Reviews roundup – Spencer MacKenzie vs. I Wear * Experiment vs. Gus Spenos vs. Axon-Neuron vs. Morning Dew
Infected With The Blues
They say you’re getting old when the policemen start to look young. Although, to be fair, nowadays it’s mainly fat fellas and wee lassies who’re queuing in blue outside Baynes the bakers. But it’s actually true with Spencer MacKenzie.
He claims to be sixteen but looks younger. Which matters not a jot when it comes to records. Otherwise, S Club Juniors would have been a stadium band. No, it’s all about the music, man. And young Master MacKenzie certainly has the chops, when it comes to playing blues guitar.
This album is a mixture of covers and originals, but no matter what, he plays up a storm. Granted, his vocals aren’t the strongest, especially on a song like ‘Sinner’s Prayer’, but on the original material he sounds much more at home. It’s a strong debut, with a lot of promise. If he can develop half as well as Kid Jonny Lang did back in the day, then he should be around long enough to inspire a fresh generation.
I WEAR * EXPERIMENT
They, sadly, failed to make it through to Eurovision glory last year, but the annoyingly named I Wear* Experiment are a quite interesting electro pop / post-rock band from Tallinn, Estonia.
They’ve had three previous EPs out (all called “Crickets Empire”, natch), prior to this debut album, and it was the second single off this album, ‘patience’ that was one of the finalists in the Eesti Laul competition. They’ve been making a bit of a name for themselves over in the Baltics, on the festival circuit, and opening for The Hurts, and even if their chosen genre is a wee bit out of my comfort zone, it’s easy to see why.
They’ve taken the basic electro-pop template and roughed it up a bit, so inbetween the glacial moments, they can also insert some sturm und drang, courtesy of a great rhythm section. They’ve been compared to Ladyhawke, but only if Pitch Shifter had taken them up a back alley and given them s good kicking.
It’s certainly worth hearing.
If You Were Gold Baby
I’ve been listening to the new Big Joe Pleasure album a lot recently, and what should come along but another jump album from a top Indianapolis neurologist who happens to honk a saxophone in a jump blues band in his spare time. Show-off.
Gus Spenos is the man, and “If You Were Gold, Baby” is his really enjoyable debut album. It’s a mix of covers and originals, and is guaranteed to fill the floor wherever the Louis’, Prima and Jordan are still worshipped. He’s playing with a really great band comprising Wycliff Gordon on trombone, Freddie Hendricks on trumpet, Bruce Williams on alto sax, Jason Marshall on bari sax Brandon McCune on keyboards, Brad Williams on guitar, Daniel Foose on upright bass, Cecil Brooks III on drums, Komoyaka King on congas, and Collin De Joseph on piano, with some guest vocals from Charanee Wade.
I’m old, so it’s the tried and tested favourites that really get my shoes shuffling, with ‘Walkin’ With Mr Lee’ and ‘Money’s Gettin’ Cheaper’ my favourites early on. But there are no duffers here, with the new songs slowly getting under my skin. From top to bottom, this is a really entertaining set, and if you like your blues to jump, then you’ll want to hear this.
Good grief! “Metamorphosis” is Axon-Neuron’s third studio album, and it’s a double album of progressive rock exploring the ideas of change and transformation, with the band gettiing a twenty one piece orchestra to join in on several tracks. Par-tay!
It’s certainly an ambitions release, as they mix up their prog rock with some clasical influences and some art rock pretensions, and if you’re a prog fan looking for something to test you to the limits, then this could be for you.
They’ve been through an array of lineup changes, with only guitarist and founder Jeremey Poparad on board from their debut, so if you have heard their earlier releases gird yourself for some differences. However, it remains complex music with some out there arrangements hither and thither. As they’ve got two discs to fill out, there is plenty of room for experimentation and augmentation, so no idea is left to wither. It’s not the kind of album for background listening or skimming, so if you like to dedicate yourself to an in depth listening experience, then this is the one.
Prisoner Of Dreams
We’re finishing up in Germany today with Morning Dew, a female fronted melodic rock band who started life back in the late eighties. Which is probably why they sound like an eighties melodic rock band, natch. Assuming you hadn’t already guessed that from the cover art.
They’ve all served time in an assortment of rock bands over the years, although the band founder, main composer and guitarist, Doc Daufi seems to have went out of his way to be in as many different outfits as humanly possible. The rest of the lineup on this release are vocalist Liz Merschroth, drummer Manne Häusl and bassist Ernst Hofbauer, and they all step up to the mark on this enjoyable EP.
They’re looking back to the likes of Rainbow, Accept and even have some Molly Hatchet licks, which is no surprise considering that the regurgitated MH seemed to have been in Germany constantly in the late nineties, but across the five tracks they have enough originality to make their own mark.
They’re probably doing this for fun now, something that shows particularly on the best two tracks – ”Whiskey Lee’ – a track named for their late drummer who died in 1997 and ‘Woman Of Dragonstein’, their tribute to Ronnie James Dio.