The Mike Ross Band
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