Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Respectables release The Power of Rock n Roll


URL: https://www.respectables.ca/

I went into this album not knowing what to expect really. I wasn’t familiar with this band, despite their lengthy history, and only recognized names like Waddy Watchel and producer Bernard Fowler from their association with The Rolling Stones. In all honesty, the title made me giggle just a little. However, I was wrong to harbor any suspicions. This isn’t some hackneyed rock and roll clich√©; instead, this album, even at its most down and dirty moments, is a celebration. 

The Respectables may travel some well trod paths, but they always opt for traveling in their own unique way. The celebratory side of their music is what I like best; there’s nothing ironic or kidding about their approach, they go after rock and roll, blues, and even a smattering of country music with wholehearted vigor and make it work each time out. That joyfulness in their performances seldom hits the same stride it does on the opening song, the title cut, and the video for the song totally reflects that. It has some strong guitar work thrown in for good measure from guest player Waddy Watchel, a respected veteran who’s played with Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon among others, but what really makes this song a fun hearing is that joy you hear in their music making. It’s unrestrained, yet artful. Watchel appears on “That Girl” as well, though his presence isn’t as strong as we heard in the first song, but it nonetheless enriches an already fine tune and the second track’s chorus is definitely just as delectable as what we heard with the opening number. 

“Give Some” riffs away with the heaviest guitar work on the album, but the band never crunches for the sake of crunching; it’s a melodic guitar riff that hooks into your brain and pulls you along for the ride. The vocals are every bit as melodic despite the more rugged feel, overall, from the arrangement and it just brings another strand into the musical thread of this album. It’s a welcome addition. I love when they latch onto the bluesy vibe sustaining the whole of “Wheel in My Hand” and it’s another of the band’s songs that uses movement and cars, in particular, as a metaphor of sorts for describing the songwriting point of view. There’s a bit of a storytelling side coming out here, never overemphasized, and the conversational style of the lyrics and vocals helps it stand out even a little more than the album’s other fine tunes. “As Good as Love Gets” takes a decidedly unexpected turn as the band brings in a full string arranged courtesy of Jeff Bova to compliment an already exceptionally fine song. Despite the surprise, it doesn’t ever feel untrue to the band’s spirit. 

The second to last and final songs, “18 Wheeler” and “Highway 20” respectively, are great tunes to feature near the end of the release as they move in a more country direction, never anything like modern “country”, and sound equally true to the band’s character. Instead, you get a sense of the band slowing things down a little as the conclusion draws near, and it’s reflective of the thought they’ve put into the album’s construction and track listing. The Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll, risking clich√©, has something for everyone and anyone who hears it will undoubtedly agree

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/the-power-of-rock-n-roll/1436860174

Missy Hogan

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina - Little King and the Salamander


FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/TheMerrymakersOrchestrina/

The second studio release from New York City based The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina, Little King and the Salamander, is what I dub a “hybrid” song collection. The mix of demos, unreleased material, and “b-sides” has a retrospective quality as it clearly looks back on the burst of creativity producing the band’s previous studio release Act 3, but the fourteen song release likewise stands on its own rather than coming off as a musical curiosity. Led by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ryan Shivdasani, the same eclectic imagination powering the aforementioned Act 3 is evident here as well. I’m quite taken with this collection, perhaps even a little more so than Act 3 as Little King and the Salamander somehow captures the initial burst of creation in a much more intimate manner than even its illustrious predecessor. 

It is impossible to ignore the uplift of album opener “Hey Everybody”. It is an instrumental track, for the most part, and builds from Shivdasani’s funkafied electric guitar lines, evocative echo, and swinging drums that hook listeners in from the outset. The rambunctious celebratory feel of the song and Shivdasani’s scat-style vocals add much. There are a number of understated dynamic shifts in the trajectory of “What Fools We Can Be” underlying the emotional gravitas of the song, but it is ultimately Shivdasani’s melodic yet emotive vocal that brings palpable humanity to the song. The touches of acoustic guitar throughout and the careful manipulations of pacing make the arrangement all the more interesting. “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” has an unusual vibe, but nonetheless remains accessible. It has a strong jazz influence bubbling to the surface of the song, especially the guitar, but the sound is skewed in a much more individualistic direction rather than pursuing purist ends. The lyrics are closer to performed poetry than traditional pop song words and, despite the flood of imagery, achieve impressive coherency. It is evidence, if more is needed, for how well rounded Shivdasani’s talents are. There’s a 3am dark night of the soul feel to the track 

