Reviews roundup – Savoy Brown ~ DML Conspiracy ~ Beach Viper ~ Jason Kane & The Jive ~ Jaume de Viala
Ain’t Done Yet
Quarto Valley Records
He’s not hanging around is Kim Simmonds. Just over a year on from the enjoyable ‘City Night’ and he’s back with, what, the 41st or thereabouts Savoy Brown album?
They’ve been on a good run of form over the last few years with the trio of Simmonds, Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drum having been together for over a decade. Not bad for a band that’s had in excess of 60 members through the ranks over the years. It’s a companion piece to ‘City Night’, mining the same vein of sturdy blues rock with a few diversions into mellower, acoustic moments.
As befits a man of his vintage a lot of the songs are quite reflective, looking back on a life lived and whether it’s the life that should have been lived. We all get there.
Musically there are a lot of chugging rhythms underpinned by a great rhythm section with Simmonds sprinkling some great guitars over the top. As I’m sure I’ve said before he doesn’t really have a singing voice per se, it’s more of a tuneful semi-spoken approach. But it works well with the material. There are a couple of songs here that would have sat comfortably on any one of the classic Savoy Brown albums with the dense, slow blues of “Borrowed Time” my absolute favourite here. It’s another one of those end of the line songs that are prevalent here with Simmonds saying it’s “about an older person looking around and feeling that the end of life isn’t that far away”.
If you’re looking for a tune that fits in beside some of their seventies boogies then you won’t go wrong with “Jaguar Car” while the acoustic shuffle on offer on “Rockin’ In Louisiana” is a real treat. His guitar work remains exemplary with the best of it on “Soho Girl”. But there isn’t a duff track here and if you enjoy your blues with a side of rock then this is something you should definitely be ordering.
It’s coming out on CD and vinyl and you’d be a fool not to.
An Act Of Defiance
Sonic Smack Records
A band that came together after DML Cartel came to an end, DML Conspiracy shows just how much mainman Dodd Michael Lede likes to name a band after himself.
It’s a slightly odd hybrid of modern rock, post grunge and even some seventies southern chooglin’. The rhythms sound modern while the guitars take on more of a classic rock sheen.
As well as DML on lead vocals, some of the songs have a female lead from Shawna Cole, which means things can seem a wee bit disjointed at times. However, some of the backing harmonies are absolutely splendid.
The opening “Secret To The Grave” is surprisingly poppy with a melody that could easily sit on the radio. “California” and “You Ain’t Making It Easy” have an equally easy on the ear vibe. But they can take a few twists and turns with “Cancer” having a sideways psychedelic vibe and “The Full Effect” rocking quite vigorously.
The guitarists seem to work really well together and the band as a whole really thrive within the arrangements whether going for mellow, hard or even the almost southern rock sound of the closing “Lost & Found”. There is a slight sag in the middle which makes me think this could have benefited from being a couple of songs shorter but the DML Conspiracy seem like the sort of band who’re trying really hard to be themselves. And that’s always a good thing.
Alive & Free
To Arizona for some late eighties melodic hard rock.
Like many others what became Beach Viper started out as a covers band. And if there was such a thing as a market for a Dokken tribute band then this lot would be top of the list.
Because the guitars and riffs are very ‘Under Lock and Key’ / ‘Back for the Attack’. That’s a good thing by the way in case you’re one of those folk who only know their name from “Dream Warriors”, by far the worst track they recorded at their peak.
Back to Beach Viper. I really enjoyed this. Mainly because that era of rock was my era of rocking. Vocalist Steve “Traik” Traikovich has the perfect voice for this sort of thing. A Vince Neil who can actually hit notes. That’s best heard on the title track, a sure fire US Top 40 hit. In 1987. The whole band, though, really shine through on this EP with guitarist Robert “El Jefe” Trop perfectly capable of throwing out a squeaking guitar solo.
It’s not all eighties, though. Sometime it reaches back into the seventies inspired by Montrose. Which is another good thing. The only tune that doesn’t work for me is the power balladesque “Climbing To The Top” where the harmonies miss. But that aside, this is a very enjoyable Rocket Ride.
JASON KANE & THE JIVE
Jive Ass Productions
I’m not going to deny it. That’s a great title for an album.
If you want to know what they sound like imagine Grand Funk Railroad in the middle of a live jam having a three way with Humble Pie and Zakk Wylde. Apologies if you’ve just been a wee bit sick in your mouth. I know I have.
The band certainly know how to kick out the jams and make a righteous noise. Groovy, swinging riffs with some bluesy undertones. That’s how to do it. It also helps that Mr Kane has a rather splendid, swagger full voice.
Turns out this is the third album from the trio (here augmented with some guest lead guitars, brass and a revolving cast of drummers), following the magnificently titled “Hellacious Boogie”. It’s a cracker of a record although my favourites are when Mr Kane whips out his organ and commences to play all the notes all the time. I do love some mentalist keyboards and there are plenty here. You don’t get enough of that sort of thing nowadays. Take a listen to the outrageously funky ‘Smooth Operator’ and then have a well deserved lie down.
The tune that would have seen them opening the bill for Grand Funk, Pacific Rock & Gas and Bloodrock at the Fillmore is “Long Time Comin”. It hits hard but is relentlessly melodic. An absolute gem. And they’ve got plenty more in the bag. They even dig out the talk box from Peter Framptons garage on “Shadow Of Love”. Good job. Elsewhere, “Chica Boom” had me wondering where my nearest tequila fueled dive bar before I realised it’s 5000 miles away. Bastard.
This is going to be up there at years end as one of my 2020 favourites. Storming.
JAUME DE VIALA
Sonoritat de Mil Miralls
Once upon a time there was a Catalan fusion band called Salvador Avià’s Celobert Màgic. Avià was the leader and primary songwriter of the band, whose time spanned 1979 – 1983 without making any impact outside their own region.
Fast forward several decades and guitarist Jaume De Viala, one of the original members of Celobert Màgic has decided to bring their music back. It’s all original material bar one Gershwin tune with Avià himself appearing on one track and also returning from the original band are percussionist Oriol Madurell and vocalist Judit Cucala. Now, obviously, I’ve got no idea what they sounded like first time around but on this record it’s very, very fusion with a hint of prog thrown in for good measure.
And it’s a really good record. It’s largely mellow but not in a muzak way. Rather it’s the kind of music that insinuates its way into you without you even noticing. As it’s Jaume De Vialas gig, it’s very much focused on the guitar but I’m guessing if there are any musical ethnologists out there they’ll probably pick up on Catalan rhythms that are outwith my knowledge. Certainly there are appearances from bouzouki, oud and other instruments that hark back to the musics origins. The music is presented by an array of musicians with the likes of Vasil Hadžimanov, Dušan Jevtovic and Xavi Reija well known figures in the world of modern fusion.
It’s predominately instrumental although when vocalist Judit Cucal does make an appearance I immediately perked up. I was particularly taken with ‘Marinada’ where the vocals were particularly sinuous. The guitar work throughout is flawless and the arrangements are finely detailed with sprinklings of flute, keyboards and percussion that arrive just at the right time.
It’s a delightful record that should be heard on headphones in the twilight. Perhaps with a glass of something relaxing. A real treat.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton