Reviews roundup – Eliza Neals ~ High Road Easy ~ Psycho Toaster ~ Laci Violett ~ John Lange
Black Crow Moan
How long have I been raving about how great Eliza Neals is? Aeons, that’s how bloomin’ long. So you shouldn’t really need me to tell you how good she is. But obviously you do or you wouldn’t be here.
So. Eliza Neals is great. That do you? No?
OK. Ms Neals has a voice that is designed to sing the blues. She can belt with the best of them but is just as comfortable getting way down there to where your nethers tingle. Add in the fact that she keeps on getting better as a songwriter and this latest release is delicious. It’s proper blues as well. None of that blues tinged malarkey here. So there are wailing slide guitars and down and durrrty rhythms. From the opening “Don’t Judge The Blues” you’re served an array of sumptuous treats. Whether that be the gritty “Why You Ooglin Me” (which is obvs, natch to the use the parlance of the young) or the soulful “The Devil Don’t Love You” with some very tasty guitar from Joe Louis Walker right on to the magnificent and brooding “River Is Rising”, this is an album to make friends with.
The title track is another delight and that’s before you get to the sole cover, “Ball and Chain”, from Big Mama Thornton. Although probably best known from the Big Brother and the Holding Company version. It’s slowed right down here with some fantastic guitar work from one Derek St. Holmes. Yes, The Derek St. Holmes who makes a couple of appearances here. The record ends with “Hey, Take Your Pants Off”. ‘Nuff said.
Definitely one of the best blues rock records you’ll hear this year. Buy it.
HIGH ROAD EASY
High Road Easy
A return encounter with German melodic rock band, High Road Easy.
This is their fourth album and they’re not in the business of messing with their sound. They’ve been around for 12 years now so they’ve got a handle on what they want to present to the world. And that is radio rock from 1986. Which is fine by me. I was still a wean with a light in my eye and a dream in my heart so I’m not averse to reminding myself of what it’s like.
There are hints of Honeymoon Suite here as well as some harmonies that stray into ELO / Supertramp territory while the guitars are in Tyketto mode. But with their own songs, strong vocals and an excellent production you’re in no doubt that this is very much High Road Easy. The mainmen are singer Jan Knopf and Sven Horlemann, guitarist, bassist and keyboardist who have done a sterling job in bringing their songs to life. To their credit they’ve kept the ballads to a minimum and aimed for that driving down the freeway with the wind your hair sound. Although the ballads are goof with “All My Love Is Lost” probably just edging “Set Me Free”.
“Make My Day” and “Bad Luck” are my highlights as they really go for the full on melodic rock approach. Either of them would have graced many an 80s radio playlist and if you have a yen for that sound, then this is an album you really don’t want to miss.
I practically live on toast. I like it simple. Cheese. Sometimes jam. But always toast. So an Austrian stoner band who’ve named themselves after toast and written a song all about toast are not getting shredded by me. “Toasted” is the song about toast.
But, panic ye not, in case you’re thinking this particular power trio is a comedy act. The rest of the songs deal with more traditional stoner issues. You know; darkness, despair, hate. That sort of thing.
They’re doing exactly what you want from a stoner band. Taking bits of Black Sabbath, some southern groove, plenty of metal and churning it into a psychedelic haze. And when their groove really gets going as on “Psycho Storm” and “Going Insane” then it’s mighty fine indeed. They’re better at the harder side of things than the doomier side of things but even then they don’t really do much wrong. For three fellas on guitar / bass / drums they make a helluva racket, sometimes dipping into more traditional hard rock territory but always bringing it back to what they do best. Swirly stoner.
For a debut, indie release it sounds great, with a proper in your face production. There is no way they’re even thinking about reinventing the wheel but if you’re looking for some crushing, seventies inspired, stoner then this is a record you’re going to paint your walls black to.
No! Not the hairspray, dammit. That’s taking things too far. Yes, you know you’re in proper glam metal / sleaze rock territory when the opening song is called “Hairspray Running Low”. It’s almost Brechtian in its story of low tragedy.
Should you need further confirmation of the particular genre you’re in, sex is spelt S.E.X. The proper way.
In case you’re wondering, Laci Violett is not a she. Or a he. It’s a they. Lizzy Lace and Eddie Bane who really, really like the 80s. Much to my surprise and delight they name the Welsh wonders that are / were Tigertailz amongst their influence, in beside the usual Pretty Boy Floyd, Tuff, and Britny Fox name-checks. Now I’m the only person I know who liked Pretty Boy Floyd back in the Leather Boyz with Electric Toys daze despite being a young un’ slap bang in the middle of the spandex years. And it’s PBF that this most reminds me of.
A PBF with no money for a recording studio, mind. In fact if they didn’t have a song on here called “Snakebite” I would have called them a snakebite Pretty Boy Floyd. Production wise we’re in the realms of indie Motley Crue with the drum sound ridiculously lo-fi. Which is a shame as there are some proper eighties styled sleaze anthems here. “S.E.X. Life” would have been the single in 1986 with a thoroughly (in)appropriate video filmed in the strip club that no-one went into without their tetanus shots.
The poppiest of the songs is probably “I Don’t Go To School” because what 80s sleaze band, comprised of men in their twenties (or forties if you count Mick Mars) didn’t have a song about not going to school / tearing the school down / turning up to a girls school without appropriate permission. It’s how things were done.
That said, I did quite enjoy this. Maybe because I still have my Tigertailz 12″ singles alongside some very 80s tattoos and a scar obtained after slagging off “Why Waltz When You Can Rock n’ Roll.”. Happy days.
I always admire people who stick to their guns. John Lange is one of them.
He’s been playing for decades both in cover bands and original bands. He’s recorded albums, been in bands who were courted by major labels, opened shows for many a major act, even appeared on Star Search over there in the USA. And he’s still at it. Fair play.
And here he is with an album of original songs as well as playing all the instruments. In fact, it is only him, so it doesn’t get more solo album than that. What you’re getting is seventies styled mainstream rock with a few singer / songwriter moments. He’s got a decent voice and a way with a melody which makes for some pleasant listening. I’ve always got a downer on sequenced drums and that is the one bugbear here. I know it can be a necessary evil when you’re doing things on your own but I’m an auld fella and know what I like.
Lyrically, the songs take on the themes of love, life, loss and beyond. As befits a gentleman of a certain age. It’s not out and out Christian rock but there are songs about God and spirituality. Now, it’s three years (in fact three years yesterday) since I lost my faith but I still remember what it was like and, unlike some, I’m glad that others still have their faith. So even though it’s not my future anymore I particularly enjoyed “Train of Souls” which almost had a Red Rider feel to it.
Other highlights include the modern rock feel of “Only A Whisper” and the Americana tinged “Only God Can Stop The Rain”.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton