Reviews roundup – Magick Brother Mystic Sister ~ Gravel & Grace ~ Bad Touch ~ Slin’s Strassenkoter ~ Snatch-Back
MAGICK BROTHER & MYSTIC SISTER
Magick Brother & Mystic Sister
John Colby Sect Records
At least you know what to expect when a band names themselves after a Gong song. You’re unlikely to be delving into grime and there will be a flute.
And I was right on both counts as this Barcelona based psychedelic outfit head off into otherworldy realms. I suppose to the young ‘uns this will sound quite fresh and new whereas the more “established” amongst us will sit back in our comfy chair and remember a time when we could keep pace with the many and varied variety of pixies out there. But whatever camp you fall into, this is quite delicious.
They’ve even got the glissando guitar sound down pat which is a tricky thing to do. But don’t worry, they’re not a tribute band. They nod in all the right directions but Eva Muntada: piano, synthesizers, organ, mellotron & vocals, Xavi Sandoval: bass & guitars, Marc Tena: drums & vocals and Maya Fernández: flute bring plenty of their own to the party.
They get a wee bit folky in places, at times the percussion veers off into jazz territory and in a couple of places they bring the Italian horror soundtracks of the seventies back into the light. That’s when they’re not going all Canterbury on our asses. It’s definitely an album that needs a mood and a vibe to bring out all the nuances. For me that was in the attic, after midnight with the castle and the crags barely visible through the gloom. I’m just glad my dangerous days are behind me or there could have been a nasty accident. This is one of those records that needs to be digested in full to appreciate the twists, turns and nuances that peek round every corner but if you pointed a gun at my head..well, that wouldn’t work because I’d welcome it. So if you stole my black pudding and tattie scone roll and held it hostage to me naming a favourite I’d plump for ‘Echoes from the Clouds’. Everything that is good about Magick Brother & Mystic Sister is there.
It might only be June but they’ve got to be there or thereabouts when it comes to album of the year. I’m just glad I got my vinyl order in before it sold out (12 copies left at time of writing). The rest of you less lucky people can do the CD / digital thing below. And you really, really should.
GRAVEL & GRACE
Bringing The Blues
Ava Grace Music
An appropriate name for a rather odd combo.
The Grace is Ava Grace Merchant, a 17 year old singer songwriter. The Gravel is Earl Merchant, a singer songwriter with over 20 years of performing behind him. Odd. But they’ve got their music together in California with a band and put out an album of enjoyable soul meets pop meets blues.
It’s definitely more pop/soul than anything else and if it weren’t for the gravelly (natch) vocals of Mr Merchant it might prove to be a bit too smooth for my liking as it’s the songs where he takes the lead that hold my attention. To be honest the opening “Scares Me” left me kind of cold which is very poppy even though the band to kick up with a wee bit attitude. So it was a relief when “Next Move ” arrived and things kicked off properly.
They alternate on lead so the even numbers were the winners for me with the almost country blues of “When I’m Hungover” a familiar and enjoyable highlight. There’s a really good band ticking along behind them with Isaac Lewis on guitar, Ricky Galvan on guitar, Joshua Broom on bass, Ray Vazira on drums, William Melendez on saxophone, and Bart Szopinski on organ and piano playing just the right sound in just the right places.
Much to my surprise I quite enjoyed the sole cover on offer, a take on the Rihanna (yes, really) number “Love On The Brain” but if I had to pick one song that really got me going then it would be uplifting and righteous “Sunday Afternoon”, a song that really deserves a wide audience. A stone cold classic.
A game of two halves but definitely worth investigating.
Kiss The Sky
They don’t hang about do Bad Touch. What’s this, four albums in five years? That’s ridiculous in the modern world where, despite the advances in technology, it still seems to take 6 months to get a snare sound right.
The good news is that they’re still really, really good. At least if you like the first two Black Crowes albums. And if you don’t like them then you’re dead to me. Dead2Me.
So they’ve still got the raunch and roll that fans of The Answer and the Faces will take to their sweaty bosoms and another batch of really good songs to swagger about with. I must admit I’m getting a wee bit worried that they’re actually going to end up like the aforementioned Answer. Namely a band who makes great records but just seem to be slightly out of step with the record buying rockers. And let me tell you I’ll be well pissed off with you lot if that happens.
