Travelin Jack are a Hard Rock/Glam Rock band from Berlin, Germany. Formed in 2013 by vocalist Alia Spaceface and guitarist Flo 'the Fly' Krämer, completing the line-up are bassist Steve Burner and drummer Montgomery Shell. The band name comes from the 1984 fantasy novel 'The Talisman' by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The Travelin Jack sound is unapologetically old school Rock 'n' Roll but with the spirit of the present very much in evidence. Think of bands such as Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Girlschool, Stone The Crows, Slade, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Purson and Blues Pills and you get a idea of what Travelin Jack are all about. I can hear vocal influences ranging from that of Grace Slick, Joan Jett, Maggie Bell and Elin Larsson, to name a few. The band fully embrace the whole 70’s Glam era with their iridescent outfits, platform shoes, makeup, sparkling glitter and all exceptionally executed with full on struttin' swaggering attitude!
Travelin Jack released their first single 'Madness' in 2014 on El Bruto Recordings and their debut album 'New World' followed in 2015 on This Charming Man Records. Their new album 'Commencing Countdown' was released on 8th September 2017 on the Steamhammer/SPV label and was recorded by Richard Behrens and Mirco Hildmann at the Schaltraum Studio, formerly a broadcasting centre in East Berlin, mixed by Richard Behrens at Big Snuff Studios and mastered by Mirco Hildman. The overall production, recorded in analogue, is sharp and vibrant with a rich and warm resonance, wide and spacious with plenty depth.
The black and white cover photo, portraits and colour inner sleeve were constructed by Martin Becker. The front cover shows all four band members kitted out in full on Glam costume and make-up. To quote the dedication on the back of the CD booklet, “This record is dedicated to those who are lost in this time, may your visions create new space for you and me”.
All the songs on this ten track forty two and a half minute long album are credited to the whole band. Some of the material is slightly slower, more grooving and haunting than on their debut 'New World' (2015). Kicking things off confidently is the struttin' 'Land Of The River', its driving riff propels the track onwards, tantalizing trippy guitar refrains pepper the track, with some tasty melodic Wishbone Ash style phrases to excite the ears.
'Metropolis' has some luscious raspy vocals from Alia with an elevating and rousing chorus, “Life in Babylon where the gold writes the law”. 'Life In Babylon' might have been a more apt title for this track.
The first single and strongest track on the album is 'Keep On Running'. The lyrics reflect the band’s willingness to face challenges and courage to venture into pastures new, “Nothing you can't do, nothing you can't say, nothing to lose, living is attitude”. Solid drums set the foundation with a strong Thin Lizzy style guitar riff fixing the groove. A well crafted track with a powerful catchy chorus and pristine vocals.
'Cold Blood' is another highlight and the heaviest track on the album, with a similar style to the type of songs on their debut album 'New World'. A hard drivin' riff fest with fiesty fiery vocals from Alia. The pace slows down towards the end with a Black Sabbath like descending guitar phrase before re-launching into a heavy conclusion.
'Galactic Blue' gets of to a Rock affirming Glam stomp with vocals full of salubrious attitude. Hawkwind style intergalactic space travelling guitar meanderings inject an experimental interlude towards the end of the track.
'Time' starts of quiet and slow then the tempo builds up before rising and soaring into a resounding energetic finale. Deft and imaginative mind expanding lyrics scaffold the song, “So I fly to the rainbow and I fly to the sky”. Dazzling and creative musical arrangement keeps the listening experience interesting.
'Miracles' has a strong early Jefferson Starship vibe with salutary Grace Slick inspired vocals (Jefferson Starship actually have a song called 'Miracles', but this song sounds nothing like that one).
'What Have I Done' slows the pace down with a more Bluesy vibe and a languid Wishbone Ash styled guitar lick. A rousing lavish chorus soars with an aching questioning resonance.
'Fire' is a heads down thumping power chord boogie with exotic guitar hook phrases that repeat periodically through out the track to break up the incessant grooving.
The final track, 'Journey To The Moon' is about being determined to make your dreams come true. The opening line sets the scene “The sun goes down in concrete town I'm on my way”, the sparkling chorus name checks the band name “I'm on my journey to the moon cause I'm a Travelin Jack”. A monstrous slice of solid gold with sensational and sumptuous vocal delivery from Alia.
There is a great quote from Frank Zappa on the back of the CD booklet, “A mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work if it is not open”. A very profound statement indeed.
Overall 'Commencing Countdown' is a very satisfactory and worthy release with a warm afterglow. Definitely a more honed and mature record than the debut 'New World'. However, I strongly believe their best is yet to come. With a little more refining and tweaking they could be on their way to producing a Rock masterpiece.
Steven C. Gilbert