Reviews roundup – Ocean vs. Kenny Neal vs. The Weekenders vs. Ruth Theodore
C’est La Fin
To be fair I thought Ocean had finished 35 years ago or so. I remember them from back in the day being bigged up alongside Trust as the New Wave of French Metal. Like their compatriots they shared stages with AC/DC and Iron Maiden, but they split up in 1983.
They made some sporadic attempts at a comeback but that seemed to have been put to bed with the death of singer Robert Belmonte in 2004. However after a box set project in 2010 a new version of Ocean were put together with new vocalist Stef Reb.
And they’ve carried on where they left off in 1981 with their self titled ‘Ocean’ album. It’s stil old school hard rock with some excellent riffs and melodies. Tunes like ‘Désillusions’, ‘Fidèle À Son Nom’ and ‘Instinct Animal’ are just great with powerful performances from the whole band. My French is practically non-existent but it seems like they’re still trying to right the wrongs of the world. A blast from the past well worth listening to.
Kenny Neal has been on the go for a long time now, plying his blues trade across multiple decades as well as performing on Broadway. His debut came out in 1987 and since then he’s kept to a very high standard.
Which continues on this latest release where the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame member sticks to his roots, as the title suggests, with an excellent set of big sounding blues. The other reason for the album title is the remarkable fact that no less than 8 members of the Neal family perform on the record!
It’s fairly standard electric blues but the quality of the performances really bring the songs to life, with tunes like “Thank You BB King” and a fantastic take on “Funny How Time Slips Away” by Willie Nelson the top of the pops for me. There’s nary a duff moment to be found and blues fans should be snapping this one up.
Bright Silence Of Night
Salt Lake City, Utah now for an indie psych band name of the Weekenders. They mix up more modern indie rock sounds with some nods back to the Paisley Underground and beyond.
So if you’ve got a yen for a 21st century take on bands like The Dream Syndicate, The Rain Parade and the Long Ryders then you’ll probably find this a very comfortable place to be. There are enough modern twists to make sure they won’t be lost on college radio as they rarely forget to bring a melody with them.
Best of the tunes are “Escape”, which was released as a single, “The Grifter” and “Army of One”, but if you’ve got some eighties tie dyes and cheesecloth tucked away then this could be for you.
I’m still undecided about Ruth Theodore having previously said that her alt-folk stylings are off kilter, hippy, Guardian reader sort of things. I may even have used the phrase “70’s singer / songwriter meets folk meets the loony on the bus”. And now here she comes with her fourth album.
But for every song that makes my teeth set on edge, there is an “You Can’t Help Who You Love” ot a “Kissing In Traffic” just around the corner which reels me back in. When she tries to rock it up then it really misses the mark, but when she keeps it pared back and aims for simplicity then it seems to really work.
However, adventurous arrangements seem to be her thing which is what draws in musos who’ve worked with the likes of Tom Waits, Regina Spektor, Lucinda Williams and Lou Reed. I suspect Joni Mitchell fans who liked her “difficult” years will find this utterly absorbing.