Having seen Vambo live a number of times, my expectations for their debut eponymous album were soon shattered on first listening. The four piece are a lively bundle of rocking excitement on stage so I was expecting a rough and ready Rock album, full of vim and vigour. In contrast the new offering is a remarkably sophisticated collection of work with unexpected diversity and a huge maturity for a young band. And importantly still has the excitement of a freshman offering. The production is excellent, courtesy of Ray Stiles (Mud/The Hollies), which is evident as the album wends its way through assorted influences.
First track 'Now You See Me' is fairly understated for an opening number but highlights a well written Rock track with some catchy riffs and nice harmonies. It bumps along nicely and gets the toes tapping. 'Why Why Why' has been getting some airplay on Planet Rock. Showcasing Jack Stiles extensive range of vocals, that Michael Starr would seek to emulate, and a rhythm akin to the Beatles 'Day Tripper', it's a relatively slow groove but quite powerful. 'Cry Woman' is a more 80's Pop Rock track that reeks of shoulder pads and silver suits. You can imagine Stiles pouting into a vaselined camera lens and the girls swooning. It feels very heavily produced, as did much 70's Soft Rock, but Pete Lance's guitar licks lift it up. Another track where the harmonies are prominent. 'We're Not The Same' takes a different turn. It's a slow chugging track which reminds me of Tony Iommi's first solo album. It's almost haunting and probably the first track that really embedded itself in my brain. The structure is similar to early Queen with interesting fills and vocal snippets. I would love to see them perform this one live.
'Dancing With The Devil' adds a little piano for a romantic little number. Every album should have a ballad and this one is another that could have come from an 80's AOR band. 'World Of Misery' brings us back to the now with a more upbeat Rock track. I would have liked the underlying riff to be a bit more ballsy, it could have put this in the 'Whole Lotta Love' category, but it's still a good track. 'Down Little Mama' dirties up a little further whilst 'Running In Circles' is back to a Synth Rock ballad. It's a little formulaic but has a nice bridge element from Lance that will have bedroom guitarists looking to emulate.
'Camouflage' is another guitar Heavy Rock with elements of Whitesnake and Deep Purple, bands that have clearly influenced them, which is no bad thing. 'Vambo Roolz' starts with deep Southern slide for a lovely slow groove. This will presumably be the live sing along ego booster. 'Vambo Roolz' could either be a proclomation of regency or a list of instructions. You decide. The slide is exquisite throughout. Closer 'Fast Car' is what every Rock album needs - a rocking track about cars, women and high falsetto screams. A nod to Purple's 'Highway Star', it's classic late 70's Rock, with screaming guitars vocals and probably accompanying screaming groupies. A big nod must go to James Scott on bass and Steve Price on drums. The four piece are tight, thanks mainly to James and Steve. Both carry the beat throughout but shine with their own fills and thrills, although neither are overbearing or unnecessarily flashy.
As first albums go, this one is a winner. It's well produced, well played and well received. The collection of tracks is diversely interesting whilst maintaining the 70's Rock theme throughout. I expected a rough around the edges Garage Rock album. I got a modern take on a Classic Rock album. My three listen rule was no chore here and the album will be getting many more hits on my playlist. Good job well done Vambo.
Notable lyrics from 'World Of Misery':
"Whoever said her love was kind must be drunk
It feels more like an open cut, an infection
01: 'Now You See Me'
02: 'Why Why Why'
03: 'Cry Woman'
04: 'We're Not The Same'
05: 'Dancing With The Devil'
06: 'World Of Misery'
07: 'Down Little Mama'
08: 'Running In Circles'
10: 'Vambo Roolz'
11: 'Fast Car'