Reviews roundup – King King vs. Joey Sykes vs. John McCusker vs. Velvet Steel vs. Andy Frasco & The U.N.
That’s quite endearing that is. Putting out a radio remix of a song, when you’re a blues rock band. I’m sure Benji B, Grimmers, Tenacious Quickie and MistaJam will be queuing up to give this a spin.
To be fair, it is a mid tempo, classic rock tune that would have got a few late night spins in 1974, but this is, sadly, 2016, and Charlie Sloth has got his eyes on the latest hippity hop banger. You know, the one that sounds like the other hippity hop banger.
But King King are great, and if you’ve haven’t got their albums, then shame on you, especially if you like gritty modern blues rock. Me, I’m off to email The Surgery with Gemma and Dr Radha, to see if they can assist me with my latest social disease.
PS: Only one of the names above is a pretendy one.
Classic New Rock
Well, it’s new, but it’s not really classic rock. What it is, is some rather good power pop, which should be obvious from the cover version of The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way”. I only knew his name from his tenure in the reformed Babys, but it turns out that Mr Sykes has been at this for a fair wee while.
He’s had a couple of major deals over the years, with Boystown and Coward, who both had albums out, and saw him doing a few major tours. He later ended up as guitarist with Meredith Brooks, before heading off into the world of songwriting and sessions, as well as his recent stint with the Babys.
But now he’s got a solo album out, and power pop fans will find a lot to enjoy here. There are solid melodies, impeccable playing and a few tunes you’ll be humming before they reach the end. Which is what you want. The best for me included ‘I Go There’ and ‘When Life Goes Right’, as well ‘Someone Like You’, which sees a couple of errant Babys popping in.
A fun listen.
Under One Sky
Turns out that 2016 is the 25th anniversary of John McCusker becoming a professional musician, so what better time for him to punt out his first solo album in 12 years. Not that he’s been sitting around on his arse doing nothing.
He’s been a member of Mark Knopfler’s band since 2008, and has also been busy in the studio, working on albums for the likes of Eddi Reader, Heidi Talbot, Eliza Carthy & Linda Thompson. But now he’s got his own studio, not in the wilds of Bellshill, but in the peace and calm of the Borders, so there’s no excuse for not getting some recording done.
And he’s come up with a fine set of tunes, which range from the melancholy to the feisty, all helped along by an all star cast of folkies including James Mackintosh, Ewen Vernal, Ian Carr, Michael McGoldrick, Andy Cutting, Tim O’Brien, Phil Cunningham and Heidi Talbot. There is a lot to enjoy with the highlights including ‘Calendar Boys’, ‘The Bothy Jigs’ and ‘Tune For Nana’, but dip in anywhere and you’ll find an exemplary performance.
Off to Germany now for some thumping blues rock. I’ve never heard of them, but then the German blues rock scene is a wee bit off map for me, but turns out this lot have been wowing them for nigh on quarter of a century.
This is their fourth album, and you can tell why they go down well on the circuit, as they all seem to be excellent musicians, topped of by some quality vocals from Robert Steiner. They mix up their sound with some rootsy Americana type touches, and there are half a dozen songs here worth playing twice.
They are good with melodies, and songs like ‘It All Comes Back to Me’, ‘If You Ain’t Got Love’ and ‘Good to Go’ are instantly memorable. There are a few parts of the production which don’t quite come off, but this is a worthy addition to a blues rock collection.
ANDY FRASCO & The U.N.
Someone else who has reached album number four is Andy Frasco. That’s if you don’t count the solo career of his hair. He’s also loosely working in the blues rock genre, but he steers away from the rock, and heads off into funk and soul.
He says that “not all blues need to be sad and lonesome”, hence the title of this record. Trying to capture the live energy seems to have been a problem in the past, but with some new producers, the core U.N. lineup of Ernie Chang on sax, Andee Avila on drums and Supaman on bass, seem to have nailed it this time.
Granted, a couple of the songs are terrible (hello ‘Mature As Fuck’ and ‘You’re The Kind Of Crazy I Like’) but that’s a small price to pay when there are so many gems lurking within the grooves. That would cover the likes of ‘Good Ride’, ‘Tie You Up’ and ‘My Recovery’, which are melodic and memorable in equal doses. There’s even a possible radio hit in the shape of ‘Let’s Get Down to Business’.
When this works, it’s stupendous. And it works 75% of the time. I’ll take that.