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Bones for the Skeleton Thief
This is not so much an album, as more an onslaught. Instead of recording a record that is carefully honed in the production studio, Blind River have decided to capture something of the essence of their live performances without the outtakes but with a rock-out feel. Most of the ten tracks are dispensed at breakneck pace with the lyrical content as raw and nihilistic as one can get, all thunder and drums leaving the listener thoroughly energised.
'Punkstarter' introduces the furious overall rhythm (which has led the band to be compared quite favourably to Motorhead) where vocalist Harry Armstrong has the frenetic delivery of Lemmy, but his phrasing less constantly raspy and more in line with Southern Hard Rock. This seems more apparent on the following track, 'Second-Hand Soul', where his ability to project through the chest spearheads the whole album, allowing the other members (Dan Edwards and Chris Charles on guitars, Will Hughes on bass and Andrew Esson on drums) to join in with the offensive.
'Out Of Time', tricks the listener into catching one’s breath for a few seconds, with a slightly lowered tempo, but there is no let-up in the crunching guitar grooves and the insistence of Esson’s drumming. This serves as a prelude to the centre-piece of the album: with an opening that bears a striking resemblance to early Oasis, 'Skeleton Thief' starts to develop along more melodic metal lines, this time Armstrong is in more of a plaintive mood but the overall mood suggests a storm is brewing: the dynamics rhythmically interchange building up to an all-out assault of primal screams and Blues-Metal riffs.
'Unwind' reminded me of a souped-up Lenny Kravitz intro before it broke into a blistering, but no less, funky baseline recalling Flea out of the Red-Hot Chili Peppers when they were a crude but visceral band starting out. The finale, 'Bad God', played homage to Led Zep leaving me with the impression that I had just been smashed over the head with a gold-plated sonic brick.
Beware this record can break your stereo.
Ivan De Mello
Kings & Queens
Having first been introduced to Kerry Ellis’s new album when photographing (and reviewing) her fabulous show at The Adelphi Theatre in London recently, this is a review which will slide effortlessly from the quill as Shakespeare would have it. As you like it would also apply, as was the case with the show, the album is instantly likeable and a sheer pleasure to listen too - there is not a weak track anywhere to be heard.
Kerry’s vocal delivery is nothing short of astonishing, built on the stage through numerous headline performances, she has also veered into more Rock/Pop adventures via her albums with Sir Brian May, who personally recommended her back in 2002 for We Will Rock You (in the role of Meat), the Queen song based show.
Comprised of twelve tracks, including mainly original songs, along with a handful of hand-picked covers, 'Kings & Queens' is the album on which Kerry truly finds her voice, fusing her signature musical theatre style with the contemporary Country Rock theme with which she has become synonymous.
Recorded in LA and London, and produced by the award-winning Mike Stevens (Annie Lennox, ELO, James Morrison, Take That), the album sees Kerry collaborate with some of music's biggest names, including esteemed singer-songwriters Newton Faulkner and Jamie Lawson, as well as the aforementioned legendary Queen guitarist.
The album also includes a selection of stunning cover tracks, including 'Fire & Rain' by James Taylor, and seldom re-recorded Tina Turner track, 'Be Tender With Me Baby', both of which Kerry has reinvented in her own distinct style. Continuing the American Country theme of the album, the record also features reimagined version of Carrie Underwood's 'Love Wins', adding a flare of positivity and light to the album.
'Kings & Queens' follows three previously released solo albums from Kerry. Her debut album, 'Anthems', was released to great critical acclaim in 2010, landing in the top 15 of the UK official albums chart. 'Anthems' was followed by 2014's self-titled record 'Kerry Ellis', and 2020's 'Feels Like Home'. Further studio albums released by Ellis include 2017's 'Golden Days', a collaborative album with Sir Brian May released on Sony Music.
She has gone onto star in a range of acclaimed productions on both the West End and Broadway, including Les Misérables, Wicked, Oliver! and Cats. Most recently, Kerry starred as Reno Sweeney in the UK and Ireland tour and Barbican Theatre residency of hit musical Anything Goes, alongside Denis Lawson.
Track by Track:
'Kings & Queens' - has just the correct amount of raunch to deliver on a nice rocky up-tempo intro track, “you start a fire inside my heart” she sings, and every listener surely believes her, it’s a super start, full with a great and powerful vocal.
'Be Tender With My Baby' - A ripping cover of Tina Turner’s classic tune, heartfelt and strong and acting as a wonderful tribute to the great lady, even though it was recorded prior to her tragic recent death.
'Battlefield' - A gentle introduction builds into a final crescendo, Bolero style, with a soaring vocal sitting above Brian May’s sublime guitar work before slowing down again to complete the song. It’s an awesome ballad.
'I Will Find You' - is a Country-based song that keeps in the mid-tempo range, a lovely tinge to Kerry’s voice showing how easily she can slide into the genre. To be fair, everything seems remarkably effortless for her on this album.
'Mean The World To Me' - Her deep love of the song 'Shallow' led to her hitching up with song writer Jamie Lawson and singer Newton Faulkner to deliver a song that surely must be a hit; it would have fitted seamlessly into a A Star Is Born; it’s beautiful and frankly great.
'Big Wide World' - Flits back into upbeat Country territory (despite its downbeat lyrics there is hope here!) with an air of Lee Ann Womack about it; another very fine tune.
'The Only One' - another lovely ballad, sublimely sung with passion creeping from every pore and another massive standout moment.
'Fire & Rain' – One of James Taylor’s more famous songs gets the full Kerry treatment, whimsically re-imagined and yet again delivering a wonderful song in her own style, yet remaining relatively true to the original and including a short and sweet sax solo.
'Lemonade' – the Poppiest song on the album, light-hearted and sassy and catchier than a baseball glove.
'My All' – This is a song that would grace any stage show as its main ballad, it’s wonderful from start to finish; her vocal defies description and is a highlight on an incredible album.
'Love Wins' – Carrie Underwood’s fine tune gets an outing as Kerry again tips her hat into the Country genre, suggesting that a place in the Grand Ole Opry would suit her as much as any West End or Broadway stage.
'Home Again' - Is a great closer, another super ballad rounding things off very nicely.
All in all this is a fabulous album, nothing lets it down, great playing behind magnificent vocals; she is as good live as she is on CD, and she is very, very good live…..
Songs From The House Of Grease
Nashville-based guitarist, singer and songwriter, JD Simo, released his new album, ‘Songs From The House Of Grease’, in January. Recorded with his trio (completed by drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Todd Bolden), JD has previously explained that "this album is a live snapshot of me and the fellas playing some favourite tracks, and I think it comes through on the recordings just how comfortable and easy-going the sessions were. It’s as if you’re in the room with us hanging out. I couldn't be prouder, as it captures my best playing ever.”
There certainly is a raw feel to the album, visions of a deep South shack with the three guys on the porch with the sun dipping down come to mind, relaxed and heartfelt they work sublimely through 40 minutes of raucous stripped down Blues. This is an album that feels more Robert Johnston than any modern Blues player, harping back to the genre at it’s most basic form - guitar, bass and drums, unpolished and free flowing and yet somehow, highly cohesive.
Containing five songs, it includes covers of John Coltrane's 'Afro Blue', Blind Alfred Reed's 'How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live' and Mississippi Fred McDowell's 'Mortgage on My Soul’, plus a free Jazz take on Simo’s own 'Higher Plane' (from his self-titled 2020 solo record) and a brand new Meters inspired cut entitled ‘Missy’s Strut’.
‘Mortgage on My Soul’ was the first single from the album and JD explains his take on it by stating “I just really dug the words and I also love the hypnotic vibe of his style. Over the course of a few months we started doing it during soundchecks and Adam came up with this killer Afrobeat style groove. It’s also a really good showcase for my slide playing and is such a blast to play.” This is almost jazz like to begin with as gentle slide is overrun with a hectic drumbeat but as the track progresses the two become intertwined with the odd vocal interaction.
Second single release ‘Afro Blue’ interprets John Coltrane’s arrangement of the minor key Jazz standard by Mongo Santamaria. Instrumental and stirring, it moves along classily with some great guitar work and JD says “'Afro Blue’ is a cornerstone tune in the language of music, we just played it off hand during the sessions and ended up capturing a lovely moment. It's hard to approach such hallowed material but I'm proud of it and really enjoy playing it.”
JD’s love and respect for the roots of Blues and Rock ’n Roll led him to be chosen by music supervisor David Cobb to record all the guitar parts for the recent blockbuster biopic ‘Elvis’. In an interview with Guitar World magazine about his role in creating its soundtrack, JD said, "I’m such a fan of Elvis’ music, but also the music of that period and the other stuff we recorded for the film. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, Muddy Waters, B.B. King - all of that is a big part of my musical DNA.”
‘Missy’s Strut’ the shortest track here, does what it says on the tin by strutting along nicely, and has a more modern feel than everything else here, but is still rooted in the past with an easier more upbeat touch that makes it more accessible.
‘How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live’ is a great interpretation of the old classic, a wonderfully laid back laconic vocal ironically delivered over some beautiful playing. My personal favourite of the album.
'Higher Plane Pt.1 and Pt.2' completes the album with the same raw intensity and guitar work including some grungy feedback. It does filter back into a jazzy vibe which is an overriding theme through the album and completes everything nicely.
All in all, a good album which will please Blues aficionados, but may not transfer others to the genre, but well worth a listen.
BMG are set to release British hard rocker’s Uriah Heep’s seventh studio album ‘Wonderworld’ as a limited edition vinyl picture disc this Friday 26th May 2023, the seventh in a series of vinyl picture discs to mark fifty years of the band’s existence.
‘Wonderworld’ was originally released in June 1974 by Bronze Records in the UK, reaching twenty-three in the UK Album charts, and Warner Bros. Records in the US, where it reached thirty-eight in the US Billboard charts. The album was re-mastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with four bonus tracks, and again in 2004 in an expanded deluxe edition.
‘Wonderworld’ was recorded in Munich's Musicland Studios, their first to be recorded abroad. Produced by Gerry Bron, engineered by Peter Gallen and Hans Menzel Macki, with the album’s cover concept and photography by Graham Hughes. This album was the last to feature the classic lineup of David Byron - vocals, Mick Box - guitars, Ken Hensley - keyboards, guitars, backing vocals, Lee Kerslake - drums, percussion, backing vocals and Gary Thain - bass guitar. Sadly, Thain died of a heroin overdose in December 1975, exactly one year after he was fired from the band.
This album follows a similar pattern as their previous album, ‘Sweet Freedom’, in that it explores a more commercial sound, but retaining some of the grandiose trademark elements that they were known for such as heavy organ, wah-wah drenched guitar solos and David Byron’s operatic vocal approach.
Side one opens with the Hensley penned title track ‘Wonderworld’. Infectiously sci-fi sounding keyboard squelches dominate. The track moves through various moods, rising and dipping in tempo with superfluously dramatic vocals from Byron adding the glue that keeps it all together.
Second track in, ‘Suicidal Man’, was written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, and is a heavy guitar riffing juggernaut with entrancingly wicked Hammond organ stabs. Byron emotes the lyrics in his own uniquely inimitable way. Some tasty guitar soloing from Box adds gravitas.
The Hensley penned ‘The Shadows and the Wind’ comes in at number three with a slow mellow start and delicate keyboard flourishes to the fore. The track builds to a steady four-on-the-floor plod. Lots of “la la las” filling in for lyrics towards the end!
‘So Tired’ written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain is a full throttle rocker with some compellingly busy Hammond organ phrasing, commanding the space. Byron's expressively agile vocals carry the song along nicely. Some cool bass work from Thain and piercingly acute guitar from Box peppers the cacophony.
Hensley's ‘The Easy Road’ concludes side one. A pleasantly drifting ballad, with a delicate piano and sweeping string intro. Congenially seraphic vocals from Byron, gives the track character. More “la la las” padding out the lyrics on this one!
Side two opens with the high octane, ‘Something or Nothing’, written by Box, Hensley and Thain. An insistently steady beat holds the whole racket together. Sounding a bit like The Sweet here. Doesn't really go anywhere though and is a bit underwhelming overall.
‘I Won't Mind’, written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, is a slow groove laden track with some tasty slide guitar from Box and blissfully elysian vocals from Byron. An intensely adept guitar solo from Box gives the tune added character and charm.
