Album review: KRIS POHLMANN – Taylor Road

CD Baby [Released 16.01.15]

Kris Pohlmann is an English guitarist who has established himself in Germany and Holland. He’s made his name with over ten years of roadwork and a couple of albums, which culminated in a spectacular year in 2012 when he won 4 awards at the German Rock Association, including the coveted ‘Best Blues Band’ award.

In truth he’s a melodic rock guitarist with bluesy pretensions, who is influenced by Gary Moore in terms of his tone and occasional blues ballads, but he doesn’t quite have the songs to match his playing ability.

‘Taylor Road’ is lodged somewhere between 70’s blues rock and Wishbone Ash style melodic rock. The two styles jostle boisterously over 10 ten songs that never quite resolve themselves in a coherent direction.

‘Used To Be’ is a promising opener with an acoustic-to-electric burst of riff-driven rock, anchored by power chords and topped by a husky vocal.

It’s a well produced piece of melodic blues-rock which is reminiscent of mid-career Ten Years After as it builds towards a ripping solo.

The title track is a curiosity, opening as a pile driving boogie which then veers towards a dirgy chorus, before some unexpected Wishbone Ash style unison guitars and harmony vocals. This track highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the album, as Kris is capable of hitting melodic grooves and fiery solos, but his songs are structurally weak.

‘Borrowed Time’ for example, is an unmemorable song rescued by some impressive melodic guitar work, while ‘Look The Other Way’ fails to overcome a grating gravely voice, though his dual guitar lines and a decent melody are framed by the best arrangement so far.

There’s a welcome change of direction on the southern rock influenced ‘Take What’s Mine’, which features a colourful narrative: “got the phone off the hook, no monkey on my back, I’m taking back what’s mine, just a little time”. He adds an unexcited harp line, but ultimately loses his battle against a hoarse vocal and a dirgy tempo.

If ‘Take What’s Mine’ provides welcome variety,  the album appears to lose it’s way at this point, as the promising cool instrumental opening to The Silence’ gives way to a laboured, whispered vocal which a sudden tempo change can’t rescue.  On ‘Slow Motion’ he almost recognises the problem by adding double tracked harmonies.

There’s variety too on the slide guitar figure of ‘Tarantula’ but the song struggles to find a balance between a dirgy tempo and contrasting uplifting bv’s.

‘Taylor Road’ is an album that flatters to deceive. There are several excellent guitar parts and some moment of melodic beauty, but ultimately the album doesn’t have the songs to draw the listener in, as evidenced by the final The Long Goodbye’.  The song starts promisingly with a better vocal and subtle layered sound, but then makes the mistake of trying to incorporate a coruscating wah-wah solo with an antithetical sledge hammer rhythm track.

Like much of the album as a whole, the guitar playing is impressive but the song lacks clarity. You can see why Gary Moore is a big influence but you need more than a good tone and an ability to shred to cut a good album.

‘Taylor Road’ is an album in search of consistency and could do with a good producer. Given a fair hearing it will still appeal to guitar fans, but the songs are neither concise nor memorable enough to make you hit the repeat button. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra


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