Album review: SPINOUT UK – Calling Out

Spinout UK - Callin' Out

Just Chillin Records [Release date 21.01.21]

Spinout UK is a powerful Bournemouth based anthemic rock band fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist Gary Roberts, known for his work with Denny Laine, Zak Starkey and John Lodge.

‘Calling Out’ builds on the strengths so their previous well received ‘My Kind Of People’ debut album. It showcases Gary Roberts songwriting ability, as his heartfelt lyrics and booming choruses are framed by a big stadium, Dave Gilmour style sound, full of spacey drones, fluid guitar work and hints of psychedelic rock.

It’s a ‘live in the studio’ affair that too often feels under produced. That said,  there are some marvellous moments when they achieve their trademark bigger sound, as on the  outstanding ‘In The Morning’ and the closing ‘Love’ on which Will Pike’s spiky guitar work again shines through.

Significant chunks of the album are anchored by Richard Roberts’ innate rhythmic drive and inventive percussion patterns.

‘Calling Out’ is a solid rock album, with strong songs, good hooks and fine playing. It is only a decent production short of some spine tingling moments, while in truth it could probably have lost 2 of its 14 songs.

Listen to the feverish interplay of ‘Carousel’ for example, on which the instrumental separation is all but squashed by a muddy mix, which is a shame as it’s one of several outstanding tracks.

In contract, the much later ‘Set Yourself Free’ sounds far more accessible, though the guitar break is still mixed too far back.

And if we’re not always sure what Gary Roberts’ heartfelt lyrics are about, a combination of his expressive phrasing and the band’s ability to shift from deep drones to hypnotic space rock gives the album its dynamic quality.

All that’s missing is occasional moments of sonic clarity and instrumental warmth to let the material breathe.

They are at their best on the semi unplugged and  mandolin-led ballad ‘Say Hello’. And while it mines The Beatles ‘Hello Goodbye’ dichotomy,  it’s still something all of their own and is glued together by an overarching synth line and a fine vocal from Roberts.

The beautifully crafted title track features another excellent vocal and Will Pike’s subtle guitar textures over a solid rhythm track with a mesmerising chanted hook bathed in glistening echo.

Gary Roberts exclamatory: “Let’s Go” leads the band into ‘Ruin’, a stadium rock opener given its immediacy by a cool sub-Latino rhythm pattern and pulsating tom-toms which perfectly fit the pitch of the song.

Will Pike’s chiming guitar work and Roberts’ up-in-the-mix vocals are a feature of ‘Thinking Of You’, which is powered by a flinty toned guitar and further significant drum patterns.

Each instrument contributes to a greater whole that doesn’t quite achieve its potential grandeur because the rhythm section is simply mixed too far back.

Former Peter Green and Nashville Teens bassist Len Surtees ,whose imperious lines were such an integral part of their previous ‘My Kind Of People’ album,  finally moves centre stage on ‘Life Is For Living’, though Roberts vocal also veers in and out of a variable mix on a bombastic rock track with a ‘kitchen and sink all’ approach.

Happily, everything comes together gloriously on the pile driving ‘In The Morning’, a rip- roaring psychedelic track with an Eastern ‘backwards guitar’ sound which shows just what the band is capable of.

‘Calling Out’ builds impressively from ‘Another Day’ onwards, as a combination of an EBow drone and straight ahead drumming gives the track real drive.

It’s a curious track with a space rock groove which unexpectedly ushers in a spoken word rap.

‘One Star World’ is another highlight and comes closet to the band’s previous album. There’s a spacey guitar intro, some crisp percussion and an expansive vocal which illuminates the lyrics on an uplifting chorus: “Our one star world is gonna rise again.”

The same applies on the significant line:  “The ones that you loved and the ones that you lost will return.”

As if in complete harmony with the song title Will Pike’s subsequent wah-wah tinged solo reaches for the stars, but again could have been brought up in the mix, on another defining track.

‘Close Your Eyes’ find an opening guitar line drenched in echo and reverb as Roberts’ animated vocal hovers over a spacey evolving drone that demands headphones.

‘I’ve Been Staying Alive’ is different again, building subtly round another drone that rises either side of Roberts’ repeated hook, topped by a distant interwoven guitar parts on yet another outstanding track.

‘Calling Out’ is a well written, excellently played album that given a bigger budget would have merited a sparkling review. It’s by no means perfect, but there are enough inspiring moments here to warrant further exploration. ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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