IOM Records/Wienerworld [Release date 16.08.19]
I am old enough to remember when ‘Vehicle’ by The Ides Of March was a radio hit back in 1970. It was a slice of jazz rock that chimed with other brass-led rockers of the time, notably Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. I wouldn’t have known that the mainman was Jim Peterik later to find fame with Survivor and still very active today.
And it is evidently Peterik’s enthusiasm that has got three of the original band members together, whilst writing most tracks. As stated in the liner note, this album – celebrating their 55th anniversary – is the result of all the life lessons picked up from ‘seedy bars…greasy spoons…major concerts’ and the like. This is their first studio album since 2010′s ‘Still 19′.
The opening song and title track – ‘Play On’ – is a useful summary of the band’s ethos. ‘Vehicle’ is included as a vintage bonus track but the rest of the album is more diverse. ‘The Miracle’ and ‘First Day Of Your Life’ are closest in spirit whilst the band’s pre-’Vehicle’ legacy (captured on a string of sixties singles) is best represented by the close harmonies of ‘Song About Mary’ and ‘Too Far To Turn Around’.
What we do get is solid song construction (a given really with Peterik at the helm) and fine musicianship with the four original members supplemented by long-time keyboard player Scott May and a three-piece horn section. Peterik’s vocal style reminding of John Lawton, in fact the overall vibe is not dissimilar to Lawton’s Lucifer’s Friend incarnation.
There are guest appearances from Cathy Richardson (Jefferson Starship, vocals on ‘Blue Storm Rising’), Mark Farmer (Grand Funk, ‘Swagger’) and Joe Bonamassa livens up ‘The Cover Up’.
Yes, the lyrics and stylings might come across as old men rock and in parts evidently autobiographical but that’s not really the point. After 55 years the core of the band is still intact but with a renewed zest for recording and performance, and with every reason to celebrate a legacy and, moreover, an irrepressible spirit. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
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