The recent return of Russ Ballard – initially with Argent (reforming in 2010/13) – has been one of great rejoicing and relief. He was perhaps thought to be exiled forever in some L.A. mansion spending his dotage peeling grapes and banking the latest royalty cheque for ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’.
In truth, Russ has never really left the UK and never stood still. Looking 20 years younger than his near-septuagenarian status he can probably “cut it” more than many of his contemporaries. He made a string of so-so solo albums in the seventies (peaking with ‘At The Third Stroke’ in 1978) and his last release was nearly a decade ago – the excellent ‘Book Of Love’ – which is scheduled for reissue soon. His latest album project – for the fledgling umumusic company – is to be welcomed by his fans who – if they subscribe – will receive bonus material in the shape of exclusive content and merchandise.
As for the music? The listener will of course be swept along on a wave of nostalgia – Russ Ballard is BACK! There is no denying that the lead track ‘Time Machine’ has all the hallmarks – with a great chorus that will work its way into your head and a retro sixties vibe. But elsewhere, this does sound a fairly rudimentary rock album perhaps lacking an overall continuity.
I think (once the euphoria surrounding Russ’ return has subsided) ‘It’s Good To Be Here’ can be viewed as an interim statement, a sort of rekindling of the old flame. And while that flame still burns, the less committed need to investigate all albums from the mid-eighties starting with ‘Russ Ballard’. Although – if we have no right to expect another ‘Liar’ or ‘You Can Do Magic’ – a reworking of ‘Voices’ (from that 1984 album) really adds nothing but a slightly crazed guitar.
‘My Awakening’, ‘Free From Your Hold’ and ‘Kickin’ The Can’ show the direction the album might have taken – as in a more full-on and consistent rock workout. The excellent ‘Colliding’ is counterbalanced by the weaker ‘Where Were You’ which could have been an Ian Hunter outtake and ditto ‘The First Man That Ever Danced’ and ‘Proud Man’. Throughout, there are some nice production touches which keep things sounding contemporary and relevant.
The umu venture, though, has to be applauded and brings fans closer to the artists they love. In this sense, punters buy into more than the just the music of their hero or heroine – it’s a more complete package that lets them in to a more rounded artistic world. And it is Russ’ core fanbase who will lap this up and fan those flames for his next adventure. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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