“White Light and Lullabies”, an elegiac sense of burning candles at both ends that grabbed my attention quick. Shivdasani’s restrained near shuffle arrangement for the cut and its accompanying echo are among the keys to the song’s success, but the fatalism of its lyrical content plays a critical part as well. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina presents “Particle Craze”, a highlight on Act 3, in an earlier and leaner form on this release, but the song retains its power to enchant even in this comparatively spartan form. It is fascinating to hear how Shivdasani’s vision for the song is essentially complete, even in a rough early draft, and the additions distinguishing its Act 3 counterpart now seem more like crowning touches more than ever before. “Jeepers Creepers” is an outlier, a far different expression of Shivdasani’s songwriting acumen than any of the tracks discussed in this review. It does share some superficial similarities with the earlier “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” thanks to the sheer delight in wordplay Shivdasani exhibits and the jazz influence casting a shadow over the musical performance. 

The jazz overtones of this song, however, are far more free form and spontaneous than anything we heard during “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina”. Another flavor in the band’s mix rises to the surface with the acoustic track “Slip Away”. It is another track that emerged in different form on the Act 3 release and, like “Particle Craze”, illustrates how Shivdasani’s designs for the song are essentially complete even in an earlier take on the track. Despite its “hybrid” qualities mentioned earlier in this review, multiple listens to Little King and the Salamander reinforce the unique hallmarks of a release that has archival strengths, yes, but that does stand as an independent release rather than marking time until Shivdasani amasses a backlog of new songs for the band’s next studio release. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina are an unique band in the modern music world, mainstream or indie, and their penchant for invoking retro and modern elements in the same musical breath sets them far apart from business as usual. 

 AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Little-King-Salamander-Demos-Explicit/dp/B07J26ZRCY

Brian Childress

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Makes My Blood Dance are dishing out the mighty melodies


URL: http://makesmyblooddance.com/

Mainstream metal has, admittedly, given us some hit and miss results this season, but deep within the American underground, Makes My Blood Dance are dishing out the mighty melodies that fans have been demanding since the start of the year. In their rookie single “Beaming Right Up,” Makes My Blood Dance exploit a danceable beat with a visceral riff-rocking aesthetic that is soaked in distortion and compressed to sustain a harmonic for as long as audiologically possible. With a powerful groove inspired by first gen NWOBHM meshed with the lyrical bite of the modern progressive era, “Beaming Right Up” is one metal single that no one is going to want to miss this April.

There’s an old school tonality in the guitars here, but make no mistake about it – there’s nothing about this song that would lead me to using words like “throwback” to describe its content. There are the bells and whistles of an 80’s glam metal unit left intact in the chorus, but they’re melded with a crude, punkish segue into the refrain that opens up so much room in the master mix for the bassline to fill with colorful texture. It’s not avant-garde, but “Beaming Right Up” has a provocative stylization that doesn’t fit in with the current atypical metal model at all (in a good way).

I don’t see any need to hide the obvious here – Makes My Blood Dance are as cinematic a heavy band as they come, and honestly, I get the impression that they’re very proud of that aspect of their sound. The lyrics, the production value, the arrangement of the strings; everything here is about celebrating the gluttony of rock n’ roll at its most unrestrained, but instead of coming across like an arrogant group of party boys, this band sounds very deliberate in their use of the concept and, dare I say it, intellectual in their compositional style. That’s a rare find in this genre – or for that matter, anywhere in contemporary western pop.

Not a lot of bands in Makes My Blood Dance’s scene are working with the level of melodicism mixed with raw physicality that they are in “Beaming Right Up,” but that isn’t the only reason why I think that their music is so memorable for more casual metal fans like myself. There’s a diverse group of influences in play here, and while the metallic fireworks are the centerpiece, they’re bolstered by the club beats that drive the rhythm of the song. The band calls it “disco/metal;” but I think it’s a lot more inventive than such pedestrian terminology could account for.

You don’t have to be a hardcore heavy metal buff to end up headbanging to Makes My Blood Dance’s thriller of a debut, “Beaming Right Up,” but for those who live and die by the genre’s most enthralling artists, this is a single that will haunt your dreams long after hearing it for the first time. They show off some serious charisma in this track and back it up with a skillful handling of complicated riffs and blistering beats, and after finding myself hooked on the song’s signature grooves, I plan on keeping a close eye on their upcoming releases as well.

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/makesmyblooddance/

Scottie Carlito