Album review: MARK PONTIN GROUP – Days Of Destiny

Moochee Records [Release date 08.05.13]

Mark Pontin Band’s liner notes on ‘Days Of Destiny, makes clear the essential connection between his struggles to get this recording made and the thematic title track of a power trio album with real substance.

He tells us some of the songs have been with him for 15 years and it goes a long way towards explaining the finely honed material that works hard to find several inspired moments when the band simply flies.

Its a superbly played and produced album with a refreshing song driven focus, full of chiming guitar lines, spirited band interplay and substantive solo’s that form an integral part of his melodic songs rather than being excessive adjunct.

Influences abound, from the big Texas sound of Storyville to the fleeting unison guitar lines and Allman Brothers style vocals on ‘Traffic Lights’ and ‘Just One More Day’. But ultimately Pontin is his own man. He’s a confident singer with a good range and a guitarist with a big tone, who is backed by a quality rhythm section that pushes him all the way and emphasises the melodic and dynamic qualities of his song writing.

MPG open with the title track that is predicated on a U2 style big wall of sound, as Mark’s John Wetton style vocals impressively soar above the punchy rhythm section. The album slips into a contrasting funky groove on ‘Outcast’, which features a nuanced stuttering rhythm, some shimmering guitar tones, muscular rhythm work,  soothing bv’s and a sudden uplifting solo. And it is this recurring use of subtle dynamics that gives ‘Days Of Destiny’ its potency.

He explores an expansive solo on ‘Chasing Blood’, which is counterbalanced by an unexpected cool jazz fusion outro.   ‘Fallen Down Again’ shows another facet of the band’s versatility. A long lean slow bluesy intro and rich harmony singing fashions a strong melody, with an ascending solo full of feel and poise and topped by an extra unison guitar line. You could imagine this being a corner stone of the live set as it subtly plays to the bands strengths.

Mark switches to a growling tone on ‘Traffic Lights’ and adds a Dicky Betts guitar sound for good measure on ‘Just One More Day’. The latter song includes the poetic line: ‘Bar room preachers and night time poets, 6 string teachers and Sunday prophets’, delivered with fine harmony singing reminiscent of the troubled Welsh band Badfinger.

In fact the whole album teeters on the brink of a thin dividing line between blues-rock and pop sensibilities. And when the band does eventually slip into the shuffle led Chicago style groove of ‘Forever On The Run’, with an angular guitar line and careful layered backing vocals, it transform itself into laid back Hoax style piece.  Mark’s piecing guitar break and impressive use of sustain and subtly distorted colours add punch to a track that envelops you like all good blues-rock should, though it lacks a dynamic resolution.

The closing ‘Cold Day Tune’ features a Jack Bruce vocal over a powerful rhythm track and an incendiary solo that would surely make one of Mark’s influences Scott Henderson smile. The ensemble playing perfectly summarises everything that is good about a band who remains faithful to the arrangements but push them to the limits.

‘Days of Destiny’ is an album full of mature songwriting , played by a road tested band with the chops, integrity and imagination to circumvent all form of clichés and bring a welcome breath of fresh air to the blues rock genre. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.

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