After all why wouldn’t you want a record full of classic rock riffs, great vocals, sublime solos and an abandoned loon pant joy about it. Fools, the lot of ye. This time around there seems to be an added richness to the sound which is swelled by soem excellent keyboard touches from Bob Fridzema (King King/Ben Poole etc etc). Or maybe it’s because of Stevie Westwood being credited prominently with cowbell. It’s a record chock full of quality tunes with “Let Go” my absolute favourite. It has everything. Melody, piano, ripping solo, great backing vocals. Glorious.
“Too Much Of A Good Thing” runs it a close second mind. I even enjoyed the sole cover, a run through of “I’ve Got The Music In Me”, although Stevie is nae Kiki Dee. And to be fair she had the legendary Bias Boshell banging the keys. Which reminds me. I really need to dig out the Thelma Houston version from whatever crate it’s lurking in. Asides aside, this is a great record and you’d be a damned eejit not to buy it.
Eh? Whit? Oh, it’s in German. I thought I’d finally had that stroke my diet and alcohol consumption has been building towards.
You’d think that Slin’s Strassenköter would be like Motorhead. Hell, they even have a song called ‘Bombster’ and bass player Anger used to be in a band called Motörjesus. But turns out they’re more like Supersuckers as there are more than a few country fried licks here.
In fact when I first played this I thought I was in for a record of acoustic country blues as the opening ‘Slin’ is very much in that vein with a few Stray Cats rockabilly slaps for good measure.
Which means it’s really enjoyable even if I have no idea what they hell they’re singing about. My schoolboy German can work out what some of the titles mean, helped by the fact that the songs all have one word titles. So there’s a song about a record player, one about a lollipop, the sun, a friend, being alone, the heart, I’m struggling now.
But what they all share is a rollicking good vibe. When they get a bit beefy and some slide guitar kicks in as on “Lutscher” they sound just like Rose Tattoo. Then you realise it is Rose Tattoo as they bash though a German language version of “Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock’n’Roll”. If only I’d read the sleeve credits first. Quite why they’ve renamed it “Lollipop” is beyond me. Maybe that well known German sense of humour.
And that mix of biker rock and rockabilly carries on through a fine set of swaggering tunes. According to an online translator my favourite song, “Sonne” contains the lines “the sun only shines so I can see how deeply I am in the shit”. Those words alone would have won me over but when the music is so ridiculously catchy then there really is no cure. It’s the sound of a great night out (remember them) captured on disc.
Ride Hard Run Free
Good grief, it wasn’t for the arthritis I’d have thought I was 13 again. Not actually a good thing but it’s how old I was when the NWOBHM was at its peak.
I don’t actually remember Snatch-Back probably because they only released one 7″ single back in 1979 – ‘Eastern Lady/Cryin’ to the Night’ – before eventually puttering out in the mid eighties. But like a lot of long lost NWOBHM band they’re back. Unlike a lot of long lost NWOBHM bands they’ve somehow managed to put their original lineup together. That’s vocalist John Cowley, guitarist Ste Byatt, bassist Ian Wood and drummer Steve Platt. They put out an EP a few years back when they first reformed but now, many decades since their split, they’ve released their debut album.
And I really enjoyed it. The modern world means they sound better than they would have back then and with the songs dating back to their first incarnation they have the NWOBHM DNA deep inside them. It says a lot for the sheer quality of the bands who were around then that they weren’t picked up at the time. Certainly the songs are good enough. It might be that they tried too many sounds. Whereas the title track is biker leather metal, the likes of ‘Rock In A Cold Climate’ have a proggy Praying Mantis edge. But regardless the main body of the album is full to the brim of excellent metal and really does need to be heard by those who yearn for the developing days of metal.
The record is rounded out with a re-recording of ‘Boogie Shoes’ from their 1982 demos, subsequently released on their “Amazon Tapes 1982” and two live recordings from 1978 which, to be honest, make “Live (Hot Curry & Wine)” by Holocaust seem state of the art. Curios for the collectors they may be but “Ride Hard Run Free” needs to be heard.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton