Album review: THE SHARPEEZ – Wild One

Pete Feenstra interviewed Bill Mead for his Sunday Feature show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.  This hour special features tracks from ‘Wild One’

The Sharpeez - Wild One

3Ms Music [Release date 30.05.18]

The Sharpeez ‘Wild One’ makes a big statement of intent. For the last 6 or so years the band has put in the roadwork to match a consistent stream of releases. This album takes them to a completely new level with 9 sizzling tracks that combine high energy, song craft, undulating melodies, powerful hooks and inspired playing in a British R&B format.

And to be accurate, in a world of fast changing musical genres that’s old school rhythm and blues to you and me, rather than the contemporary variant of urban music.

That’s not to say this album isn’t contemporary, as the material, the playing and Paul Madden’s engineering and production gives the band real presence, while Loz Netto’s crisp mix highlights some intricate playing and sparkling tones.

The Sharpeez musical pedigree goes as far back as the new wave era of 1979, when the band’s founder member Bill Mead was the bass player in a young hopeful Mod band called Rebel.

A subsequent 20 year hiatus from the music business obviously hasn’t diminished his song craft. ‘Wild One’ is crammed full of colourful narratives from the road and is shot through with real vitality. Since forming the band, Bill has switched from bass to rhythm guitar, bringing pump action rhythms to songs that jump from the tracks.

They open with the outstanding ‘Automatic Mode’, which should be a single. The song title could almost be about the band itself, as they plug in, wait for the red button and then immediately hit a groove, in automatic mode!

Loz’s Netto’s guitar parts are subtly interwoven in between Teresa Revill’s marvellous bv’s, on an explosive opening track to an album that barely pauses for breath.

The muscular title track also provides a great example of a layered sound full of jangling guitars, Mead’s growled vocals and a powerful hook.

The Sharpeez might be routed in old school rhythm and blues, but the compelling mix of memorable songs and incendiary playing takes them up to another level.

Mead is joined on vocals by Teresa Revill who adds great harmony vocals on ‘Bullet’,  a number subtly couched in echo reverb. Her backing vocals give the album extra depth. while Netto’s occasional Mark Knopfler styled guitar parts bring refined delicacy.

Netto switches to slide on the motivating’ ‘Dr Feelgood’ which is a great example of what the band does so well. It’s punchy, fluid and is powered by the slick rhythm section of drummer Brendan O’Neill and the redoubtable bassist Baz Payne. The song builds a subtle tension which is resolved by Netto’s imaginative solo.

This is goodtime, hard driving music, that draws the listener in on the back of solid grooves and uplifting solos, as evidenced by ‘Losing Hand.’ The latter provides the moment when the album takes off, as all the band elements mesh mellifluously and Netto immerses the track with whammy bar squalls and deft harmonics. It also showcases one of Mead best vocals, again in perfect tandem with Revill’s accompaniment.

‘Wild One’ ebbs, flows, and rock and rolls with the funky riff driven ‘Heartache Express’, a great example of how Netto explores different tones to evoke the feel of a song. ‘Heat of the Night’ could be Ducks Deluxe at their pomp, on an out and out rocker that combines The Who, and Stones elements as it thunders like an express train.

Netto puts in an absolute magisterial slide guitar part, as Bill pushes his vocal to new heights. Teresa Revill is again the perfect foil on an absolute cracker, as the band slips into overdrive and leans on every last drop of road tested spirit to rock out towards a slide driven climax of the highest order.

The closing ‘Desperate Man’ is the perfect bookend and is voiced over a muscular drum pattern which is in sharp contrast to what’s gone before. Mead’s angst ridden vocals bring alive the imagery: “Got to try and make it to the border, 3 angry women on my trail.”

Netto adds one more defining slide solo with an awesome tone. He nails the feel of the song perfectly, as part of a big production finish to a well balanced album.

‘Wild One’ distills the very best elements of British R&B. It’s full of great songs with booming hooks, inspired guitar work that always illuminates the songs rather than dominates them and some fine band interplay.

In truth, there’s isn’t a weak track on here, while their very best efforts such as ‘Automatic Mode’, ‘Losing Hand’, and ‘Heat of the Night’ give this album every right to be regarded as one of the best R&B albums of the year so far.  ****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 20:00

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