Reviews roundup – Alice Howe ~ Scott Hogan ~ The New Roses ~ RatRod ~ Flight Brigade ~ Jacks Full
Well this is just lovely. Blues tinged folk from a splendid singer with a light touch.
It is quite old fashioned in conceit, harking back to the days of seventies singer songwriters who could throw in country, folk and blues to their music with nary a blink of an eye. Ms Howe has put together an album that mixes up originals and visits to the songbooks of folk like Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke and more while her own songs have a timeless quality about them.
It’s no surprise then to see some of the originals are co-writes with Freebo, who spent a decade in Bonnie Raitts band, as well as playing alongside Dr. John, Willy DeVille, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Maria Muldaur and many more so it makes perfect sense that he would fit in here. The rest of the band – guitarist Fuzzbee Morse, keyboardist John ‘JT’ Thomas and percussionist John Molo – are no slouches either, with impeccable pedigrees.
The best thing here is the fact that it’s the original material that really shines. Songs such as ‘Twilight’ and ‘Still On My Mind’ sound like old familiar friends right from the first listen. Not an easy thing to pull off but Ms Howe has managed it. Best of the cover versions is her take on Muddy Waters’ ‘Honey Bee’ which has some great guitar work on it.
Folk who know me will appreciate why I hit stop before the closing Bob Dylan cover ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s all Right’. It’s safer that way. That aside, this is a real treat and a delightful listening experience.
Change of Pace
He toured with Hanson, you know. More than once.
Now that the middle aged teeny screamers have calmed down, O should point out that he attended New York University as a jazz performance major. But a man’s got to eat. What makes more sense is that he spent some time touring in the Bernie Worrell Orchestra with the former Parliament/Funkadelic fella.
So it makes sense that when he has some time in the studio he heads off into a world of jazzy funky grooves with lots of complex time changes. He’s certainly a talented musician as apart from a couple of guest appearances he takes care of vocals, basses, guitars and keyboards. Harold Rydell plays drums and percussion and Dave Mullen adds some sax to ‘City Walk Woman’, one of the stronger tunes here.
But it’s definitely about groove and feel and (sometimes) showing off a wee bit. Well if you can play your chosen instrument as well as he can you’re going to turn it up in the mix. The vocals aren’t the strongest thing here but some of the instrumental runs have you hitting pause / rewind / play. A job well done.
THE NEW ROSES
Nothing But Wild
If this were 1987 then I reckon The New Roses would be complete and utter chart botherers. Maybe with a different name, mind. And some different cover art.
Because this is hard hitting yet melodic hard rock that was designed for blasting out of an open top car on Highway 101. Except they’re German. And this is 2019. Which is a bit of a bugger. Still they’ve managed to get a fourth album, they’ve opened for Kiss, been invited to the Kiss Kruise and will be touring with the Scorpions in Europe. Now if only they can get those notoriously tight fisted old folk to pony up for a record by a new(ish) band instead of the 37th Official KISS ™ Best Of.
They’re really good, see. They can blast out incredibly melodic anthems like ‘Can’t Stop Rock & Roll’ and the Top 10 with a Bullet if this was 1987 ‘Down By The River’, one of many songs Jon Bon Jovi would sacrifice another band member for.
Singer Tommy Rough is anything but as his voice glides across the songs and whoever the guitarists are, well they’re superb. The PR stuff names no names and I’m to lazy to DuckDuckGo. There are probably two too many tunes but if that’s the worst I can say about a record then you should be rushing off to buy it from your local record shop immediately.. It’s probably the Hard Rock album of the year.
Light ‘Em Up
Hot on the heels of “Do You Remember Rock and Roll?” the terribly named RatRod are back with album number two.
And I’m delighted to report that they’ve thoroughly abandoned the raunch and roll purveyed by Acca Dacca, Rose Tattoo and their ilk from their debut and brought in some hip-hop and jazz fusion influences. Except they haven’t. Praise The Lord and pass the Dog.
To be fair, there are couple of tracks which bring in some subtlety but it’s when they bang you hard that it wall works best. The grooves are firmly based in the seventies r’n’b roughed up by the Young brothers and with singer Mike Smith snapping away it makes for a rerr terr. I said when their debut came out that there was more than a hint of Junkyard about their sound and I stand by that.
But that’s a damn good thing and when the title track, ‘Lone Wolf Rider’ and ‘Hell And Back’ are finished stomping on your face, then I’m sure you’ll agree. A fine time was had by all.
Chased By Wolves
Hard hitting indie rock time.
And if you like That Sort Of Thing then you’ll definitely like this as they veer from indie pop through alt rock and play tickle-tease with the edges of prog. It’s quite clever if a wee bit idiosyncratic but it’s held together by the voice of Ollie Baines so that even when you think you’ve wandered into a lost 80s synth pop single you can still find your way home.
They’ve come up with some interesting lyrics as well. Lyrics you can actually hear and which keep your interest even when the music flag a wee bit. They’re actually at their best when they remember to include a melody you can hang your coat on, so ‘Heartbreaker’ is an absolute cracker. And when you’re pressing repeat on track one the future seems bright. ‘Fury Road’ is another gem which belies it’s story.
Unusually, for this Sort Of Thing, there is a lot of reliance on keyboards. But that’s a good thing as it means the arrangements can be more adventurous than with your bog standard indie rock outfit. Not my normal Sort Of Thing but a good one, nonetheless.
A Greek power trio who really like seventies hard rock.
They formed back in 2014 and Nick Spathas (guitar), Michael Apartoglou (vocals-bass), Vaggelis Kardamitsis (drums) put out their debut album the following year.
Since then they’ve been playing as many club gigs as they can before settling down to record a follow-up. And it’s rather enjoyable. For sure, it’s not got the best production but you can tell that the band really get off on what they’re doing. And if you can get the listener to feel that, then you’re on to a good thing
It’s not all retro as they do throw in a few Jesus Christ Poses along the way although I suppose grunge is old enough to count as retro. So numbers like ‘Freedom Has A Price’ have a more modern(ish) vibe to them. But it’s when they give into thoughts of loon pants and Budgie that my boat is rocked. So I really like ‘Bad Karma’ and ‘My Own Kind’.
If someone was to throw a few quid and a good producer / editor their way then Jacks Full could have a good go at it.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton