Reviews roundup – Dan Reed Network vs. Vardis vs. Danny Marks vs. The Hitman Blues Band vs. Washington Tremble

81jbjj27htl-_sl1200_DAN REED NETWORK
Fight Another Day

I’m so old that I remember trying to impress a Prince loving young lady with the debut album from the Dan Reed Network.  It failed, and I was roundly castigated by my rawk buddies for being a jessie.  So I kept my DRN 12″ singles and 7″ gatefold limited editions to myself.  Luckily, Mr Reed went a bit doolally and vanished from music, so it was easy to conceal his records behind my Nuclear Assault albums.

But, gosh darn it, after a 25 year recording hiatus (bar some bonus tracks for their anthology), they’ve gone and released a new record.  At least now, in the digital era, it will be easier to hide behind a firewall.

And not much has changed in the last quarter of a century as they’re still dishing out melodic funk flecked rock.  Granted, there are a couple of tunes that should have been left in the eighties, but anyone who helped spur them on to half a dozen minor UK hits back in the day, will really enjoy this new release.  They lyrics are still a bit hippy dippy, but then you would expect nothing less from Mr Reed.  But the tunes are good.

Take a listen to the likes of ‘Champion’,‘Give It Love’ and the hit ballad that should be,’Be There With U’, and it’s as if no time has passed at all.  It sounds great with a bullseye of a production, and most of the record has a buoyant charm.  Personally, I would have liked a wee bit more guitar, but that’s just the way I am.  Otherwise, it’s a great return.


Red Eye
Steamhammer / SPV

Even further back in time to my NWOBHM teen years, when Vardis played every toilet in the country, and I threw up in a good few of them.  I had the double 7″ single of their hit, ‘Let’s Go’ (although I preferred the B-side ‘Situation Negative’), and I even managed to find the money to buy their fantastic “Quo Vardis” album, at a time when I was proper poor.

But the industry took its toll on Steve Zodiac and he vanished from music for nigh on thirty years, before blinking into the light once more.  That was in 2014 to remaster the reissue of  “Vigilante”, their final album from 1986 and it saw the Zodiac/Horbury/Person lineup playing a series of festivals.  With a new drummer, Vardis then released an EP before the death of bass player Terry Horbury.  But Zodiac is carrying on with this new release and a new lineup.

And I enjoyed it.  But then I am a child of the NWOBHM, so the occasional plodding guitar doesn’t bother me.  I’m used to lo-fi.  That aside, what you’re getting is a straight follow up to “Vigilante”.  Which will suit some, even if I miss the mentalism that went with the bagpipes of “Quo Vardis”.  These are straight ahead NWOBHM tunes with some excellent riffs, although bearing in mind the vintage of Mr Zodiac, he still reaches back to the seventies for some of his rawk.

You won’t have much idea what’s going on from the vocals, but then Vardis were always more about attitude than coherence.  However, when they crash through the likes of ‘Paranoia Strikes’, ‘Lightning Man’ and ‘Jolly Roger’ it fair warms the cockles of your whatnots.


bjrg_citiesinbluecoverart_2DANNY MARKS
Cities In Blue

Off to the Canadian colonies now, a country where my Auntie Alices children play hockey, hunt bears and listen to Rush.  Allegedly.  However, it transpires that back in 2013, Danny Marks was asked to host a TV show about the cities and regions that built the blues.  But rather than a dull as ditchwater documentary, he went on a road trip, writing and recording songs with local musicians, inspired by the places he went to.  I believe that is what we call a “jammy bugger”.

Now, the soundtrack is oot, and it’s a very enjoyable release.  Mr Marks is an excellent singer and guitarist, and as he embarks on his journey, he takes us to Kansas City, Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago and more, performing delta blues, Chicago blues, jump blues, jug band blues and all points in between.  He also throws in some excellent lyrics and a few familiar musical motifs, to mark his progress.

There are a host of top notch musical guests along for the ride, and wherever you drop the needle in the groove, you’re guaranteed a good time.  That includes favourites like ‘Kansas City Shout’, ‘Memphis Got Soul’ and ‘Blues Came To Chicago’, but there isn’t a bum track on offer.  Good work, jammy bugger.

51b5cmgzmml-_ss280THE HITMAN BLUES BAND
The World Moves On

More blues now, this time from the New York outfit, The Hitman Blues Band.  Turns out that this is their sixth record.  It’s all originals, with the exception of a closing cover of the Willie Dixon staple ‘Hoochie Coochie man’, which creeps into Foghat territory with a seven minute plus running time.

It’s modern blues, that brings in some seventies rock, some soul and a touch of my beloved boogie, all of which makes for a very enjoyable listen.  Apparently, five of these songs have been released before, but have been rejigged with added horns.  However, long term fans should be sated with the eight tunes, which more than equals an album in old money.

They’re a well honed outfit who know exactly what they’re doing, and songs like ‘Bad Bad Man’, ‘Don’t You Tempt Me’ and ‘Two Trains Running’ see them firing on all cylinders.  It’s got a good production, a cracking horn section, and no earthly reason why you shouldn’t add it to your blues collection forthwith.


8195hhlff-l-_sl1425_WASHINGTON TREMBLE

Instrumental prog recorded live in the studio. Quake, humans, and be afraid.  Or as they say, “Prepare to launch into the outer limits via the debut album from this instrumental, progressive-rock/fusion trio melding influences of rock, electronic, jazz, reggae & more – performed live.”

Now I don’t know much about them, but they do have a MySpace page, so I’m guessing they’ve been around a while, but they can certainly make a mighty racket for a three piece band.  So if you’re looking to spend 12 minutes in the company of near improv tracks like ‘Undertow’, or the lumbering beast that is ‘Canadian Slumberfest’, then try and track down a copy.

Not all of it works, but they have a healthy desire for new sounds and some mighty musical chops.  And anyone who names themselves after a quote from one of my favourite books* is alright by me.

*A History Of The British Army – Vol. III (1763-1793)