Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics
British Rock band Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics recently signed to Listenable Records and to celebrate, the band and the label release a Special Edition of their acclaimed album ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ today, featuring five brand new bonus tracks, consisting of two brand-new studio tracks ‘Undertow’ and ‘Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem’ and three live tracks on the CD version.
Turn the clock back to Ramblin' Man Fair in July 2017 and we interviewed the former Heaven's Basement vocalist and nattily dressed Aaron with his equally stylish sister and Cult Classics guitarist Laurie, who played the Rising Stage on the Saturday. We had seen Aaron and Heaven's Basement supporting Aerosmith at Clapham's Calling Festival just over three year's before and in a really frank discussion Aaron talked about life after Heaven's Basement, how ABATCC got together and their new album 'The Man With Stars On His Knees'.
Go back a further two years and having toured the globe for four years fronting Heaven’s Basement, Buchanan walked out of one band and immediately into a studio just out of London with producer James Curtis-Thomas, guitarist Ryan Woods and Laurie. In the years prior, Curtis-Thomas and Buchanan had spoken many times about producing a record with deep, mature, and colourful content; just a few months later and a stint for Buchanan in Australia where many of the vocals were tracked in a shed just outside Brisbane, the now critically acclaimed and award winning record ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ was born out of a tiny studio just outside London with no hot water or central heating. A true testament to the belief in the music and vision Buchanan had bought to the table.
Since the formation of the Cult Classics in 2016 and the release of ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ in May 2017, it has been a rollercoaster ride of tours, shows and festivals. Forever supporters of Buchanan's eclectic, eccentric and left hook vision, Tom McCarthy (guitar) and Laurie have been constants from day one, but in mid-2017 they re-shuffled the line-up and brought in ex-The Defiled (and STOMP) drummer Paul White and ex-Grim Reaper bassist Mart Trail, as Buchanan decided they needed to grow, as did their show. Well the rawer approach with hard guitars and hard singing certainly worked, not only on the evidence of their aforementioned Ramblin' Man set, but also when we saw them vying for band of the day as they closed out The Orange Stage at the O2 Stone Free Festival in June last year and then again supporting The Quireboys at The Forum last September.
As its title suggests, the opening 'Show Me What You're Made Of' is the driving hors d'oeuvre of expansive things to come which, despite its brevity, builds and explodes into life. And sure enough, their debut single 'All The Things You've Said And Done', that originally made the coveted Planet Rock playlist, certainly delivers, with its catchy chorus and Alter Bridge/Daughtry vibe with a touch of a late great Chris Cornell scream at the end, courtesy of Aaron. The bonus on this Special Edition is an additional live acoustic version - with a beautiful vocal duet from the Buchanan clan with Laurie also accompanying Aaron on guitar. You can take Buchanan out of the basement, but you can't take the basement out of Buchanan as testified by the number of Heaven's Basement songs still in their live set. 'Dancin' Down Below' - another single that originally made the Planet Rock playlist - smacks of his former employer's (no problem with that) with a smattering of The Hives thrown in for good measure. With White beating the shit out of his drums, this is a live staple - Buchanan's party trick being to draw the crowd closer into a compact mass to enable to surf his way onto their shoulders, before finishing this song with a headstand whilst still perched precariously on the crowds shoulders. The rakishly thin warbler, all boots and braces, has never been known to be shy.
A microcosm of Buchanan's eclecticism, eccentricity and left hook vision, is another live staple 'The Devil That Needs You' which delightfully twists and turns before departing with a devilish head banging riff that sees Laurie's Fender Telecaster and Tom's Gordon Smith Les Paul style white guitar roar into overdrive. Again this is another track that gets the live Special Edition bonus treatment with another lovely Aaron and Laurie duet, which I believe was also recorded at their Siren 107.3FM session in May 2017. By the way, y'all check out their amazing Youtube cover of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' as well. Seriously. Back to the album, and once again we're thrown another curveball with emotion flowing through the music and lyrics of 'Journey Out Of Here' - its chills very reminiscent of 30 Seconds To Mars and U2. And talking of comparisons, the title, and longest track on the album, is complete affirmation of Aaron being a huge Freddie Mercury fan. Indeed, it's fair to say that the album includes a number of tracks with Queen like harmonies, but this is a serial killer Queen vocal from Buchanan. Also check out Buchanan's Youtube cover of 'Love Of My Life'. Stunning.
Anyway, I digress. 'A God Is No Friend' is another slower paced track with a rasping vocal from Buchanan, before the band pick up the pace with 'Left Me For Dead', another live nugget with some stand out drumming from White. It's fair to say that the band is not all about Mr. Buchanan though. The album crosses so may Rock genres and combines the influences of the band, none more so than Mart Trail's undoubted NWOBHM input on 'Mind Of A Mute' - it's mystical intro descending into a Heavy Metal riff to die for, with the versatile voice of Buchanan sounding very reminiscent of the good old days of Scott Stapp. Would love to see that one live, as I would the next track 'Morals' - which again keeps Freddie's spirit alive and kicking. The good news is that on this Special Edition you also get a live version of 'Morals' plus, to finish off with, two exclusive brand-new studio tracks. Not be confused with Heaven's Basement's firm favourite 'Fire Fire', 'Fire In The Field' was actually the 'B' side of the aforementioned single 'All The Things You've Said And Done'. Still sounding fresh and ace, Aaron strains those fiery vocal chords once again as his sibling gives Slash a run for his money with an outstanding guitar solo. We finally reach 'Undertow', which is real virgin territory, but is thankfully not out of place with the quality that has preceded it. With its pounding beat plus great vocal and guitar harmonies, it definitely complements the original album, and is affirmation, if you needed it, that Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics is still very much in business.
Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics are one of those live bands that, even if you don't know any of their songs, they will definitely entertain you, leaving you with a smile on your face. Although, I must admit that it's weird revisiting an album that was originally released 21 months ago, plus a number of songs that I have seen performed live, but on the other hand it does reemphasise what an awesome release it was and this Special Edition is. "I really do not understand why this band isn't more popular" is a quote that manifests itself across many bands nowadays. Well fingers crossed that this 15 track Special Edition not only reaches the masses and gets the attention it fully deserves, but that it also kick starts the direction of the band to the next level, in eager anticipation of some more exceptional brand new material.