Album review: RUSS BALLARD – It’s Good To Be Here

On Thursday 20 February at 22:00 GMT Get Ready to ROCK! Radio replays a two-part special when David Randall chatted to Russ Ballard about his long career.

RUSS BALLARD – It's Good To Be Here

BMG [Release date 21.02.20]

If you’ve done any world travelling, out of desire or necessity, you’ll have noticed that there’s always some radio station playing a song written by Russ Ballard.

The Rock cognoscenti will recognise Kiss/Ace Frehley’s globe straddling hits ‘God Gave Rock’n'Roll To You’ and ‘New York Groove’; Rainbow’s monster metal classics ‘Since You Been Gone’ and ‘I Surrender’, all as coming from the prolific pen of Ballard.

Apparently he spends many days and hours writing and recording, but this is his first conventional release in 5 years. “It’s Good To Be Here” is an album of material originally released in 2015 as a 9 track album download via the fledgling Umumusic. To this, he’s added 4 new tracks.

On this 2020 version, he’s widened his field of fire. ‘Awakening’ and ‘Kickin The Can’ unspool like a smart synthesis of African and Western rhythms, written to the sound of 21st century popular rock. They are fabulously 3 dimensional, dazzling us with exotic tones and rhythms, backed up by spine tingling orchestration. Ballard’s son, Christian produced and mixed, and he has the obsessive’s ear for fine textural detail.

Lyrically, two of the new tracks, ‘Annabel’s Place’ and ‘Wasted’ are provocative looks at Ballard’s past. Powerful images and memorable music, swapping conscience bothering “call and response” vocals with spacey, proggy passages, all giving an epic feel to these clearly personal musings.

But in reality, everything is personal here. Sometimes painfully so, as in the overwhelming sense of loss evoked by ‘Time Machine’. But equally, ‘Tidal Wave’s gorgeous rush of pop optimism, and the more contemplative ‘Colliding’ will have you getting alternately buoyed and enjoyably lost in these songs’ orbiting melodies.

Ballard acknowledges his past songwriting success on the album’s three closers. He cleverly turns ‘Since You Been Gone’ into an achingly eloquent ballad, sketched around piano and soughing strings, repeating the trick on ‘You Can Do Magic’, creating depth and drama from a resonating piano motif and swaying background vocals.

But it’s ‘New York Groove’ that makes the biggest impression. Here, the silky smooth drift of an acoustic guitar provides all the forward momentum needed by this laid back, loose limbed version. This song alone earns him around $100,000 per year from Advertising, TV and Movie “syncs”, motivation if any were needed for every budding songwriter to “stick in there, son”.  ****

Review by Brian McGowan

Album review (2015)

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 19 June 2022.

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