Reviews roundup – Suzi Quatro vs. Kat Riggins vs. Aris vs. Gina Sicilia vs. Emperors of the Wasteland vs. Atomic Road Kings
Steamhammer / SPV
It was Suzi Quatro who first made me realise that I was going to grow up liking girls after my 7 year old self first saw her on Top of the Pops. So I’ve always had a soft spot for her. The Quatro Scott Powell album a couple of years back was enjoyable and this, her first solo album in 8 years, is another welcome addition to her catalogue.
She’s never lost her voice even on some of her lesser albums and with a decent set of material this is her best record in a long, long time. In some ways it’s a return to the bluesy rocking roots that powered her through her glam years. It’s largely original material written with her son Richard Tuckey and when it sticks to a solid rock beat it really works.
The only time things slip is when it gets a wee bit experimental, something that does interrupt the flow of the album but that doesn’t happen often leaving songs like ‘No Soul-No Control’, ‘Going Home’ and the ‘Tush’ soundalike that is ‘Macho Man’ to get on with the business of being Suzi Quatro. The clunkers are ‘Strings’, an odd brass driven song which seems to have several songs happening at once, none of them much cop and the calypso drums of ‘Love Isn’t Fair’ which sounds like a filler from a 1978 album. Luckily they’re right next to each other and once you’re past them you can get on with the delights of bluesy album highlight ‘Easy Pickings’ and an assortment of delights.
Suzi Q is also heading off on a mammoth world tour and for those of you who were the first time round, this also comes on vinyl with two bonus tracks.
In The Boys’ Club
I had a wee bit of a rave about “Blues Revival” a couple of years back and I’m delighted to report that the latest album from Kat Riggins is just as good. And maybe a wee bit better.
Whether you like blues rock, acoustic blues, soul or just damn fine music then you’ll find something here for your listening pleasure. Ms Riggins has an outstanding voice which combined with the quality of the self-penned material makes for an absolutely fabulous record. From the thumping opener, ”Try Try Again’ through the Delta sounds of ‘Troubles Away’, the ,slow blues of ‘Hear Me’ or the out and out rock of ‘Johnnie Walker’ which reclaims the stolen sounds of Led Zep it’s a faultless collection.
One of those records where it’s like picking your favourite child I find myself drawn to ‘Fistful of Water’ and the a capella intro’d ‘Live On’. But I’m sure that will all change the next time I play it. Essential blues listening.
I’m going to assume for the purposes of metal that Apis have named themselves after the Egyptian Hapi-ankh, the sacred bull, rather than the application program interfaces that beset my younger years.
This Apis are a five piece Austrian modern metal band (although they have recently lost a guitarist should anyone fancy auditioning) who got together back in 2015. They released an EP the following ear and have built up a decent reputation opening for many a big name metal band.
Their metal influences seem to take in the world of nineties metal with a few alt rock licks thrown in here and there. They’re all good players and when they keep the aggression levels high then it makes for a good listen. Not all of the songs are out of the top drawer and the production reflects the low budget origins. But if they manage to put together a few more songs as strong as ‘Killing Glance’ and ‘The Never Born’ then they could make a name for themselves. The guitar work of Mark Heiss and Gynny Neuhold is particularly strong so here’s hoping they can find someone as adept to take the place of the former.
Heard The Lie
I’ve been saying for a long (long) time that Gina Sicilia was going to break through to the mainstream. Which just goes to show you how wrong I am just about everything.
Because this is the eighth album from Ms Sicilia and despite high profile shows with Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joan Osborne and many others it just hasn’t happened. But then life never pretended to be fair. Maybe it’s because she incorporates too many strands of music as she takes in blues, pop, soul, roots and beyond. If anything this one is probably the closest she’s made to a pure soul album. Take a listen to ‘How Many Times’ and try not to get choked up a wee bit.
But then she heads off into a cover of the Bad Company tune ‘Ready For Love’ albeit one with a completely different backing arrangement. It’s a rare cover as most of the excellent material is self-penned including the fabulous duet with Janiva Magness, ‘Brighter Day’. I’m not entirely sure what needs to be said to convince people about Ms Sicilia. A great voice, good songs, excellent musicians. What more do you people want?
However, if you’ do happen to be looking for a sixties soul influenced album with an undercurrent of bluesy licks then you won’t do better than this.
EMPERORS OF THE WASTELANDS
That’s a great name for a metal band, that is.
Emperors Of The Wasteland hail from Derby and I’m told they are a stoner meets grunge band. Which is odd because to my aged ears the vocals and riffs seem straight out of the NWOBHM. I can easily seem them opening the bill for Persian Risk and Gaskin at the Dreadnought. Which is fine by me. I also understand why they’re trying to pitch themselves at an audience that aren’t deaf and decrepit. So fair play.
I suppose the guitars do have some grungy downtuning going on especially when they slow the pace as they do on the title track. Me, I like it when they riff out like it’s 1981 so that makes ‘See You Again’ a highlight. The band acquit themselves well – that’s Al Rhodes vocals, Sid Thindal on guitars, Frazer M Knight on drums and a guesting Rich Collins on bass. An enjoyable throwback.
ATOMIC ROAD KINGS
Clean Up The Blood
Is it really five years plus since I heard the “Ark Ep”? Jaysus but life has been a dump truck of shite since then. Which is why I listen to a lot blues and have recently started getting drunk again after throwing away my 15 year chip.
Back to the Atomic Road Kings and they’re a mighty fine blues band. They’ve changed a wee bit as “Big” Jon Atkinson has replaced Kyle Jester on vocals & guitar and he also takes care of most of the songwriting but the deep, dark blues rock still pounds away at your gizzards. And when you’ve got Eric “Jailhouse” Von Herzen (Rhythm Lords and Walter Trout) wailing away on moothie and a rock solid rhythm section of bass man Bill Stuve and drummer Malachi Johnson holding things down you won’t go far wrong. Actually now that I think on it, it’s a whole new band apart from Von Herzen so fair play for keeping the quality level so high.
A lot of the material is Friday night roadhouse blues which is the sound I hear in my head when there’s no music playing. Mr Atkinson has pulled some great songs out of the bag here with nary bum tune to be found. ‘I’ve Got Time’, the old school ‘My Way Back Home’ and ‘Ain’t For Me’ are utterly blueslicious, highlighting the great, growly vocals and the sound of a band in heat. This is an early contender for one of the best blues albums of 2019.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton