Bad Reputation [Release date: 01.06.21]
Guitarists Pat McManus and Eric McFadden are currently label mates at French company Bad Reputation. They initially met in Paris and went on to perform at the ‘Night of the Guitars’ event at Patrimonio in 2019, back in the days when we could go to gigs.
This powerful album of covers and original material records their performances over two nights. First up is Pat McManus, backed by bassist Marty McDermott and drummer Paul Faloon. McManus is a proud Norther Irishman and, as often in his sets, he pays fulsome tribute to his musical heritage. Rory Gallagher/Taste’s ‘What’s Going On?’ is a raw and sharp opener, losing none of its original energy.
The excellent ‘Runaway Dreams’ comes next and sees McManus to stretch out on his own track from Mama’s Boys’ days. As is usual, McManus whips out the fiddle for an extended solo to follow his six-string parts. Completing the Northern Irish trilogy is a stripped back cover of Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got the Blues’ showcasing some lovely, fluid lead guitar work.
Probably the highlight of the whole package comes when McFadden joins McManus for two extended jams across ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘La Grange’. The two maestros’ contrasting styles and tones catalyse some breath-taking chemistry on the former, crawling over and under each other with blues-rich licks.
McManus pulls off a reasonable imitation of Billy Gibbons’ gruff growl on the latter, but again it is the guitarwork between the two that catches the ears. They have the confidence to take the track right down with a couple of seconds of mid-track silence before unleashing more bars of fast boogie solos, building to a fine climax. Wonderful stuff.
McManus closes out with a fat riff-laden ‘Born To Be Wild’. We then slip into Side 2 (in a manner of speaking) for The Eric McFadden Trio set on the following night. There is more original material here than in the McManus set. The first couple highlight McFadden’s harsher guitar tone and rasping vocal delivery. ‘Whilst You Was Gone’ is edgy and angular; whilst next up ‘Filling A Hole’ is a tight rhythm-driven rocker with a couple of excellent fast solos.
The short set features many of McFadden’s diverse influences. ‘Where Is Ferdinand’ draws out a flamenco guitar and a searching lyric. ‘Devil Moon’ could be delta blues, but picks up a rockier, swampier stomp and delivers an instrumental passage swinging between grungy blues and a rocket-fuelled hillbilly pick-fest.
The final three tracks are covers. The semi-acoustic version of the AC/DC classic ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ is subdued and, well, almost beautiful. Surely some kind of crime!
McManus joins the Trio for the last two covers. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Live With Me’ at over six minutes gives space for more fantastic guitar work. The sound on the main riff is thick and treacly and the solos are good, if sometimes a little low in the mix. The Tom Petty cover ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’ closes out the set with a pretty faithful rendition until the final five minutes takes the album into soloing overtime. Showstopping jams from the two guitarists where all the usual fast-fingered cliches apply.
This is a hugely enjoyable album. OK, so the mix is a bit variable in places and the vocals a bit rough at times. And the majority of the tracks are time-worn covers. But this is an authentic and spontaneous live performance. The vibe across the four tracks where the guitarists join forces takes the album onto another level. Worth the price for those alone. If a bit of top-class guitar jamming is your thing, this is an essential purchase. ****½
Review by Dave Atkinson
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 14 September 2021.
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