Album review: PAUL ROSE – Double Life

Paul Rose - Old House Blues Band

Mita Records [Release date 6/5/13] CD/Vinyl

The underlying concept of Paul Rose’s ‘Double Life’ is pictorially represented by the Old House Blues Club photo on the front of the CD. It’s a superbly conceived and brilliantly played homage to soul, funk and r&b, shot through with intense rock elements in the solos.  The album provides the Newcastle born guitar maestro and former Guitarist of the Year with a long overdue context for his massive talent.

 Co-producer John Wooler gathered together the musicians and songs, and sourced the studio location, to cut a record full of delicately crafted highs with lashings of soul and plenty of subtle dynamics and guitar artistry

Recorded at the Hollywood Steakhouse – the venue is partly owned by Steve Lukather and is an A-list guitarist hang out – ‘Double Life’ is easily the best record of Paul’s career.

Everything about this cd has a bristling immediacy, born of a live in the studio feel and Paul’s array of intricate and incendiary solos that gives each track extra possibilities. And while all 4 guest vocalists impress with their respective ranges, it’s Paul’s conversational style of soloing that stands out. His blistering break on ‘Cold Sweat’ and outrageous solo on the Raffia Ford sung ‘Honey Hush’ draws on every facet of his natural ability to cement his signature sound.

Guest vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson (Was Not Was) revisits Ben Latimore’s 1974 soul ballad ‘Let’s Straighten It Out’, and imbues it with an emotive performance that is matched by Rose shimmering tones and a clean sounding attack. Rose pours all his years of experience and technique into the solo to evoke the lyrics as integral part of the arrangement.

For a guy who made his name as a shredder, he’s a beacon of restraint on an album full of shifting tone colours. Former Stones vocalist Bernard Fowler tackles the Philly soul classic ‘Drowning In The Sea Of Love’, which brilliantly collides with Rose’s sudden uplifting shred. Only a perfunctory ending robs a great track of its true impact.

The same Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff  song-writing team provide another soul classic, ‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right’, on which Sweet Pea provides a gritty vocal.

Former Ry Cooder vocalist Terry Evans adds light and shade with some deeply wrought phrasing on ‘Dark End Of The Street’, as Paul weaves his way in and out of the track. He bides his time, before delivering some supremely crafted volume swells and outer worldly tones to colour the song.

The power shuffle ‘Ball and Chain’ is another exercise in dynamics, reflecting the perfect combination of Sweet Pea’s best vocal performance and Paul’s own searing guitar break.  It’s also snapshot of Paul’s effortless ability, and the switch in tempo restores balance to the album’s sequencing.

The Terry Evans penned ‘Uphill Climb’ is another ripping shuffle that wracks up a musical tension beneath his soulful vocal. There’s only the briefest momentary pause before Paul unleashes a blistering volley of notes.

The band apparently only met on the first day of rehearsals and it’s the resulting freshness and apparent collective commitment that makes this such a rewarding album.

In lesser hands the closing ‘Stormy Monday’ blues might have been a low-key finish, but it’s transformed into an essential conversation between Sweet Pea and Paul’s enquiring solo. Paul pours all his know-how into blistering middle section, as part of another magnificent shred.

Years ago Paul would have thought nothing of cutting a whole album of mind bending solos, but ‘Double Life’ has a deeper remit. He wisely saves his best for last, with an angular gut-busting solo and some expressive squalls as Sweet Pea finishes with an eclectic outro.

‘Double Life’ explores the soulful end of the blues, with a funky, wrapped up tight feel. It’s a classy album with a wide musical horizon and it is unreservedly recommended. ***** (5/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

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