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Friday 27 October 2023

Reviews: Robin Trower & Sari Schorr, Lucid Sins, Bonafide, Ufomammut (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Paul Scoble, Paul Hutchings & Rich Piva)

Robin Trower ft Sari Schorr - Joyful Sky (Provogue Records) [Matt Bladen]

At 78 years old, with a 60 year career and a previous album called No More Worlds To Conquer, you may think that British guitar maestro Robin Trower would be hanging up his axe soon. Think again though dear reader as he returns with his 27th solo record, this one is a bit special though as he has collaborated with New York blues singer Sari Schorr, igniting a fire of creativity that saw him adapting his writing for Schorr's husky, rawer tones, witnessed on the opening slither of Burn and the funky gospel blues of I'll Be Moving On

Trower has gone down the R&B (rhythm & blues) route, bringing in the musical styles of his early work and also his past with Procol Harem where R&B was just as important as prog, here highlighted on The Circle Is Complete which evolves from Cream-like grooves into a smouldering elongated guitar solo. Anchored by the blues as always Joyful Sky is a laid back, warm and rich record, driven by the unions of Schorr's smoky, soulful vocals and Trower's often emulated but never bettered guitar chops. The addition of Sari Schorr to this album can't be underestimated as she latches on to the political and personal lyrics of this record, Trower and Schorr setting the world to rights on Flatter To DeceiveChange It and The Distance

Trower will always been linked to his magnum opus Bridge Of Sighs but he is much much more and on Joyful Sky he looks towards his 80th year with more tricks than any other old dog doing the rounds. 8/10

Lucid Sins - Dancing In The Dark (Totem Cat Records) [Paul Scoble]

Lucid Sins have been making the most devilish psychedelic folk rock since 2013. In that time the band have released two albums before Dancing In The Dark, 2014’s Occultation and 2021’s Cursed! Lucid Sins are Andreas Jonsson on vocals, guitars, bass, organ and synthesiser, and Ruaraidh Sanachan on drums, bass, percussion, organ, mellotron, recorder and backing vocals and as if that amount of multi-instrumentalist talent isn’t enough Andreas and Ruaraidh are joined on Dancing In The Dark by guests Espen Andersen who provides vocals on The Dance, Stuart Coleman who plays Hammond Organ also on The Dance, Hanna Tuulikki who does vocals on the songs Sanctuary Stone and The Ravens Eye, and Alex Ward plays clarinet on Catch The Wild.

The style on Dancing In The Dark is psychedelic Folk rock, so soft clean Guitar parts jostle with a slightly distorted electric Guitar, the pacing tends to me slow to mid-paced with a few exceptions, the song tend to build with multiple layers by the end of most songs. The vocals are clean, clear and very melodious, with some absolutely gorgeous backing vocals.

The album kicks off with the track Jack Of Diamonds, mid-paced taut folk rock with tight guitar riffs with a light touch. The song builds as it goes, adding layers and lush backing vocals, the verse is more minimal than the chorus, which has a bigger feel, the song also features a very lyrical guitar solo. Next we get a slightly bigger and more purposeful song, In The Woods (The Drifter), it’s faster than the song that preceded it, and also has those lush velvet backing vocals.

The Dance is a very apt title as the song that boasts it will definitely make you want to move. The song has a great mid-paced tempo with hand claps and tambourine, the verse is a little softer and more measured than the chorus and the juxtaposition works very well. Again, the vocals are stunning throughout the song lead and those velvet backing vocals wrap the listener in beauty, this song features Espen Andersen on vocals and on top of all that theres a fantastic Hammond solo from Stuart Coleman.

Next comes probably my favourite track on the album, Take Me With You, which is a fast, tight and extremely controlled piece of rock that skips along at a great pace, dancing on a tightrope, with a tempo that reminds me of fast jazz, it is a similar tempo to something like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, I can imagine listeners snapping their fingers in time. The song has some wonderful melodies, a superb chorus and a keyboard solo near the end.

Next comes Sanctuary Stone which features Hanna Tuulikki on vocals, this is a slight departure from the material we have heard so far, this feels influenced by old classical music, it’s sort of baroque psychedelia, that is closer to Greensleeves than to Green Lung, and that is great. It feels a little strange when you start listening to the album, but after a few listens it feels like a natural part of the album. A Call In The Dark is all about ebb and flow. The song features a soft, measured and minimal verse, and a dramatic and much bigger chorus, for some reason I think it would work very well as the theme to to detective series on tv, if anyone ever makes a psychedelic detective tv show, then this should be the theme.

Next comes The Toll, a soft and more ballad like song, with a very pleasing organ part. The Vocals are beautiful and affecting. The song builds and has some bigger and more dramatic parts, but the overriding feeling from this song is beauty.

From The Bough is tight and controlled folk rock, the song builds as it progresses and features double hand claps and an awesome Hammond solo. The baroque psychedelia style is back with Hanna Tuulikki guesting again, on the track The Ravens Eye. The vocals are great and in the second half there is a melody that feels quite FunFair / Circus, which is an interesting thing to drop into the end of a song. The album comes to an end with Catch The Wild, a soft and measured song again with those gorgeous, warm, comforting backing vocals. The song builds as it goes and features a great clarinet solo from Alex Ward.

Dancing In The Dark is a stunning album. It took me a little while to realise this as the album is so subtle, but after a few listens the quality shines through and you realise just how good it is. The quality of the melodies, the wonderful arrangements that make multi layered and very cleverly structured song feel simple and effortless are amazing. The vocals are also a real treat, their beauty really shines through, and makes everything feel arresting. This is a stunningly beautiful and affecting album, and I love it! 9/10

Bonafide – Are You Listening? (Black Lodge) [Paul Hutchings]

Announced for Stonedead 2024, some people may well have been asking Bona who? Well people, wake up, for the Swedes have been bringing their own brand of melodic hard rock for over 15 years now. Formed by singer/guitarist Pontus Snibb in 2007, the band’s latest release is a rich seam of melodies combined with filthy hooks, earworms galore, and ten of the most addictive tracks you’ll hear this year.

Are You Listening? is perfectly crafted, well performed and possesses a polished production that those who know anything about the band would expect. It slips between the saccharine coated style of Def Leppard, the Southern edge of Skynyrd, and the sleaze of Crüe. Throw in the riffs of AC/DC and you’ve got a band that are likely to get even the most ardent metaller nodding along.

It's formulaic, nothing particularly original, but it works. Hero To Zero for example, borrows so much from Angus & Co that apart from Snibb’s singing it could well be an AC/DC song. So what? It works, and it’s impossible not to tap the foot along to it. Alongside Snibb, guitarist Anders Rosell, bassist Martin Eklund and drummer Niklas Matsson work their magic through each song. There’s the brooding smoulder of Rumble, the upbeat drive of Snacket and the stomp of Tommie Nine Fingers.

It’s infectious, dripping with the necessary groove to get a field of pissed 50-year-olds dancing. Stonedead will be the better for these guys next year. Until then, enjoy an album that simply makes you feel good. 8/10

Ufomammut - Crookhead EP (Supernatural Cat) [Rich Piva]

Those who thought Italian psychedelic sludge trio Ufomammut  went too psychedelic and not enough sludge on their last full length, Fenice, from 2022, you can rest easy because the band is back bringing the heavy with their new three song EP, Crookhead. These three tracks lean heavily on the riffs and driving rhythm section that defines the sludge part of the equation in Ufomammut .

The opening title track is pretty much a nine-minute instrumental heavy riff assault that chugs along and announces that the band is definitely leaning on the sludge this time around. I do love the psych feel at the end with the synths and guitars working in tandem. Supernova is just as heavy and is one of my favorite Ufomammut tracks in a while. Another sludge heavy riff leading to some psych atmosphere that drags you into the black hole and incorporates some scatter vocals as well. Heavy. Vibrhate is even more low end heavy, with some cool, unique vocals and an earthshattering backend.

I am happy to hear Ufomammut bring the focus on the sludge part of their description back on these three songs on Crookhead. If you enjoy the heavier side of the band, you will really dig this EP. I am hoping we get a full length with this heavy focus in the not-too-distant future. 7/10

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