I should listen or just openly admitting when I don’t know something or am wrong. I strive to be a better human being and often the things I’m most judgmental about in others are those I need to work on most myself.”
"Want What I Don't Have", features some intricate guitar chords with steady drumming to keep the track moving forwards allowing JD to reach deep within himself, to express the struggles of mental health.
"That's When You Know That You're Down' was the second single released, and is a track that he wrote late one night after listening to a bunch of Captain Beefheart. JD shares with us "It’s definitely got a lot of his influence. The riff itself is a take off of an old Magic Sam kind of thing. The song is a meld of those two worlds, I suppose. Love how it turned out!” Indeed, this is a soulful, guitar-focused track that reflects back on his early influences of the 60s and 70s which merged many genres of music together, gritty and raw and a bit like a live jam.
Following this with music and a beat that successfully represents the song title. 'Fucked Up', the next track twists and wildly gyrates in a very 70's Psychedelic way. It blends well together, borrowing from various music styles from Funk to Gospel.
With a captivating, grinding introduction, the next track, 'Devil Is Always Watchin', flows into a groovy Blues number that creeps into your bones as it ruminates about having the devil always on your shoulder, waiting to capitulate on any moment of weakness within you.
'People Pleaser' has a spacey start, with beautiful sequences and Simo's raw Blues guitar, bringing to mind mind-bending colour and lights dancing wildly, gyrating to the rhythm and beat. A real feel-good song, with JD making use of the guitar in so many experimental and interesting ways.
As would probably be reflective of the song title, 'Recovery', this track starts very slow and melancholy before picking up with striking guitar. “Always speak true no matter how hard it seems”, being just one example of Simo's consciousness in the creating of this personal journey through Covid times.