Reviews roundup – Eric Hughes Band ~ Sandy McKnight with Fernando Perdomo ~ Hellride ~ Grandval ~ Puffra
ERIC HUGHES BAND
Postcard from Beale Street
Well this is just a delight. Honky tonk blues just the way I like it.
It’s definitely the kind of thing that first captured my ears back in my mid-teens when I first found out what blues was courtesy of what was either a kindly old man in a record shop or a protracted grooming campaign. That and underage drinking in a Broughton Street bar where the barman only played blues cassettes.
Turns out the Eric Hughes Bands had been playing in and around Memphis for years, chalking up thousands of shows, and you don’t get booked twice if you can’t cut it. The band never miss a beat as they throw in jazzy licks and jug band grooves throughout a set of original material. The main band comprises Eric Hughes on vocals, guitar, jug and percussion, Walter Hughes on guitar and backing vocals, Leo Goff on bass and Brian Aylor on drums with guests Rick Steff on keyboards, Marc Franklin on trumpet, Kirk Smothers on saxophone; and Mick Kolassa on tussolin, spoons and backing exclamations! And, no, I don’t want to know what they were doing with cough syrup.
I do enjoy a well crafted, sideways lyric and there are plenty of them here as you will gather from the opening tracks – “Ain’t Whipped Yet” and my new national anthem, “Oh, Booze!”, a jazz tinged tune that could have stepped out of prohibition. Or even the new Purutanism sweeping the Western world. “All I got is the blues, but what I really want is booze.” No argument here. The jug band element is most noticeable on “Follow Your Stupid Little Dreams” which the early Mungo Jerry fan in me really appreciated.
The guest horns are at their best on the funky “Fair Weather Friends”, another song that hits home while my absolute favourite was the rockier “Waiting For That Day”. Surely it’s round the corner somewhere? Cos’ I’m tired of waiting. But while I do this fantastic record will do just fine. Blues fans should buy immediately.
SANDY McKNIGHT with Fernando Perdomo
San Fernando Beat
Regular readers will know of Fernando Perdomo and his prog stylings. Well hold hard. This is not a Fernando Perdomo album. That’s why his name is in lower case. No, this is very much a recording by Sandy McKnight, a musical veteran with countless decades under his belt. And what he does is late seventies, edgy power pop.
Perdomo sits in on drums, guitar and keyboards while McKnight sings, plays guitar and bass, and writes the songs. I won’t be the first to point out the vocal similarities to one Elvis Costello but musically it’s different. There are shades of The Smithereens and The Pursuit of Happiness while the guitars sometimes go all jangly and paisley pop.
The 6 track mini-album opens with a song about the end of the world, something that a) you would have guessed from the title – “Facing The End Of The World” and b) seems very appropriate in the End Days. I liked it mainly because I’m a sucker for a jaunty tune and bleak lyrics you have to listen out for.
“Single Flowers” is the jangly 60s Byrdsian throwback while “Chloe’s Gone” relates the tale of how, um, Chloes gone. A bittersweet pop song. “Heart In Your Hands” is an off kilter waltz styled tune with a really good arrangement with the guitar and keyboards going off in different directions while “Any Time Of Day” comes closest to evoking things more joyful. Everything is fake is the theme of the closing, um, “Fake” and, again, it’s a very 2020 theme that I can’t argue. If this record had come out in 1979 then half the tunes would have been radio hits. Not really the kind of thing I come back to but fans of power pop will take a lot from this.
Goodbyes To Forever
Well that’s just great, that is. There I was listening to Hellride and their acoustic metal thinking “damn, that’s good”. Then I read the press release and see that they’ve actually split up and that this is their farewell. Bloody typical that is.
Seems they formed ten years back, played a shitload of live shows and festivals, opening for the likes of Accept and UFO, released an album in 2013 and are now packing it in. Which is a real shame because this is a cracker. You’d think that acoustic metal shouldn’t really work. I know that lots of metal bands have done stripped down projects and some have even performed acoustically [thank you, I’m here all week] but to make it your raison d’etre is a wee bit different. Especially when you seem to have so much hate and bile in your system.
Now I definitely get that. It’s only the bile and the invective that keeps me going but when Hellride go off on on one they really go off on one. It’s not for nothing that the first two tracks are called “Someone To Hate” and “The Misanthrope”. It’s actually quite remarkable how effective it is when you don’t have to work your way through a barrage of noise.
Even at their bitterest there is always a strong melody running through the songs with the sweet sound of “nAPOLEONIZED” somewhat offset by a lyric that runs “But you’re still just a cock on a pile of shit”. Really. The guitar work throughout the album is a constant pleasure and vocalist Tom Klosser has a really strong voice. They even throw in a version of the Rod Stewart hit, “Young Turks”. And you can’t go wrong with a bit of Rodney. It’s a short album at 36 minutes but not a minute of that is wasted. A real treat.
Descendu sur Terre
Album number two from French melodic prog band Grandval. I say band but it’s the brainchild of Henri Vaugrand who, along with a host of talented musicians, has turned in this concept album. The first album was all about the sky and this one is all about the earth. You can see where this is going.
There’s a lot of Pink Floyd going on here but as the sole non-original track is “La Maison De Men-Tää”, originally recorded by seventies French progsters Atoll on their 1975 ‘Rock Puzzle’ album I’m guessing they’re a favourite of Vaugrand.
Musically, there is are a lot of very impressive things going on here and I absolutely loved the drumming from Nemo percussionist Jean-Baptiste Itier. It’s phenomenal. The other musicians are no slouches either and the instrumental passages are never less than excellent and sometimes brilliant. I’m not a fan of the vocals though. Not because they’re in French but Vaugrand doesn’t have much range and you can’t help but feel that the record would have been lifted by some guest vocalists as well.
He largely sticks to seventies influenced prog with the usual nods to Genesis and their ilk but he also wanders into the more symphonic prog of Kansas and even the poppier Alan Parsons Project mode. Things build slowly but by the time you reach the title track you’ve been drawn into his world and it’s one worth hearing. “Fractal et Systémique” is an album highlight with some amazing work from the aforementioned Itier. The least of the tracks is probably the ballad “Le Chemin a l’Envers” which doesn’t really showcase the quality of the album. The BIG song is “Il Existe une Etoile” which gets 10 minutes to show off in. And it does.
The CD has the cover mentioned above while the digital release sticks to the main album. It’s great a great production and the instrumental passages make this worth the price of admission.
Well that’s not very nice. “I.D.L.Y.” is short for I don’t like you. Charming. I much prefer it when people dislike me for who am I rather than just because.
But that’s what Swedish sleaze punk rockers Puffra have gone and done. For shame. A four piece band comprising lead vocalist JJ, guitarist Patte, bassist Retarderman and drummer Matsodon, they originally formed in 2010 as a covers band but quickly began writing their own tunes, releasing thr debut album in 2013.
To my aged ears they seem to have gone for a mix of 2nd generation early 80s punk, the obligatory Motorhead references and a few nods to the likes of Hanoi Rocks. Which is nice.
They certainly rattle through the 15 tracks with plenty of life and aggression. But they’re also quite melodic and there’s usually a decent tune lurking underneath the snarling guitars. The vocals are of the sneering, snotty variety which certainly suits the music that’s on offer. On the best of the songs – “I Don’t Like You”, ” Born Stupid”, “Rock N Roll Hangover”, “Don’t Let This Song (Be Too Long)” – you can certainly hear the sound of a band that would make for a great night out. The all original material (bar a closing Butthole Surfers cover) rocks hard and even if the album was probably a couple of songs too long for me, it’s the kind of thing that will go down a treat with punks everywhere.
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