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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Reviews: Ann Wilson, Hawkwind, Nashville Pussy, Tantara (Reviews By Paul)

Ann Wilson: Immortal (BMG)

For someone who once professed to hate cover albums Immortal is a radical turnaround. Of course, the voice of Heart, Ann Wilson, has already released a covers album in 2007, Hope & Glory, with tracks focusing on war the plight of refugees. With Immortal she focuses on more obscure covers of musicians who are no longer with us, with at least one eye on the world as it exists around us today. With Warren Haynes and Ben Mink amongst the musicians on board, this is a beautifully crafted album which allows one of rock’s most powerful and recognisable voices to once again reach out.

With Heart on indefinite hiatus following their well-publicised bust up in 2016, it’s certainly good to hear that the 68-year-old remains on good form. Immortal tackles those fewer lesser known tracks, making this release even more essential. The smoky paced, Parisian themed cover of Tom Petty’s Luna is haunting. I Am The Highway, originally performed by Audioslave and Wilson’s acknowledgement of Chris Cornell produces a lump in the throat. Probably the most well-known tracks here are the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane, and the Gerry Rafferty track Baker Street, both of which are delivered with Wilson’s typical panache. With a heart breaking Back To Black (Amy Winehouse) and the album opener George Michael’s A Different Corner, it’s clear that Wilson has carefully chosen these songs not only honour those no longer with us but also because of their resonance on the world around us.

As Wilson stated in Classic Rock recently, “I tried to choose songs from artists who cried out about the world”. With Bowie’s I’m Afraid Of Americans, Cream’s Politician also included, and a performance from Wilson that is fabulous, this is an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 9/10

Hawkwind: Road To Utopia (Cherry Red Records)

Forever associated with space rock and sacking Lemmy, there is so much more to Hawkwind. Half a century and counting, their 30 studio albums have assembled a back catalogue of magical music, along with some right dross. It’s inevitable. A chance meeting between Dave Brock and songwriter and conductor Mike Batt in the queue at the US embassy for a visa has led to this unlikely collaboration on album 31, and it’s a bit of a marmite release. Reworked versions of some of Hawkwind’s classic songs, with big brass and string quartets has left some of Dave Brock’s guitar hidden in the mix. Opener Quark Strangeness And Charm may lack Bob Calvert’s original vocal but there’s something quite appealing to the brass section that dominates. The Watcher, from 1972’s Doremi Fasol Latido, written and sung by Lemmy on his first Hawkwind album, has a guest appearance from old Slow Hand Eric Clapton whose laid-back blues style combined with Dave Brock’s harmonica gives the song a complete overhaul, but you still feel the heart of the song.

Brock takes lead vocals on We Took The Wrong Turn Years Ago, from 1971’s In Search Of Space, and it’s a joy to hear the Hawkwind main man singing again; something he will do more of on the forthcoming tour with Mr Dibs having recently departed the band. Another departure since Road To Utopia was recorded of course is bassist Haz Wheaton, who has taken up position in Electric Wizard. The acoustic approach to Psychic Power lacks the gravitas of the 1978 original and Calvert’s vocal genius but it’s still a decent version, even with the school brass band feel. Batt’s influence is recognisable throughout, and at times I’m not convinced that the songs are enhanced by his approach.
The drawn-out string section on The Age Of The Micro Man along with an overblown saxophone adds an additional two minutes to the original with little benefit and the less said about the album cover the better from a band who once captivated me with their artwork (Sonic Attack, Chronicles Of The Black Sword etc.) I love Hawkwind and have tickets to two of their forthcoming dates. This isn’t a bad release, and at times it soars high. It just could have been better. 7/10

Nashville Pussy: Pleased To Eat You (EarMusic)

Strap yourselves in for the latest instalment from the psycho billy hard rock of Nashville Pussy, all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. Over 20 years since their formation, the band, whose line up is currently Blaine Cartwright, Ruyter Suys, Bonnie Buitrago and Ben Thomas. The good time hard rocking no shit given band have established a cult following over the years and seventh long player Pleased To Eat You is another slice of their groove ridden pie. Possibly not one to play for the mother, tracks such as Testify, with it’s chunky Hammond sound, the snarling One Bad Mother and the closing Motörhead like thunder of Tired Of Pretending That I Give A Shit (aren’t we all?) all demonstrate that there is plenty of life in the Pussy yet. 7/10

Tantara: Sum Of Forces (Indie Recordings)

Sometimes a good old bit of Bay Area thrash works wonders. Tantara fit that bill perfectly. Album number two, following 2012’s Based On Evil is unashamedly Bay Area all the way, with early Metallica, Exodus, Heathen and Vio-lence all influences evident on first listening. The chugging bass of Emil Sigstad Moen links sweetly with Stian Sannerud’s frantic drumming whilst there is no shortage of heavy riffage from lead guitarist Per Semb and Fredrik Bjerko. In fact, there is little to dislike about this 35-minute release providing you can deal with the rather high-pitched screeching of Bjerko’s somewhat disconcerting vocal delivery.

If you can tolerate it, then the Norwegian thrashers deliver some meaty high paced tracks, all of which are eclipsed by the instrumental final track White Noise, which at over ten minutes long allows the band to let rip, paying homage to Metallica in fine style, although it does drag a little by the eight-minute mark. Minor quibble aside, it may not be original, but sometimes you need something a little less challenging without letting standards slip. Sum Of Forces does exactly what is required. 7/10

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