Reviews roundup ~ Stick Men ~ Bucket Boys ~ Blacktown Band ~ Tony Cassista
STICK MEN with Gary Husband
Been a while since I caught up with Stick Men. “Prog Noir” I reckon it was back in 2016.
The usual suspects are in place. That’s Tony Levin, Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto who’ve been playing together since 2010. Levin and Mastelotto have got previous form in King Crimson, the post ’81 fudged up fusion years and on this record the core trio have been joined by legendary jazz and rock keyboard player Gary Husband who has played with such minor names as John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham and absolutely everyone else in the world Ever! Apart from King Crimson:-)
Strange to relate this is a live album, recorded under fraught circumstances just as the bat pox was unleashing itself upon the world. I say strange because there is no audience noise. Apparently there was a very low turnout as everyone was too feart to leave the house. But still. So it actually sounds like an in the studio jam. A very good one, mind.
It’s jazz fusion but the kind of stuff that is way over there, teetering on the edge of everything falling apart, before they manage to pull themselves back at the very last second. It’s powerful and hard driving and surprisingly together considering this was the first time that Husband had performed live with them after only a few hours rehearsal at soundcheck. Musically, they traverse the worlds of near straight fusion, weird alt soundtracks and beyond, while at the same time sounding spirited and adventurous. King Crimson fans will doubtless like to know that in amongst the excellent Stick Me tunes there is a version of ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part II’ which Mastelotto really shines on. As he should.
It’s a cracking album, excelllently produced and well worth the price of admission.
Bucket Boys, eh? That’s a shite name for a band. But as the album title suggests they’ve managed to keep on rocking for 25 years now, with this record acting as an anniversary treat.
Apparently they tour non stop in their heartland of Germany with lightning excursions into Belgium, Holland and France for good measure. And I do have to quote my favourite line from the press release. “Always searchin’ for the Titty-Twister, the Bucket Boys enjoy their tours”. I’m not surprised to hear that. They’re also not all boys.
So, what do they do? Well it’s meat and potatoes hard rock, bordering on biker rock in places with some legally obligatory Motorhead style riffs. Which is nice. And when they slow things down there’s a bit of a Quo / Foghat boogie type thing going on. The record itself is six of one and half a dozen of the other with six new tunes opening the shows and six oldies closing. The groovy ‘Hang Me High’ is my favourite of the newbies, while the moody and borderline gothy ‘Santa Muerta’ is the best of the oldies.
It’s an enjoyable release and they sound like the kind of a band you’d really enjoy in a basement bar with six pints of Rauch N’ Roll inside you. Granted, the lead vocals are a bit if an acquired taste but congratulations are definitely n order.
The Fish Factory
Blam! Muddafugga! I was not expecting that riff. Straight out of the Atomic Bitchwax songbook.
That’s the riff to the opening ‘I Really Need You’ that is. You beautiful groovymofo you. They’re Spanish you know. I know that now having played it. read the press release and then gone back to the beginning of this review to type it in.
For sure, the opening sally is probably the highlight of the record especially when they drop down and let some jazzy Hammond burble to the top. That was nice that was. Apparently the band first reared its head in order to appear on a Pink Floyd tribute record about 5 years back but this is their first release of original material. Six of the nine tunes are originals although they do throw in three covers. Pink Floyd (natch), The Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy (really). To be honest, I reckon that was a mistake. Better to have punted out a mini-album of their own songs rather than have some old fud like me who thinks that ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ is the best pop single ever, shaking his head and muttering about kids today.
Because they’ve got some crackers here. Most of the riffs are amped up stoner, the Hammond organ nips in an out like a tasty treat and vocalist Nina Agudo does a decent job. It’s not all wham, bam, thank you ma’am, as when they slow things down they get to show off their melodic side. ‘Living In My Room’ is a fine example of that with some nice, gritty vocals.
There is a really good band in here and they if they concentrate on their own tunes, then I’d be happy to hear from them again.
Created On Various Infectious Diseases
To the Canadian colonies for some prog metal / rawk.
You (and I) may not know the name of Tony Cassista but he’s very well known in prog circles over there having drummed and sung his way through a number of bands and projects. This, however, is his first solo album and, as you may have noticed from the title, concerns itself with the bat pox and beyond.
And it’s really good. First off, he is an outstanding singer and it’s out-fudging-rageous that he hasn’t been heard by a wider audience. But that would be nothing is the songs were pants. They’re most definitely not. In fact, and I know it’s only March, this is going to be up there as one of the best prog albums I’m likely to hear this year. The production (by Cassista) and arrangements are spectaculars with the inbetween song links giving an Orson Welles War of the Worlds type vibe to things.
The non traditional instruments that are used – including tabla, oud, flugelhorn and flute – blend into an immersive sound that really is captivating. When it rocks out, it’s immense and when he goes all mellow as on ‘Don’t Let Go!’ there is a sweetness that is almost naïve in its feel. There are sampled sounds and synths but they never intrude or overwhelm the songs which are uniformly excellent.
The presentation is immaculate, even down to the fabulous artwork on the CD booklet and even though we’re dealing with one of the bleakest of subjects, there is an undercurrent of hope running through the songs. Favourites? Well it’s like picking my favourite cousin (Simone, but keep it to yourself). That has to be ‘The Cyber God’. A scary tale and why the only smart thing in my house is me. Big Brother indeed. Wake up people. You’re fools.
One of the best records you’ll hear this year. Buy it. Now!
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton