Reviews roundup ~ Joanne Shaw Taylor ~ City Weezle ~ Impact ~ Bolt ~ Ben Ginder Group
JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
The Blues Album
The good news is that this is by far the most vocally accomplished vocal performance from Joanne Shaw Taylor so far. She really is maturing into a great vocalist. The not so good news is that it sounds more like a Joe Bonamassa covers album than anything else. He’s been here before with Beth Hart and you could quite easily swap the vocal tracks without anyone noticing.
That said, plenty folk (including me) enjoyed the Beth & Joe records and I enjoyed this one. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.
It’s album number 7 from Ms Taylor so she’s entitled to kick back and let rip on some covers. And there are plenty good tunes on offer here, with some excellent guitar work and some honking horns. Which is, officially, a Good Thing.
It’s a well thought out set of the blooming obvious, the not so obvious and the what the hell was that. So, you start with some Fleetwood Mac, smooth into some glorious LIttle Milton, throw in a Little Village(!) tune, then swing back via Albert King, more LIttle Milton (yay!) and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. And others. It’s telling from the track by track that a lot of the numbers were chosen by Mr Bonamassa and co-producer Josh Smith, which takes us back to what I was saying earlier.
Is it fun? In the main, yes. The improvement in vocals over the last few years is a real revelation and the next studio album should be a real treat. There was never any doubt about her ability as a guitarist and that’s ably enforced here. The band that’s been put together is exemplary and you can never go wrong with Reese Wynans on keyboards. But some of her personality seems to have got lost in translation. That aside, go for it.
Ah, it’s one of those records is it. You know, the we’ve got a whole lot of musical ideas, some of which should be institutionalised, but we’re going to throw them against the wall and see what sticks. Fair enough.
The dreadfully named City Weezle were formed over there in that France by an Irish fella and, according to them, became a prominent member of the European underground fusion scene. And I’m the grooviest mofo in Argyllshire. Facts, eh. Another fact is the fact that this record actually has a tune called “The Underground In Europe” which is circle jerking of the highest order.
They packed it in back in 2012 after a couple of albums before instantly reforming and setting about the long task of producing this record. And you can’t really argue with the underground fusion tag. They’ve certainly got a left of centre approach to rhythms, a flagrant disregard for melodies and some batshit crazy percussion.
So who’s going to like this. Mr Bungle fans, definitely. Those poor misguided fools who think Zappa is a thing. They do get a bit proggy in places so unless the adventurous prog fan has finally died off, then they should be casting an ear in the direction of numbers like “Maestro Mafioso”, which is an absolute belter (technical term, folks) with a most excellent guitar solo. The vocals also fall into the ‘interesting’ category as, in some places, they’re very musical theatre before going all shouty hard rock. “Crimson Jig” is another good one and I shouldn’t have to tell you who that sounds like. The proggiest of them all, though, is “Cluedo”. Go on, you know you want to.
To Germania for some music that is both heavy and metal. Most definitely I’m not getting back on the bus until you say we’re heavy metal, heavy metal.
An actual new band who got together last year, their mission was to take their twin influences of Metallica and Whitesnake (WTF) and bring back eighties metal. Well, I’m not going to deny the influence of the former and I reckon there are a fair few hair metal bands who will be consulting riff related lawyers should this album become successful.
It won’t, of course, beyond the 3pm slot at a Euro metal festival but that’s a helluva lot better than most manage. The record has all the things you want from an eighties influenced metal alum. Lots of chunky riffs, widdly guitar solos, screaming solos and songs about beer (“Friday Night”) and hangovers (um, “Hangover”). To their credit, they also sing about heavy fucking metal. That would be “Motherfucking Outlaw”, a song that practically guarantees mainstream radio exposure.
I really enjoyed this but then I am an auld fella so I remember most of these riffs from the first time round. The vocals of Joe Hanson are period perfect while Morris Ramon knows how to shred immaculately. It also benefits from a really good production so if some Accept meets Metallica meets Sunset Strip moistens your loins, then this should be for you.
All Hands Unite
Norwegian metal band Bolt are taking things a lot more seriously than some on their second album. They’re all about psychic health, bullying and why we destroy the planet for the sake of money. I know the answer to the last one. Money. That’s why we destroy the planet for money. The answer is in the question.
Another terrible name for a band and their brand of metal is considerably more modern. There are still a few nods to the world of classic metal but they seem to have a fair few fingers dipped into the NWOAHM. Remember that, folks? No. Of course. You’re all fucking twelve years old. The new wave of American heavy metal. It was, briefly, an actual thing. Post Pantera, Biohazard and Machine Head. You know, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage. That sort of thing.
Well, that sort of thing seems to be very much Bolts sort of thing. With a pinch of melodic death metal. God, this is tiring. I remember when there was heavy metal. That was it. Sheesh. Anyway, a couple of changes since the last record. New singer (Freddy Vain) and new rhythm guitarist, Tom Allan Sortnes. You’ll need to know that if you heard the first record. And it’s alright.
There are some very strong riffs on offer and the solo work is pretty good. And they’ve got some proper choruses. Some of the verses aren’t up to much but I did enjoy the contrast between the growls and the clean vocals. Best of the bunch? Probably “Turn Away” and “Midnight Hunter”, with the latter being the standout tune. Some great percussion work on that one. The production is good enough and there should be enough here to sate fans of early 21st century metal.
BEN GINDER GROUP
Ben Ginder Group
A strong contender here for the worst album cover of the year. So you’d better bring your A game with the contents. It’s their debut album, though, so I’ll forgive them their lack of mad InDesign skillz.
Well I wasn’t expecting that. From the cover and the pictures of the band I was expecting some lo-fi, shitty indie rock. Turns out they’re a fairly hard hitting, seventies influenced blues rock band. #wins Of course, if I’d paid closer attention I would have seen a track called “Heavy Blues”. That’s what they call a clue.
Ben Ginder, whose name lends itself to so many seaside postcard jokes, is the Leader of the Band. He writes most of the music, he plays the lead guitar, he sings. He will be obeyed. And, to be fair, the music is pretty shit hot. There’s a whole lot of talent going on in them there grooves. Amazingly enough, the rhythm section does actually groove so an in time round of applause for them. There are ten original tunes here and there aren’t really any duff ones. Which is quite remarkable in an unheralded independent release from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Well, actually, I don’t care for “Paradise”. The song. Not the afterlife.
Granted, my ears would have preferred some grittier vocals it’s the Ben Ginder Group and he’s unlikely to fire himself. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a really good singer, they’re just a bit too clean for me. The guitar solos, however, are excellent. I don’t know what the split is between him and fellow lead guitarist Zach Salem-Noll (crazy name, crazy guy) but well done chaps. I’d sort of guessed in advance that “Heavy Blues” would be favourite tune and I was right. Savoy Brown would have been proud of that one. “All She Does (Is Fool Around)” is another belter. But…
They end up the record with five (5!) bonus cover versions. Why? “Paranoid” remains one of the worst songs ever. I’m a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan but we have the actual BOC. No-one should touch the Allman Brothers Band. It’s just wrong. The Tin Lizzie cover is fun but “Purple Haze” remains an abomination. I’m sure they go down great when they’re playing live. But…
But if you stick to the ten original tunes you’re in for a rare treat. Now if they can only jump aboard a Blackberry Smoke / Allman Betts / Whiskey Myers support slot then their people will find them, And they will like them.
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