‘We Got We’, written by Box, Byron, Hensley, Kerslake and Thain, enters with insistent swagger. Harmony vocals wash over, before Byron's histrionic vocals dominate proceedings. Consummate guitar from Box weaves and pulsates giving the track distinction. Once again a lot of “la la las” in the lyrics towards the tracks conclusion, which, to me, are not really necessary!
‘Dreams’ written by Box, Byron and Hensley concludes side two. Another discernibly, dramatic slice of Heep here. Byron's remarkably emotive vocals gives the track intriguing layers of delectation with Box's strikingly unusual guitar interplay being gratifyingly inventive.
Steven C. Gilbert.
High And Mighty
Released next Friday 26th May as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, British Hard Rock legends Uriah Heep, release this collector's limited edition picture disc along with many more from their awesome catalogue,
Whilst this is not Heep in their ultimate pomp, the first four tracks on side 1, 'One Way or Another', the utterly fabulous 'Weep in Silence', 'Misty Eyes' and 'Midnight', sit well in any era of the Heep canon.
Indeed, 'One Way Or Another', sees both Ken Hensley and John Wetton sharing vocal duties, with an official book, John Wetton - An Extraordinary Life, also due to be published later this year at http://www.johnwettonbook.com about the late, legendary, singer/bass player.
'Can’t Keep a Good Band Down' starts side two in fine and self-effacing style and the closer 'Confession' is another fine track graced with the heartfelt lyric “I’m so sorry for the things I’ve done” delivered emotionally by Byron. The rest of the tracks are verging towards filler. but there is enough good stuff to make it a worthwhile addition to anyone’s collection.
Hensley as always delivers on keys, Mick Box (the only remaining member) provides his usual tight guitar work with a number of fine solos dotted throughout and the late, great Lee Kerslake is sublime on drums/percussion giving evidence of what a majestic artist he was.
Mick Box wasn’t a massive fan of the album calling it “less of the ‘eavy, more of the ‘umble” due to its move to a Poppier sound rather than the Classic Rock that had gone before, but enough magic remained to make this a worthwhile purchase.
The Vinyl picture disc, #9 in this collection is beautifully presented and sounds fantastic (making me now go off in search of others!) so comes recommended.
One Way or Another
Weep in Silence
Can't Keep a Good Band Down
Woman of the World
Footprints in the Snow
Can't Stop Singing
Make a Little Love
Songs From The Pit
If music was packaged like food, this would be the equivalent of a tempting looking half baguette so crammed with delicious looking filling that the contents tumble out of the side. Sometimes of course you find that there’s not much content inside. Happily, this cracking little three song EP is full of Melodic Rock, leaving the listener more than pleasantly satisfied.
The sound quality is a definite improvement on debut album, 'Welcome To the Small Time', much richer and with a lot of depth, capturing the multi-layered guitars of Taj Mian to good effect. He provides some really nice playing throughout, with a combination of low end crunchy part chords and flowing melodic riffs that weave in and out of the vocals.
Lead singer and bassist Gerard Jacques is effective on vocals and is at his best on ‘Second Time Around’, which could be the band’s rallying cry. He’s ably supported by James Dixon on drums to create a strong backbone for the numbers. This track also features some nice Hammond playing by Benedict Holland, which helps expand the sound. Actually, a bit more keyboards wouldn’t have gone amiss to add the cherry on top of the cake.
The songs are thoughtful and straightforwardly explore themes like the beauty of the world and its people (on ‘Beautiful Place’) and the value of ordinary people and the celebration of family on ‘Sacrifice’, a track which features an excellent picked guitar part on multiple guitars, with some chiming harmonics adding colour.
This short taster should appeal to most folk that enjoy guitar based music that starts with a song rather than relying on a song being created from a series of riffs like some musical Frankenstein.
British Progressive Folk rockers, Solstice, released their seventh studio album, ‘Light Up’, on Friday 20th January, through the Giant Electric Pea record label. Written, produced, mixed, and mastered by founder, leader, guitarist, and sole original member Andy Glass. ‘Light Up’ is the second album from the band since they were revitalised and reenergised by the arrival of new vocalist Jess Holland in 2020. The first album with Jess, ‘Sia’, released in 2020, was a critical and creative success for the band, receiving rave reviews from the Prog world at large. It is for sure a mesmerisingly uplifting album. Andy Glass has gone onto to say how excited and enthused he is with this current lineup that he really hopes to record a third album as soon as possible to continue the momentum of this renewed energy and undeniable band chemistry.
Solstice was formed in 1980 in Milton Keynes, by guitarist/songwriter Andy Glass, who is the sole founding member still in the band. During Solstice’s initial five-year run from 1980 – 1985, the band played many gigs and festivals, but only released one studio album called ‘Silent Dance’ in 1984. After which the band split up, reuniting in 1993 and going on to release the studio albums ‘New Life’ (1993) and ‘Circles’ (1997), and the live album, ‘The Cropredy Set’ in 2002. Glass once more put the band on hold to focus on his other band ‘3 Sticks’ and spend time on studio session and sound engineering work. It was around this time that Andy was invited to take the job of 'front of house' sound engineer with Jethro Tull, leading to five American tours and several tours through Europe and the UK. In 2007 he decided to resurrect Solstice once again, which resulted in two further studio albums, ‘Spirit’ (2010) and ‘Prophecy’ (2013). When long time vocalist Emma Brown decided to leave the band, Andy only had one name in mind to replace her and that was Jess Holland. Jess had been working with Andy and violinist Jenny Newman since 2018 in Jenny's highly successful Festival ceilidh band, FCPB. The current lineup of Solstice features Andy Glass on guitar and vocals, Jenny Newman on violin, Pete Hemsley on drums, Robin Phillips on bass, Steven McDaniel on keyboards and Jess Holland on vocals.
The beautifully serene green leafy artwork was created by Shaun Blake who was also responsible for the ‘Sia’ album artwork. Both these album covers complement each other nicely. Contained within the sleeve notes is a heart-rending poem entitled ‘Where the Heart Is’ from long-standing Solstice collaborator Oz Hardwick. The album contains six songs clocking in at forty-four minutes in total and is an album very much of two halves: Andy Glass has said that he had vinyl in mind during its composition with the intent of having ‘sunlit’ and ‘moonlit’ sides. Opening the ‘Sunlit’ side comes the very upbeat and bright ‘Light Up’. An insistent rhythm creates a juicy funky groove allowing the keyboards and guitar to weave in and out. Jess Holland’s angelic sweet dulcet tones waft over the melody like fragrant petals on a spring dawn. Jenny Newman’s violin peppers the tune with dramatic symphonic sweeps and jabs. Midway through the song breaks down into an acoustic guitar strummed interlude reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dogs’ before barking back into full on Funk mode, ferrying the track to its conclusion. “Let the morning in, and the day begin, wash the night away, there's a place in here, she will keep you near, don't look the other way.”
Second track, ‘Wongle No. 9’, takes the upbeat Funk element still further. An eclectic blend somewhere between Curtis Mayfield, Fairport Convention, Yes, Ozric Tentacles and Jeff Beck! A solid steadfast drum beat from Pete Hemsley sets the pace with a slinky bass line from Robin Phillips snaking in and out with menace. Tantalising violin sweeps from Jenny sail over Jess’s sumptuously teasing vocal lines, with seductive guitar phrases from Andy intertwining between the grooves. Super funky Rhoads piano from Steven McDaniel adds mind bending dimensions to the lively scene. “Come on in, take a look around, here we are again, hit the ground, up and on, take another day, here's to every hand, you gave along the way.” Sounds like they are having a lot of fun here. Apparently, the name ‘Wongle’ was just a made-up word to save the basic WAV track on the computer, with ‘No. 9’ being the version they used for the final master.
Closing what would be side one is ‘Mount Ephraim’, a vibrantly energetic Celtic Folk rocker named after Mount Ephraim Gardens located in the heart of the Kent countryside near Faversham. The story goes that Andy asked David Rees, the promoter of A New Day Festival, which is held at Mount Ephraim, what does he have to do to get booked to play the festival again, to which Dave jokingly replied, “Write me a song!” Well, they did, and this track is the result! The song is about the longing to gather in celebration with like-minded souls at a festival and the spiritual connection between the music and the people. They did, of course, get booked to play the festival two years in a row. Andy has a long association with Dave as they have known each other from their Jethro Tull days, Andy being their sound engineer for many years and Dave ran a fanzine, that helped promote the band and released material on his record label. Dave also re-issued three Solstice albums on his A New Day record label. The main driving force in this track is Jenny’s dexterous fiddle playing which whips up a storm and keeps everyone on their toes, Jess’s lilting vocal interludes interject between the maelstrom of sound adding elegant textures and layers. Moog synthesizer chords and phrases add to the overall mystical feel. “Come away, you will find, colours of the sea, over here, this enchanted garden, gather now one and all, can you hear the sound, of the song and the laughter calling.”
On to what is known as the 'moonlit' side of the album with the emotional ‘Run’. A beautifully atmospheric and delicately soothing song that allows Jess to really shine with her rich euphonious vocal performance and honeyed phrasing and intonation. Proficiently played sustained guitar scales and phrasing from Andy add to the overall emotive effect. “Another day across the line, consider when, we'll find the time to make our peace, I wonder how there came a day, we'd stand and watch her fall away, just slip away, call me back home, after all was said and done”.
The deeply moving and stunningly beautiful ‘Home’ is another song where Jess owns it with her soft mellifluous and sweet-toned spine-tingling vocal performance. “No matter where you roam, no matter where you’re from, no matter that your name, doesn't sound the same as mine, how anyone can say, look the other way, who are you to start, pulling us apart again.” Dazzlingly nimble guitar fret work from Andy elevates the track to enchantingly dizzying heights, guaranteed to stir emotion. A masterpiece!
Closing the album is the longest track on the album, ‘Bulbul Tarang’, which has an Eastern infused sound to it. Bulbul Tarang is a Hindi phrase that means “Waves of Nightingales” in English but is also the name of a Punjabi stringed instrument which employs two sets of strings, one set for drone, and one for melody. The strings run over a plate or fretboard, while above are keys resembling typewriter keys, which when depressed fret or shorten the strings to raise their pitch. The track opens with a drone played on this instrument before other instruments join in and take over allowing the track to grow and expand as it moves through time and space, twisting and turning through various moods and energies. Jess's delicately graceful vocals enter before repeated guitar arpeggios and violin phrases cajole each other for prominence. Jess's silvery double tracked vocals then blanket over the intertwining melody, with lush harmonies provided by Chris Sampson. To me the overall effect is reminiscent of the structured harmonies of Crosby Stills & Nash. Another ravishingly soaring guitar solo from Andy elevates the drama into the stratosphere before the track ends on a bewitching high. “When I hear you on the warm wind, I feel you everywhere, and the running water cools me, a song, a word, a prayer, hold me now, carry me across the water, look around here, show me all your color green and gold.”.
This a beautiful sounding album jam-packed with uplifting and positive vibes that will make you feel a whole lot better about life in general. Without doubt Solstice's best album to date. As long as they maintain the momentum the band's future looks very bright indeed!
Steven C. Gilbert.
This Canadian combo have the happy knack of writing songs that manage to sound fresh and vital while simultaneously making you think you’re playing a collection of bangers from the 70s. They make it look easy and their mostly mid-tempo shuffling rockers sound deceptively simple but that’s just a skilful sleight of hand.
Main singer Ewan Currie has one of those voices that if sampled would have to be listed under ‘Classic Rock’. He could sing the index to a garden catalogue and you’d still be thinking it was pretty cool. Coincidentally there’s a track with a gentle vibe here titled ‘Mama Was A Gardener’.
Opening track ‘Here I Am’ is typical of their approach, starting with an innocuous chugging shuffle, the singer managing to extract a lilting melody from a range of about three notes. Before you know it there’s crashing chords, slide guitar and a high-pitched chorus with massed backing vocals, interspersed with the sort of clever guitar fills from Jimmy Bowskill that make you want to reach for your own guitar.
‘Find The Truth’ provides more of the same, featuring another of their trademarks, effortlessly flowing dual lead lines that glide above the rollicking beat. In ‘Follow Your Heart’ they tip their hat to the late great JJ Cale in an excellent homage down to the double tracked vocal and tub thumping of the drums. The guitar playing is just sublime. These Sheepdogs are some cool cats.
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