Reviews roundup ~ DarWin ~ The Hungry Williams ~ Electric Mother ~ Phil Manca
Darwin III: Unplugged
Origin of Species
I really enjoyed “Origin Of Species”, the DarWin album that came out a couple of years back so was looking forward to this. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Unplugged is a bit of a misnomer as these versions of tracks from the first two DarWin albums are a mixture of orchestral and unplugged, with the former forming the bulk of the record. I should warn potential purchasers early doors that this has is also part of the double LP version of “Darwin 2: A Frozen War”. So don’t get carried away if you’ve already bought that.
Back on the CD and it’s a really impressive offering. If you like your prog large and symphonic then you’re not going to do better than the opening two numbers, ‘Escape The Maze’ and ‘Nightmare Of My Dreams’. They’re truly magnificent. The CD I have doesn’t say who does what but when a record is produced by Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Jeff Beck), and has guests of the calibre of Billy Sheehan, Matt Bissonette and Greg Howe. But you can’t make a silk doodah out of a pigs whotsit so if the music wasn’t up to par then it wouldn’t matter a jot. But the music is uniformly excellent.
The unplugged tracks with Matt Bissonette don’t work as well but that’s down to them being in such hallowed company. It might not be the best way to introduce yourself to the world of DarWin but initiates will find this a treat.
THE HUNGRY WILLIAMS
Brand New Thing
I’ll be the last to complain if jump blues and swing makes a comeback so I’m at the front of the line when it comes to praising this.
The Hungry Williams from Milwaukee, Wisconsin are the people responsible and they make a mighty fine noise. The core band was formed by drummer John Carr who brought in singer Kelli Gonzalez, guitarist Joe Vent, keyboardist Jack Stewart and bassist Mike Sieger. They were familiar with each other from years playing the circuit but their shared love of jump, swing and New Orleans saw them in the studio with a brass section to put together this album. And it really does fall into the most fun you can have with your pants on category.
There are fifteen tracks. Two originals, one apiece from Kelli Gonzalez and Joe Vent, with the rest from back in the day when people really knew how to swing. After all when you see names like Dave Bartholomew and Wynona Carr in the credits, the quality just oozes out.
The band are uniformly excellent and Kelli Gonzalez has a listenable voice. When the backing vocals kick in, though, then things move up a notch. And don’t start me on the saxophones, courtesy of Troy Leisemann, Julia Bustle and Bob Jennings. I love me a saxophone and when the horns get honking then it’s party time.
It’s hard to pick favourites but out of the songs I was already fond of, ‘Hook Line And Sinker’, the Big Maybelle arrangement of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin ‘On’ and ‘It’s Raining Outside’ from the aforementioned Wynona Carr are hard to beat. A thoroughly entertaining set of rump shaking tunes.
Hello? An album from a band who live on an island what used to be run by the Vikings being reviewed by a fella who lives on an island what used to be run by Vikings. Proper mojo that is.
So what are we getting from Electric Mother up there in the Orcadian islands? A bit of seventies stoner retro, some post grunge and a bit of metal. I’m not going to complain about that as they’re jolly good at it.
It’s their second album and they’ve got a fair few live performances under their belt which has, doubtless, helped them achieve that tricky mix between tight and loose. Tight, because they really work well together as a band. And loose, because when they head back in time for some seventies groovy mofo moves, they can pull that off as well.
Vocalist Calum Elder has got the sort of voice which teeters on the edge of wailing which really suits the driving music that’s going on behind him. ‘Crucified’ and ‘Treacherous’ are the best examples of that and, indeed, are the highlights on a generally excellent record. Obviously I’m ancient so that’s the side of their music that works for me best although I suppose the young un’s might find themselves drawn to the more modern sounds of ‘Omen’, ‘Piety’ and ‘Whence’. I’m also heartily in favour of one word titles so a bonus point for that.
There are some fantastic guitar riffs, the rhythm section is a tight as a nuns whatsit and, for a self released recording, the production does the job. So if you’re looking for some fiery rawk to raise your Horns to, give this a go. your senses in a masterpiece of sound.
To France! For some blues rock, courtesy of Phi Manca.
He’s been around the block a few times has our Phil. From multi million selling New Age albums to scoring films to a rock opera for kids based on Jack and his giant haricot. But the last few years has seem returning to his roots in the world of blues rock, both as a solo performer and with a Gary Moore tribute show. And to pull that off you need to be able to make that fretboard sing.
A couple of years back he released an album called “Signs” and this is the follow up. It’s an album comprised largely of originals and in the main it’s on the rock edge of the blues rock spectrum. And the music is excellent as his guitar does all the things you would expect and a few more besides. It certainly grabs you by the scruff of the neck over the first few tracks, especially ‘Crying For Freedom’ before it’s time for a breather when the ballad ‘Talia’ arrives. Of the three covers it’s the Titus Turner tune ‘All Around The World’ that’s a real highlight.
The rhythm section are really in tune with the music while the vocals, without ever straying into the world of great, do a decent enough job. You certainly wouldn’t complain about them. As you would expect from some with a lengthy pedigree it sounds fantastic. The production job is top drawer.
If you like your blues way over there on the rock side then this something that is definitely worth a listen to. And closing with a cover of Nuno Mindelis’ ‘Motorhead Baby’ is a stroke of genius. A real good one.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton
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