Reviews roundup – The Northern Rebels vs. Favni vs. Dice vs. The Beat vs. The Refusers
THE NORTHERN REBELS
Get This Started
Where bowers are flowers bloom in the spring, each morning at dawning birdies sing and everything. Yes, California here I come in order to catch up with The Northern Rebels. And once you’ve sussed that they’re a southern rock band the name makes more sense. Although San Francisco is almost on the same latitude as Louisville, Kentucky. But we’ll let that slide.
Because we love southern rock. I’ve never quite recovered from hearing the first Molly Hatchet album when I was fourteen and even if The Northern Rebels are more blues rooted they still make a mighty fine noise. Actually, if they were sellilng themselves as a blues rock band they’d get away with it, even if they do throw a few Skynyrd style licks in there.
Either way it’s a righteous noise and if you do like your blues rock southern tinged then you really do need to hear tunes like the title track, “Devil by My Side” and “Sunrise”. The vocals could so with some work but pound for pound this is a really sweet slice of southern styled blues rock.
Germany now for some folk prog rock from the band formerly known as Fauns. It also sees the arrival of a new guitarist – Thomas Glase as well as vocalist, flautist and fiddler Kirsten Middeke. The old band had put out two albums in 2007 and 2011, but this is the recording debut of the “new” outfit.
And their thing is very definitely early seventies pastoral prog. So there is plenty of early Genesis and Camel mixed in hither and thither. It’s a double album of material, but it’s the first disc that is the “real” release, with a second disc of bonus studio and live tracks. Musically, it’s hard to beat in its style with songs like “Yearning For You” and “Leaf In The Wind” absolutely delightful.
But as with a lot of prog they do let things slip vocally, so it’s just as well that the guitars, keyboards, flute and fiddle really do work together so well. If they could find a good singer then they’d be well placed to sweep all before them in the world of modern prog but for the moment none of the band members pull off their vocals successfully. That aside, this is a really enjoyable folk prog treat.
X: Double Two On The Dice Map
We’re staying in Germany for some more prog now, but Dice are no Johnny come latelies to the world of prog. Because ‘X: Double Two On The Dice Map’ is their trwenty second album. Yes, you read that right. Album number 22.
Christian Nove has been running the show since he first put them together back in 1974 in Westfalia. These days they punt out albums almost on a yearly basis and this follow up to the 2015 release ‘Son Sister Sun’ continues in their tradition of seventies styled melodic prog.
And they’re good at it, especially when they allow the music to develop and flow, something that is never in doubt here, with “Meltdown” the only tune clocking in at under ten minutes. The highlight is the centrepiece “A Voyage to the Stars” which continues a recent theme of developing space rock influences, but the album as a whole is another enjoyable offering.
Pink Floyd fans will find this a homely place and even if it hasn’t supplanted ‘Twentauras’ as my favourite of the recent Dice releases, it’s still a good place to be.
THE BEAT feat. Ranking Roger
One assumes that this is The Beat featuring Ranking Roger for legal reasons, as he is the only original member left in this version as Dave Wakeling the main frontman from back in the old days now lives in American and tours as the English Beat, again probably for legal reasons due to the old US powerpop band The Beat. That’s a lot of beat.
Hands up, I hated ska and two-tone. 1979 saw me in the full throes of all things heavy and metal. I had no time for al that ska keech. There was rawk to be rolled. However, I did see General Public once at an early eighties festival thing. They were shit.
So probably not the best person to be reviewing this album. I do remember the original Beat, though, because they had proper Top of the Pops hits. And to their credit, they were never as bad as the Selecter, officially the worst band ever to have a hit single. This album, ‘Bounce’, does actually sound as though it comes from back in the day, and the new lineup of Ranking Roger, Ranking Junior, Fuzz Townshend, Andy Pearson and Steve Harper have managed to sum up the feeling of the olden days.
Songs like “Walking On The Wrong Side”, “Busy Busy Doing Nothing” and “Avoid The Obvious” are obvious hits in 1980 and even if I could happily live without the outbreaks of rapping, this should definitely appeal to folks who skanked the first time out.
Wake Up America
Time to get all political now with one time Wall Street wolf, Michael Belkin and his band The Refusers. They have decided to right the wrongs of the world and put The Man firmly in his place by releasing an independent album of politically conscious music.
Which in the modern world translates as left-wing. So expect lots of hippy claptrap in amongst the power chords. Belkin and the rest of his band – bassist Steve Newton; keyboard player Joe Doria (Santana) and drummer Brendan Hill (Blues Traveler), can certainly play. It’s mainly seventies hard rock with a few post grnge / modern rock shapes thrown in for good measure while Belkin demands that we do something about something.
It’s polemic to the fore on songs like “Born To Rock” and “2 Big 2 Fail” as he rails against absolutely everyone and everything in the Establishment. Even though I disagree with just about everything he says, politically, there is no doubting the quality of the music. But ageing hippies and crusty anarchists will lap it up. Although, with that cover, they won’t sell many copies in Ireland!