Reviews roundup – AC/DC ~ Kurt Allen ~ Sun King Rising ~ Misty Blues ~ Revelation Rain
Is it that people are just so desperate for a taste of proper rawk? Or has there been some Kool Aid dispatched that hasn’t quite made the isles? Because everyone seems to be raving about this. I even left it an extra week before reviewing just in case I was having some kind of aneurysm.
Because it’s no aw that. It’s better than “Blow Up Your Video”, the nadir of Beano era AC/DC. It might with time reach the giddy heights of “Fly On The Wall”. But classic AC/DC? No. There’s a reason that Malc left these riffs behind.
Granted, like many, I’m glad to see Beano, the Rudder and Cliff back in action but this is not a record that’s going to be returned to. The problem is, bar maybe three tracks, it all sounds the same. Now I know that a lot of gainsayers will say that’s the whole point of AC/DC but those who know better appreciate the nuances and grooves that made the band what they were. However most of the songs here are pretty much interchangeable. You could swap the vocal tracks over on most of Side 2 and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference. It’s the same problem that beset their last turn out “Rock Or Bust”.
So, the good stuff. Opener ‘Realise’ sets you up for a fall as it’s a fiery wee number. Same with the lead single ‘Shot In The Dark’ which, again, made me think there was something special on the way. And album highlight ‘Demon Fire’ is just nasty in the way that AC/DC used to be. In fact, if you twisted my arm, I’d listen to Side 1 again. But once you flip it over then it becomes very mundane and makes me glad I’ve got the vinyl version. By the time you hit ‘Systems Down’, ‘Money Shot’,’ and ‘Code Red’ you realise that everyone was right and that Malc was the creative force behind the band.
The production is nice and dry which was always the sound that suited AC/DC best. The rhythm section is in fine form and Beano shows that he can still cut it in the studio. If, as seems likely, it’s their closing foray in the studio then at least it’s better than “Rock Or Bust” which would have been a really sad finale.
Whiskey, Women & Trouble
Now this is a good one. Mr Allen has been touring for a decade now with his trio and those hours on the road have been put to good use as he is in fine form here.
It’s a sound that would go down well in a live venue as he adds in some funk and soul to his blues rock and there are a handful of tunes here that would be guaranteed to get you up dancing. You. Not me.
It’s a set of all original tunes which kicks off in fine fettle with the blues rocking ‘Graveyard Blues’. I loved ‘Watch Your Step’ even if it is ‘Tobacco Road’ under another name. Vocally, he has a touch of the Bonamassas about him albeit with a grittier edge. The rhythm section of Lester Estelle Jr. on drums and Craig Kew on bass do a cracking job and half the tracks have a honking horn section (Beaux Lux on saxophone, Pete Carroll on trumpet, and Trevor Turla on trombone) which really drives the funky side of things. Naturally the title track hits a lot of the right notes for me while the self explanatory ‘Funkalicious’ finally answers the long pondered question of what the early seventies love child of Elvin Bishop and Stevie Wonder would sound like.
There aren’t many slow numbers here which is a good thing as they’re the least effective moments but when you’ve got tunes as instantly memorable as ‘Cry Mercy’ (not that one) and ‘Voodoo Queen’ then it’s a minor quibble. This is a real good one.
SUN KING RISING
People in the world of prog rock may have heard of John Blangero as he is lead singer and pianist with progressive rock band Harlequin Reborn.
But under his new guise of Sun King Rising he is a world away from prog. Instead he’s looking back to the days of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Delta Lady and southern soul meets rock. Which is good as I’ve always had a penchant for that sort of thing.
So we’re getting lush melodies, female backing harmonies, lots of organ and a horn section. Thankfully there’s a fair few songs which are as good as the backing. I would have used the word ‘odd’ to have described the Elton John style piano fills until I remembered that Elton made an album with Leon Russell a few years before Leons passing. Then it made more sense. Sometimes things veer over into the world of more pure southern rock, especially when Blangero goes a wee bit Jim Dandy in the vocal department. Listen to ‘Take It Down’ or ‘Milkweed And Thistle’ for the best examples of that.
Elsewhere the highlights include ‘The Snake’ (the Oscar Brown penned, Al Wilson hit) , ‘In a State of Grace’ and ‘Let There Be Light’ but it’s an album full of emotion and fine playing and if that too brief seventies style is something you yearn for then you’ll enjoy this.
Weed ‘Em & Reap
Misty Blues have been on the go for nigh on 20 years and this is their ninth album. And if you’re looking to grab someone’s attention then the opening ‘No More To Give’ is the way to do it.
A dark and powerful blues riff with the deep, soulful vocals of Gina Coleman to the fore. It certainly got me paying close attention.
It’s actually quite a jazzy release for what is ostensibly a blues album, something that the multi-instrumentalists in the band handle well. As well as singing, Ms Coleman plays cigar box guitar, bass and percussion with Bill Patriquin is on bass and trumpet, Rob Tatten drums and trombone and Aaron Dean on sax and flute. There are also monoinstrumentalists Benny Kohn on keyboards and Seth Fleischmann on guitar. Most of the songs go for a similar driving rhythm and usually lead into an instrumental break of some sort. It’s an effective setup and works well.
If you are in the mood for some more straight ahead blues then give ‘Blues Coaster’ a listen while if you’re in the mood for some funky jazz that teeters near fusion then ‘Phunk ‘n Grewv’, despite some appalling Prince type spelling, is where you want to be. Elsewhere I was drawn to ‘Hold Me Tight’ and ‘Treat Me Like I Want’, the closing two tracks which unusually for a closing couplet are two of the strongest tunes on offer. Never dull, this is an enjoyable release.
Vengeance Is Mine (Saith The Lord)
A debut album from an extremely new band. They only formed in July this year although all have previous and band leader / songwriter Rob Robinson had already been working on the songs prior to the band getting together.
As you might have guessed from the title “Vengeance Is Mine (Saith The Lord)”, the Michigan band are a Christian metal band. Unlike some I have no issue with that having been a believer until June 2017.
First things first. The vocals aren’t great. I think they know that as all four members are credited with lead vocals and it’s something they need to sort out. Musically they’re surprisingly grubby. The riffs could easily sit onto a doom or stoner release while the rhythm section seem more content with thrashing out a wee bit.
Robinson and drummer Grant Beech were in a band before but you do wonder if it might have been better for the band to play together a bit more before recording. I know it’s a hard in a world where we’ve all been herded away by our Overlords but nothing can substitute for musical chemistry and understanding. That said, bass player Marti Robert puts in a really good shift.
There are a few good tunes where with ‘New Kind Of Man’ and ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ the ones that really stick. There is some good music in here. I just reckon it should have been an EP rather than an album.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton