Reviews roundup – The Druids of Stonehenge ~ The McKee Brothers ~ Engelbert Humperdinck ~ Mandaground ~ Eatself
THE DRUIDS OF STONEHENGE
It only took them 49 years to record a follow-up to their debut album. I’m not sure if that’s a Guinness type stat but it should be.
This first came out in 2017 following on from their 1968 debut “Creation”. There is a third album on the horizon but this is a first UK release for “Resurrection”.
The Druids of Stonehenge began life as an R&B-based beat combo called the Druids but after relocating to the West Coast at the height of psychedelia they changed their name to the Druids of Stonehenge. As you would. They got signed to Uni records and released their “Creation” album in 1968 before splitting up the following year. That’s probably why so many of them are still around to make occasional reunion appearances and, eventually, this record.
Which I really like. It’s an album of blues covers (which is their thing) but with grit. Vocalist David Budge has a voice you won’t forget, a bit like a tuneful Captain Beefheart. The rest of the lineup on this release are Billy Cross on lead guitar, CJ Hauser on bass/guitar, Roger Kahn on drums and Magic Kramer on organ/keys/guitar alongside a sprinkling of guests.
It’s dark and dense and utterly delightful as they ramble through songs from Taj Mahal, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Magic Slim (my alltime favourite), Blind Willie Johnson and more. It’s hard to pick out favourites because I loved the whole damn thing but Magic Slim’s ‘Just to Be With You’ (natch) and Blind WIllie McTell’s ‘Born To Die’ are right up there.
This is the blues just how I like it. Roll on album number three!
THE MCKEE BROTHERS
A Time Like This
Hmmm. Seem to be short a brother. Although I suppose the Allman Brothers lasted a helluva long time in the singular.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the first couple of albums from the McKee Brothers and this one is no exception. Fourteen of the sixteen tracks were written by pianist Bobby West and there are some real crackers here.
It’s still that funky blues and soul mix from the previous records that is just a delight to listen to. With some splendid harmonies, a horn section and some delightful organ and keyboard flourishes the arrangements are just peachy. And when you add those to some great songs like the harmonica enhanced ‘How Can I Miss You Baby?’, the funk of ‘The Legend Of Luther Stringfellow’ and the sixties soul sounds of ‘Miracle’ then you can’t really go wrong.
Denis McKee has a very listenable, warm voice and provides some splendid guitar licks although Larry McCray pops in to add his guitar to ‘Whistleblower Blues’ and ‘Dawg’. The latter is just a party waiting to be started and even if the record is maybe three songs too long it’s definitely one that fans of funky, deep fried blues and soul should be lending an ear to.
Arnold is 84 you know. And while other 84 year olds are busy telling you how things were better during rationing and National Service he’s recording a self isolated EP a mere 62 years after his debut single.
Here’s what he has to say about “Sentiments”; “During these troubled times that we are all living in, I decided to remotely record a special album of songs that have great meaning for me and I hope for you as well. I have never done a project like this where the musicians were all at their own homes, the producer was in New Jersey, and I was in my studio. I think that you will find special meaning in the lyrics to these songs as I do.”
So what are you getting? A couple of re-recordings, an Elton John song, a duet with Janet Devlin (yes, really), some Bob Dylan and some Charlie Chaplin. I believe that’s what you call eclectic. His version of ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ is good and shows that he’s still got a voice. The standard ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ sees him duetting with Janet Devlin but you’ll be relieved to hear that he’s singing to his wife Patricia and the sadness around her Alzheimer’s while Ms Devlin has previous form with this having sung it on the X-Factor the week her grandfather died.
The less said about Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ the better. Although, to be fair, I say the same about everything Dylan related while the closing Charlie Chaplin sing ‘Smile’ has a frailty that really commends it.
With 140 million record sales behind him there’s no reason for Engelbert Humperdinck to be doing anything but with his first livestreamed concert this past July clocking up near half a million views and this new record there’s life in the old dog yet.
Hey bands! Want to know how to jump several dozen places and a couple of months up the queue? Send me your album on vinyl! Well played Mandaground.
Of course it would all be a bit pointless if this was shite. But it isnae.
Mandaground hail from Austria and after an earlier demo this is their debut album proper. It’s an intriguing mixture of stoner, sludge and prog rock with a few almost black metal moments thrown in for good measure. It shouldn’t work but it does. That’ll be why they’re tagged as experimental metal.
A big bonus is that their screamer in chief (I’m guessing Michael Schmuck which isn’t a name that travels well) really knows how to belt. Very often when you stray towards this territory you find some shit hot musicians (which Mandaground are) completely let down by the least worst singer having a go. Not here. He’s also responsible for the weird and wonderful bass runs so well played, fella.
The progressive side comes from the Philipp Reitbauer guitar parts and solos alongside some tricky time signatures while drummer Florian Reitbauer sets about demolishing everything within hands reach. The album starts well but really unfolds over the 45 minutes or so which means by the time you reach album highlights ‘Fool Song’ and ‘Misery’ you’re fully enveloped in their world. Metalheads with a sense of adventure should definitely be listening to this.
A Pinary Walk
Eatself is basically Laurent Gautheron-Gaye who used to be in Paris (France not Texas) band Mouton Noirs. Nope, me neither. Now he’s gone solo under the name Eatself which sees him taking care of vocals, guitar, bass and drums on this debut EP.
It’s alternative rock with a nineties flavour to it. There’s also a very claustrophobic feel to the music. Now whether that’s because it was recorded in his home studio which is called The Small Cabinet or whether it’s a deliberate stylistic choice I leave to him. But it works quite well. It certainly suits the sparse rhythms that populate this three track EP.
The best track is the opening ‘Asthma’ which clatters along with a spiky guitar riff that if quite memorable. ‘Fossil’ goes for a more atmospheric approach and daunders in the direction of post-rock and My Bloody Valentine. It also helps that it’s partly spoken word as he’s nae singer. I mean he can hold a tune but.
Things close with the title track, ‘A Pinary Walk’. I’ve no idea what that is but it’s in the same vein as the opening track but with a ringing guitar line that eats at your brain a wee bit. Not really my thing but for an indie release he’s done well and if you’re looking for some slightly experimental post-rock sounds give it a go.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton