Linus Entertainment [Release date 13.04.15]
There’s no better time than in the autumn of your career to go back to the musical roots that inspired you in the first place, and so it is that the former Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive guitarist and vocalist Randy Bachman leaps into the void under the watchful eye of producer Kevin Shirley to rock as hard as the album title suggests.
‘Heavy Blues’ places the emphasis on big distorted guitars, bristling solos, hard hitting grooves and gritty vocals that veer between the passable and the gruff.
‘Ton Of Bricks’ features Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday and has the kind of rough edge that the album’s main inspiration Neil Young would surely smile at. Better still, Young shows how it should be done on ‘Lost Little Girl’, an unmemorable song on which he adds equal amounts of energy and distorted guitar, to throw himself into his solo with the kind of abandon he probably encouraged Randy to explore at the outset.
The guests all apparently added their parts after Randy’s core trio had laid down the basic tracks, leaving producer Kevin Shirley’s to incorporate the solos, which in some instances take the song to another level.
Certainly Joe Bonamassa’s crisp mid-number solo sparks the otherwise laboured ‘Bad Child’, on which Randy is arguably mixed too far back.
Robert Randolph too, has a significant impact on the tub-thumping ‘Oh My Lord’ and Randy’s fellow Canadian, the late Jeff Healey, has his guitar work mixed into the Bo Diddley beat and choral bv’s of ‘Confessin’ The Blues’, on one of the more expansively produced tracks on the album.
‘Heavy Blues’ opens with ‘The Edge’, as Randy sings: ‘I kinda like the mess on living on the edge, that’s where you’ll find me’. The lyrics evoke the overall rough-edge of an album that opens with Pete Townsend style power chords and a Keith Moon drum-break, except that it’s delivered by his all female rhythm section of Dale Anne Brendon and bassist Anna Ruddick.
Randy’s vocal is exposed on the pedestrian ‘Learn To Fly’ and he growls his way through the buzz guitar arrangement of ‘Wild Texas Ride’, before hoarsely voicing the lyrics of a surprisingly gentle concluding ballad ‘We Need To Talk’.
He teams up with Peter Frampton on the rocking title track which features the kind of big of wall of sound to be found at the core of this heavy-duty rocking album.
There’s also a thinly disguised Hendrix feel to the intro of ‘Please Come To Paris’, notable for a rapped out conversational vocal and Luke Dourcet’s angular solo. Randy doesn’t always have the material or vocals to kick out the jams and seal the deal, but ‘Heavy Blues’ just about does what it says on the tin and as such it’s a welcome return for a the Canadian rock/blues icon. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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