Reviews roundup – Bernie Shaw & Dale Collins ~ The Skullers ~ 16 Bars ~ Anchor Lane ~ Ned Greenough
BERNIE SHAW & DALE COLLINS
Too Much Information
A bit of an odd cove this one. Bernie Shaw, vocalist with Uriah Heep, and fellow Canadian musician Dale Collins first worked together ages ago when they recorded an EP together.
They wanted to do more but touring the world with Uriah Heep is pretty much a full time job so it’s taken a long time for an album to emerge. Mind you the album is only 39 minutes of music including re-recordings of the EP tracks and a cover of ‘Rock On’ by the legend that is Sir David Essex. Only one of the songs features a Shaw writing credit so the original material is from the pen of Collins.
But it’s good music. Very seventies rock and with a few Heep styled arrangements thrown in at what is, presumably, the target market. And with Bernie Shaw on vocals it’s always going to sound a bit Heepy. There’s no duffers here and on the best of the tunes it’s really good. That would include ‘So Many Times’, the title track, the brilliantly named ballad ‘Sad Song’ and the classic that is ‘Rock On’. The only song that didn’t work for me is ‘Hey Jimi’ but that’s a decent return on your investment. Uriah Heep fans would be well advised to pick this up.
Freight Trains & Party Games
Paisley pops meets jangle with an edge of rock and roll. That’s what I’m hearing on this EP from New Jersey band The Skullers.
Oddly enough I spent 10 hours in New Jersey yesterday and that would have been considerably enlivened by this as Mr Skuller is a fine songwriter. Opener ‘Still Life’ is probably my least favourite tune here, so I was very happy when ‘She Denies Herself The Things She Loves’ which comes with a stomping glam rock beat that the likes of Chinnichap used to knock out in their sleep. Lovely to hear it again. And you can when a Third Man Record booth solo version pops up at the end of the EP. Elsewhere, ‘Convenient’ is a thrashier garage rock style tune with a hint of Dick Dale about the guitar which works well.
‘Out Of The Garden’ mixes up psych pop with some more surf guitar while the EP proper closes with ‘Brooklyn Girls’, the closest they get to a ballad. The trio of Jack Skuller, bassist Luigi Sardi and drummer Brian Fahey do a grand job with producer Don DiLego adding some well placed keyboards. A good one.
16 Bars (Original Documentary Soundtrack)
The soundtrack to a a documentary based around a workshop led by Speech from Arrested Development in a jail in Richmond, VA where he helped inmates make music in a recording studio on site as part of a programme designed to reduce recidivism rates.
The documentary focuses on four participants – Teddy Kane, Garland Carr, Anthony Johnston and De’Vonte James – with the vocal tracks recorded in prison. The music was, presumably, done in a professional studio with professional musicians but the credits are non-existent, so who knows. It sounds very nineties so AD fans will feel at home. The CD release also comes without lyrics so I’ve no idea what’s going on vocally. I’m sure it’s full of devastating tales but with the honourable exception of the fantastic, sole contribution from De’Vonte James I’m none the wiser.
Things to take a left turn when Garland Carr arrives on the scene as he’s not a rapper. Instead he’s a soul meets protest singer who also writes his own music. And he can sing. The four tracks he appears on here should be more than enough for him to find a place outside prison as his music had a power and passion to it. Like all various artists soundtracks “16 Bars” is a bit hit and miss, so you may want to see the film first.
That’s an odd way to start an album? ‘Blood & Irony’ has side two, track three written all over it. a mid paced modern rock tune that has the courtesy to thrown in a riff and a howl half way through. Luckily there is a lot better to be heard later on.
Former single ‘Fame Shame’ is up next and that’s so much better. An actual album opener. Maybe ‘Blood & Irony’ co-writer Ricky Warwick demanded the opening slot 🙂 ‘Fame Shame’ is about social media and reality television (spoiler alert! they’re not fans) and it knows how to rock. ‘Voodoo’ has a great, bluesy swagger to it, straight out of the Clyde Delta and the title track manages to sound modern and retro at the same time. An impressive feat.
‘Stone Cold Hearted’ was one of my favourites where the inherent howl in the voice of Conor Gaffney is put to good use. The production from Little Angel / Wayward Son Toby Jepson is spot on with a garagey / indie sound that will appeal to the young ‘uns while the songs will reel in the classic rockers. A very impressive debut.
A Drop In The Bucket
Some art rock now from Ned Greenough. I say art rock because it’s not really prog. It gets close at times but never quite reaches out that far.
Mr Greenough is a keyboardist, vocalist and producer from Syracuse, NY who put out an EP called “Chances” back in 2018 but this is his full length debut.
And there are some really good songs here. It’s primarily piano driven with his stentorian vocals firmly in the front. Which is what will divide potential listeners. He’s not great. When he channels some Peter Hammill he gets away with but there is no real range to what he does and the vocals tend to fall away when he goes for the kill. But there is a lot of potential in the music. ‘Confessor’ is one of the proggier pieces with a touch of seventies Kansas about it. The oboe enhanced ‘Rainy Day Submission’ is a tremendous song which, again, reminds me of early seventies Peter Hammill. But then I’m a sucker for an oboe.
‘Summer Sweethearts’ is another good one as he manages to pitch the vocals well and the ever present strain of melancholy is a delight. I could hear another Peter singing this one. Skellern since you ask.
There’s an abundance of excellent music here but more work on the vocals is needed. Potential alert, though.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton