The 81s 2 THINGS and 118 OTHERS

The 81s
Independent Self-Released

Middle-Aged Kicks, So Hard To Beat!

Now that the World is really going to Hell in a handcart, RMHQ has cranked the office stereo up to 11 and decided that only nasty Rock & Roll will do for our daily soundtrack ……. and it’s fair to say The 81’s fit the bill perfectly well.
Basically a collaboration between songwriter and producer Thomas Sterling and Nashville stalwart Mr Timothy Carroll esq. plus a couple of mates. Somehow I missed their first two albums; but have made up for lost time playing the Bejasus out of this one over the last three days!
Opening track Michael (End of the Line) builds and builds like a sea fog, with Tim Carroll (metaphorically) cupping the microphone so you don’t miss a word as the searing guitars and pneumatic rhythm section try to blow the speakers behind him.
YAY! This is already my kinda Rock & Roll.
Bizarrely for Rock of this ilk, the actual songs are to the fore, courtesy of Sterling’s neat production and Carroll’s powerful drawl ……. listen or be damned!
She Don’t Want Me and Mind Bender remind me of 1980’s American Post-Punk; just before Grunge kicked in. There’s even a melody fighting through the somewhat dazed and confused haze; as Cameron Carrus uses his bass like it’s a blunt weapon.
I don’t think anyone here is fantasising about playing The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury or even Madison Square Garden; this is the type of sneering and sweaty music that is best heard in a dingy club with a light show bought off E-Bay and warm beer sold by the bottle.
Every song goes straight for your throat in a way I haven’t heard for years; although The Yayhoos and perhaps The Vandoliers probably come real close recently.
I can just about remember what it would feel like for a teenager to hear Four Way Stop or Nuke Laloosh for the very first time ……. you know? Eyes bulging and jaw hanging loose; then pressing ‘repeat’ 17 times in a row, until your Dad shouts “Turn that racket down!”
But; that’s not to say Dad’s won’t get this too; especially ones who still wear original Tom Petty or Neil Young t-shirts; especially Is This All You Got and Curb.
What to choose as a Favourite Song? Album closer Need To Believe is an obvious contender, and the hairy guitar solo will make your head swivel if you ever hear it on Planet Rock one afternoon; yet I also keep coming back to the brooding Camino de Santiago which coolly sits in the middle of the album and allows you to get your breath back; but with my fingers crossed I’m picking Hostage, for no other reason than it’s a great song wrapped in an even greater melody and backbeat ……. it ROCKS!
Back to the t-shirt ‘thing’; I despair when I see geezers my age wearing them featuring the bands they grew up listening to; as in general these people pay whole fortunes to see their heroes (accompanied by sidemen who weren’t even born when the hits were coming) at huge arenas; when bands like The 81’s are playing a bar or club across town for 10% of those crazy ticket prices; and are a damn sight more relevent in every which way.
Check out The 81’s ……. they will Rock your socks off.

Released March 27th 2020.

Kris Barras Band LIGHT IT UP

Kris Barras Band
Light It Up

British Blues Rock With An RS Turbo!

My formative years; musically were spent listening to loud Rock Music …….. Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and Free; to name but three; but the older I’ve got my taste has spread across numerous genres.
Yet, every now and again I need to feed my ‘Jones’ and give in to my desires for loud ‘n feisty guitar driven Blues Music that rocks like a Ford Escort RS Turbo on a winding road…… and boy, oh boy does the Kris Barras Band fit that description perfectly well!
Opening track What You Get comes out of the traps just like that aforementioned car; leaving the listener not just breathless, but clutching their chest too……. just in case it actually is a heart attack set to music.
I’d never heard of Kris Barras prior to his last release THE DIVINE and The DIRTY; so I can’t vouch for his earlier work; but that matters not a jot when the likes of the very apt Counterfeit People and Wound Up are available today …… who needs or cares about the past?
Even without reading the latest Press Release I already thought these kids were contenders for the title of Hardest Working Band in Britain; as their Social Media has been full of tours, support slots and Festival Appearances that implied they hardly ever sleep in their own beds.
There’s a helluva lot going on in the British (Blues) Rock World these days; but The Kris Barras Band somehow manage to take a ‘Classic’ guitar/bass structure and somehow turn tracks like What a Way To Go, Vegas Son and the down ‘n dirty Bullett into something almost contemporary and even complex in their construction.
What’s easy to forget here is what a wonderful voice Kris Barras has. Yes; of course his guitar playing is quite exemplary and even adventurous; but very few of his peers can actually sing a song as well as he can; stretching his larynx to its limit on Ignite (Light It Up), but also having the ability to break your heart on the sultry Pride is Forever and/or Let The River Run Through You.
Selecting a Favourite Song should have been easier than I’ve eventually made it. Right from Day #1 the heart-pumping and sizzling (Cracked Knuckles and) Broken Teeth didn’t just stand out from the pack; but grabbed me by the ‘dangly bits’….. so good it is.
But; just this morning 6 A.M sort of unraveled before my very eyes and ears, leaving me with a dilemma …… but hey; you choose when you hear them and let me know.
As I said earlier, I’m late to the party; but I can still tell that there’s a distinctive move forward here from the last album, with the band’s Trademarked British Blues Roots somehow now sounding like they can take on the American Giants on their own turf, without fear or favour.

Released September 13th 2019

Leroy From The North HEALTH & FITNESS

Leroy From The North
Health & Fitness

Heavy, Heavy Alt. Country That Rocks.

Originally this was misfiled in my I-Tunes under the wrong name; and I was mystified when I very nearly reviewed it as a world-weary singer-songwriter’s latest release!
All’s well that ends well; and now Eli WulfMeier aka Leroy From The North’s debut EP and precursor to the Autumn release of a full album can get its full deserts on RMHQ, as it’s been a late night favourite in the Magmobile on the journey home from work.
Originally from Michigan and now based in LA, WulfMeier a) sure knows how to Rock in an Alt. Country manner and b) has great musical taste which really and truly influences all 5 songs here.
The fast and furious duelling guitars on opening track Into The Sunset set the tone for a Classic Poco/Eaglesish hybrid that will have you shuffling your feet and playing Air-Guitar like a spotty teenager while bellowing out the crusty chorus (or that may be just me!).
Who knew Country Rock could still have a melody and a chorus in 2019?
This followed by Fast Friends, which again features some dazzling fretwork, but is nailed very firmly to Daxx Neilson’s Industrial Strength drumming, which actually makes a refreshing change; and WulfMeier’s songwriting and storytelling ain’t too shabby either.
In his bio ‘Leroy From the North’ has played alongside a few ‘big hitters’ in the LA Alt. scene over the years, and the name Johnny Fritz popped up …… who’s Dad Country album is still a form favourite in the RMHQ stereo.
Track #3 Here in My Home is a lot ‘Heavier’ than I’d have expected; oddly enough making me think of Ronnie Van Zandt fronting Jon Lord era Deep Purple …….obviously I could be wrong; but not by much. The song still fits in perfectly well and is a counterpoint to the pure prairie Country of Locked Out which it precedes.
Then there is Hey Man (Hammerheads) which is a case of Leroy keeping the best (or is it The Beast?) for last, and easily the RMHQ Favourite Track here, as it is ‘heads down, pedal to the metal, full on Country Rock Thrash’ the likes of which I haven’t heard in donkeys years; and sounds like an ‘encore number’ if ever I’ve heard one!
It’s not clear if these songs will appear on the forthcoming album; but I presume they will; so use this as an exquisite ‘starter’ in readiness for the Meaty, Beaty, Big n Bouncy album that is bound to light up our lives.

Released August 2nd 2019

Allman Betts Band DOWN BY THE RIVER

Allman Betts Band
Down by the River

The Future of Southern Rock is Safe in These Hands!

Any band carrying the monikers Allman AND Betts has a lot to live up to, and it also has to be an exciting prospect for a reviewer who was a huge fan of Southern Rock, and in particular The Allman Brothers Band in his teenage years.
This incarnation of the franchise consists of Gregg’s son Devon, Dickey’s son Duane plus Berry Duane Oakley; offspring of Allman’s bassist Berry Oakley Sr. alongside a bunch of stalwart and road ready pro’s.
I may lose some readers here when I state that this band don’t even try to sound anything like their forefathers; and while this is Southern Rock Deluxe ……. The Allman Betts Band have their own distinctive ‘sound’……… which sounds hardly anything like the Allman Brothers…… or anyone else, thankfully.
I smiled when I first heard opening track All Night begin with its mighty clarion call ….. “1, 2, 3…..4!” followed by some seriously crunchy guitar from two leads and a rhythm player who all know exactly what they are doing and whoever that *singer is has a deep, dark voice that could frighten a horse!
(*my download doesn’t detail who sings what here ….. and the actual CD won’t arrive until Thursday).
While I’m sure all three guitarists will get to noodle to their hearts content when they play these songs in concert; mercifully the solos here are measured in seconds not minutes; and when they arrive in the tightly wrapped Try or the monumental Long Gone and even the magnificent Autumn Breeze you know that the genetics have been passed down safely by the Gods of Rock.
I’ve loved the laid back way the band casually drop in quality songs like Good Ole Days and Down By The River with a nonchalant ease; when we all know that creating songs like this barely come along once in a generation; if at all.
There’s also the obligatory ode to the South, which we’ve come to expect from any band hailing from South of the Mason-Dixon Line; and while The Allman Betts Band aren’t exactly waving Old Glory, the ballad Southern Accents (which features Mr Chuck Leavell on piano) and its sentiments just might divide opinion across the States; like Skynard and to some degree Tom Petty did back in the day; but hey ……. it’s only Rock & Roll kids; don’t sweat it!
Finding a Favourite Track hasn’t been as easy as it could have been; as Long Gone has all the hallmarks of being a Classic as the years go by; but I’m closing my eyes and crossing my fingers and selecting the boogielicious stomper Melodies Are Memories, which is absolutely everything I’ve loved about Southern Rock for nigh on 50 years encapsulated in four wonderful minutes …….. especially Oakley’s tremoring bass-line that will drown out the broken suspension on your truck!
Although I have reservations about the band name, which will raise expectations far too high in the wrong direction; The Allman Betts Band have rekindled a fire that has lain dormant for far too long; and I firmly believe they will take the Festival Circuit by storm this Summer and the future of Rock is safe in their combined hands.

Released UK & Europe July 12th 2019
Released USA 28th June 2019

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers NO GOOD DEED

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers
No Good Deed
Pretty Good For a Girl Records

Post-Glam Rocking Blues With an Indie Slant.

When I first received this CD the cover artwork reminded me of something else; and for the life of me I’m still baffled.
Even if you’d bought this album by accident after seeing ‘that cover’; you certainly won’t be disappointed when the sweat stained opening track Seven Day Fool blasts from your speakers. Mindi’s rather sultry vocals are aided by a power-trio who certainly know what they are doing in the shadows; and even their harmonies on the chorus are whip-smart.
The title track NO GOOD DEED follows and opens with a Suzi Quatro/Glitter Band industrial strength drum beat and the song itself sounds like it should have been on Top of the Pops in the early 70’s or perhaps mid 80’s as a post-Punk pastiche; and I bloody love it!
There you have it, Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers are consummate and stage ready musicians; but sound like they are having a blast and loving what they are doing …….. which is a bit of a rarity these days.
Mindi’s selections of songs to cover are as interesting as her own penned songs, with the Young Rascals (or Pat Benatar mega-hit depending on your age) You Better Run, virtually sizzles with excitement and hints at a dangerously angry woman who has been spurned, the way Mindi not only growls the lyrics but toots her saxophone until the reeds nearly pop out; and Ike and Tina Turner’s Baby, Get It On finds Mindi duetting with drummer Third Richardson cranking up the tempo even higher than that coveted couple ever managed on disc.
One minute Mindi Abair and band are creating a big ole Rock & Roll racket with Movin’ On and then they slow things down and get a little Bluesy with Mess I’m In and Bad News which shows not just how cool they are; but how they know the way to an audience’s heart.
Where to go for a Favourite Track? Sticking a pin into the Sleeve notes would be one way, as everything here is a contender but with careful thought; I’m torn between two sleazy heartbreakers; Sweetest Lies and Who’s Gonna Save My Soul? With the latter and it’s thread of hope in a hopeless world probably winning by a whisker (and the nod to the Allman’s Whipping Post in the guitar refrains helped my decision too btw).
If there’s one song here that actually sums up why I’ve become so smitten with this album, it’s their sweet rendition of Good Day For The Blues, where everything comes together on a song that should and could be sad, sad, sad but Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers make it a glorious and sweepingly joyous six minutes.

Released June 28th 2019


Erja Lyytinen
Another World
Tuohi Records

An Exciting Change of Direction For Finland’s #1 Rocking Guitarist.

As regular readers will know, I don’t read Press Releases
other reviews before listening to an album; for fear of being prejudiced; but I weakened a couple of weeks ago when my friend Iain at reviewed this disc. He liked it but scared me by using the most fearsome four letter word that I can think of ….. P.R.O.G!
Two weeks later I can hear where he’s coming from (and Erja too); as this album is a distinct progression from her last album; but to my dodgy ears; I’m hearing a woman veering into the uncharted waters of Jazz Rock; none more so than opening track Snake in the Grass where our favourite Finnish Blues Rock star uses her voice as a virtual weapon; twisting and turning her vowels, while using her range to mystify and excite at the same time.
While the seamless slide guitar style that she is famous for has virtually disappeared, save for a cameo appearance via Sonny Landreth on Wedding Day; there’s still more than enough gutsy guitar on Cherry Overdrive and the brooding Hard as Stone to satisfy every air-guitarist out there; and it’s no surprise that Erja’s words and vocals are just as impressive as her meanderings on her electric guitar.
It’s probably the way that Erja uses her voice that points me towards that Jazz-Rock sensibility; but the way Another World and Miracle are constructed points us in that direction too…… but with the emphasis on the Rock end of this much maligned spectrum.
To a greater or lesser degree, the best is kept for last with the album closing with two absolute belters; Torn is an epic Rock Ballad with something in her fluid guitar solos that reminds me of Gary Moore at his peak; and then there is the finale, the slow and disconsolate Break My Heart Gently; a beautifully sorrowful tearjerker of the finest hue, and therefore the Official RMHQ Favourite Song on this fascinating album.
While I’m not hearing as much ‘Blues’ as I would have expected; and mercifully no ‘Prog’, but that’s no particular hardship as these songs all stand up for themselves; and I’m really excited at this new direction Erja Lyytinen is cruising off into, without needing to look over her shoulder.

Released April 26th 2019

Nils Lofgren BLUE WITH LOU

Nils Lofgren
Blue With Lou
Cattle Track Road Records

Classic Rock Meets Punk in an Abandoned Diner.

Way back when, legendary producer Bob Ezrin had the inspired/crazy idea to suggest that Nils Lofgren and Lou Reed; both pretty much at the height of their fame should write some songs together; even though they were from polar opposites of the then Pop Music spectrum.
The collaboration netted 13 songs (all written by Reed in a non-stop 3 day orgy of writing); eight of which appeared on the pairs albums over the next few years.
The other five lay hidden in Lofgren’s archives until 2017 when the kernel of an idea to re-visit them came during a tour of Australia.
The first of this quintet, Attitude City opens this album like a bolt from the blue. You can only imagine the fire that was burning in Reed’s belly when he wrote these lyrics; that are now spewed out by an aging Lofgren; but that juxtaposition actually works a lot better than it should; and it’s a similar sensation with the other songs from this odd collaboration.
I love the fluid guitar that breathes passionate life into Give; a song about ‘Charity’ written nearly half a century ago by an experimental Punk Rocker but very much a signature tune for where we are and what we should be doing for our fellow man in 2019.
Lofgren’s arrangement on Talk Thru The Tears is equal parts sympathetic and ‘honourable’ (?) on Reed’s romantic nod in the direction of the classic ballad Smile. Nils sounds like he’s singing about himself while sliding in some short and stunning guitar solos while the band and backing singers provide a claustrophobic fog behind him.
Bizarrely (for me) City Lights has a feint Reggae lilt to it as Reed uses Charlie Chaplin, star of the film of the same name as a metaphor for life on and in the busy and dark streets of an unnamed American city. The song itself; especially with Branford Marsalis’ wonderful saxophone is the epitome of 80’s AOR yet sounds as fresh as a daisy today.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down; is arguably the tightest and toughest song from the odd couple; with some razor sharp lyrics welded to a stinging back beat and melody.
At this stage I kind of think I’d have liked Lofgren to have revisited the other songs from Lou Reed that they had already released to bring them full circle; as it where; but the rest of this album is made up of some new, freshly penned songs of his own.
The most pertinent of these is Dear Heartbreaker a Rocky-lite love song to and about Nils’ friend Tom Petty, and performed in the style of the great man; with Lofgren’s grizzled voice absolutely perfect for such a hymnal.
It appears that going back to the old songs has reignited Nils’ own muse as there are a couple of belters here from his own pen; as Pretty Soon and Rock or Not are both perfect for Daytime Rock Radio and the title track Blue For Lou; even without the back story is one helluva Modern Rock song that deserves a wide audience.
There’s also a rather charming new ballad here too, Too Blue to Play that he dedicates to his wife Amy and it certainly feels like it comes from deep withing the writers soul the way her purrs;
“Took our innocence and comfort
Strolled it joyfully ’round town
You showed me off a bit too much
Had to hurt a few boys till word got around.”

I do like a love song, it has to be said.
The last of the five collaborations Cut Him Up is actually my Favourite Song as it has all the hallmarks of to Lofgren’s solo glory days in the late 70’s and Reed’s wise words combine the spite of Punk and the guile of Rock just perfectly.
With only five of the original thirteen songs here the ‘Sales Pitch’ from the record label is a tad misleading; but if you put that behind us BLUE WITH LOU is a much better album than anyone could ever have hoped to hear from Mr Nils Lofgren after all these years.

Released April 26th 2019

NEWSFLASH Keith Richards TALK IS CHEAP (Reissue)

Keith Richards
Talk is Cheap (30th Anniversary Reissue)
BMG Records

I remember this little charmer when it was first released in 1988 when a friend bought it……. it wasn’t my ‘cup of tea’ way back then and I doubt it is now; but I think a lot of you will be interested in this Re-Issue and Deluxe Package.

RELEASED March 29th 2019

In 1988 Keith Richards released his first ever solo album, ‘Talk Is Cheap’, an eleven track masterclass in everything good about rock ‘n roll.
It all began in 1986 when Keith was restless. The Stones were inactive and as Keith says It was one of those “forget about it times”. He’d worked with drummer Steve Jordan on the Chuck Berry film ‘Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll’ and was looking for another challenge. He’d never before considered making a solo album and admits to initially being “dragged kicking and screaming” into the studio.
Throughout his storied career with the Rolling Stones, he had always been a one band man. “My central focus had always been that one thing,” Keith says. “I felt like in the Stones I had the perfect vehicle for what I wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine putting something else together would be equally satisfying.”
Thankfully he put together the incomparable X-Pensive Winos. From the start it felt like a band, with guitarist Waddy Wachtel an obvious first addition to Steve Jordan. “Waddy and I are like Ronnie and me,” Keith says. “Within five minutes it’s like you’ve known each other all your lives.”
With Charley Drayton, who plays bass and drums, three became four, then five with singer and keyboard player Ivan Neville. All of them were mutli-instrumentalists, musical all-rounders who set up camp at Le Studio, outside Quebec. Isolated from big city distractions, the music flowed from the start. “There was a roll going on and all I had to do was hang onto it,” Keith says.
One of the first tracks they recorded was the explosive ‘Take It So Hard’, a tight but loose classic that easily illustrates why Keith is called the human riff. It defines modern rock music.
Recording later moved onto Montserrat, Bermuda and other locales with guest appearances from an all-star cast including Sarah Dash, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, the Memphis Horns, Patti Sciafia and Mick Taylor.
There’s a joyous swagger to ‘Talk Is Cheap’ that permeates each and every song. It sounds as good today as it did thirty years ago – in Keith’s words “as fresh as the day it was made”. This reissue also includes 6 bonus tracks, four of which feature pianist Johnnie Johnson including Eddie Taylor’s ‘Big Town Playboy’, ‘Blues Jam’, ‘’Slim’ and the kinetic Jimmy Reed cover ‘My Babe’.
The Super Deluxe and Deluxe box set includes special, exclusive housing and folios, extensive sleeve notes by Anthony De Curtis telling the story” of the album’s production, release and cultural impact, unseen photo’s and rare memorabilia.
“This album still holds up,“ Keith Richards says. “I’ve been listening to it and not through the mists of nostalgia either because it doesn’t affect me that way. This is more than the sum of its parts. I really admire it. We were having fun and you can hear it.”

‘Talk Is Cheap’ will be released as CD, vinyl, Deluxe and Super Deluxe box set.
Pre-Order here ……..

‘Talk Is Cheap’ Single CD and vinyl full track listing:
1.     Big Enough
2.     Take It So Hard
3.     Struggle
4.     I Could Have Stood You Up
5.     Make No Mistake
6.     You Don’t Move Me
7.     How I Wish
8.     Rockawhile
9.     Whip It Up
10.   Locked Away
11.  It Means A Lot

‘Talk Is Cheap’ Deluxe & Super Deluxe Box Set includes these extra bonus tracks:
1.     Blues Jam
2.     My Babe
3.     Slim
4.     Big Town Playboy
5.     Mark On Me
6.     Brute Force

‘Talk Is Cheap’ Deluxe Box Set also comes with
–       180g LP album &180g LP bonus material
–       the 7” Single (Take It So Hard / I Could Have Stood You Up)
–       the 7” Single (Make No Mistake / It Means A Lot)
–       CD album & CD containing bonus material
–       80 page hardback book featuring Anthony De Curtis essay, new interview with Keith Richards and extensive photos,
–       Memorabilia: 1x tour laminate, 2x lyric sheets, original ‘Talk Is Cheap’ playback invite, tour guitar pick and 2x posters
–       Housed in a folio pack wrapped in Fender guitar case material

‘Talk Is Cheap’ Super Deluxe box set
–       Limited & Numbered
–       All content matches the Deluxe Box set
–       Comes with added special feature, a one-of-a-kind exclusive casing replicating Keith’s favourite Fender Guitar ‘Micawber’
–       Features hand-reliced ash wood with original Fender guitar elements, handmande at the Fender Custom Shop in California

Elvis Costello & The Imposters LOOK NOW


Elvis Costello & The Imposters

His Aim Is Still True!

Elvis Costello is the only act I’ve ever queued TWICE for his albums on the day of release (This Year’s Model & King of America); and for a long time afterwards I bought each and every album he released; until The Delivery Man …..well, like the three that preceded it I don’t think I’ve listened to it a third time in 15 years.
So, while obviously flattered to be asked to review his latest, and 30th studio album, I was very nervous last Sunday playing it for the first time.
What if I really didn’t like it?
But, a combination of me not playing his albums for a decade and possibly now having more refined tastes……… there was no need to panic; the Kid is in fine fettle and right back in the game!
The first thing you hear Under Lime and it’s as sharp and melodic as anything Costello recorded in the 80’s (his peak period btw) yet while the arrangement sounds a bit jazzy and not unlike his songs with Burt Bacharach the lyrics are brand new, shiny and even attention grabbing.
Panic over.
Now I’m settled into it. LOOK NOW is real ‘Grown Up Music’; no, not AOR because very little here ‘rocks’ this is 100% quality singer-songwriter material aimed at Grown Ups, that takes chances unlike any of his peers would ever dare take…… try the magnificent Burnt Sugar is More Bitter (written with Carol King no less!) and Dishonour The Stars and then point me to someone other than EC who could write such a song and arrange it in this manner and yet it’s still ‘commercial’ and listenable over and over again.
There’s always been something of a Poet in the way Elvis chooses his words and constructs his songs making the listener know exactly what he means in Mr & Mrs Hush or the intense Stripping Paper even if they aren’t to be taken literally.
As is my won’t I’ve played this five times before reading the Press Release and only then did I realise that the two brooding ballads Don’t Look Now and Photographs Don’t Lie are both co-write with Burt Bacharach; whose (with hindsight) ghost is all over them.
To some greater or lesser degree he’s taken a big step backwards to jump forwards with the bittersweet Suspect My Tears and He’s Given Me Things, with both not sounding particularly like anything else he’s recorded but takes you back to a time when his song writing shone like a star in the sky.
While far from being my ‘Favourite Song’ here; I admire the way he casually drops in the left of centre arrangement of Why Won’t Heaven Help Me without a care in the world.
Finding my actual ‘Favourite Song’ was actually quite easy this time; as the I Let The Sun Go Down punched me straight in the heart the first time I heard it. String arrangements, luscious harmonies and Elvis Costello at his sharpest, cleverest and indeed witty even all rolled up in a quasi-political observation that will catch many a radio producer out!
If we forget his Angry Young Man phase in the late 70’s; Elvis Costello was a Master craftsman of his art between Trust and Spike; constantly reinventing himself yet always letting that one and only voice take us on musical journeys we’d never ever contemplated taking with anyone else; but ended up wondering why no one else had ever thought of that direction before.

Released 12th October 2018




Sir Rod Stewart
Decca Records

Every Song Tells a Story and Then Some.

Is a new Rod Stewart album still something to be celebrated and get excited about? Hmm; as a fan for well over 40 years I did still got a little tingle of excitement when this package arrived (a couple of days after the release date due to an ‘administrative error’) but more than a touch of a apprehension too, as his output this century has been patchy, to say the least.
Human, in 2001 started things off so well, and Mrs Magpie is still partial to a couple of songs from it, and it was a similar story with TIME too, but those covers album? Nah; and as for the Great American Songbook Vol’s 1 – 57? They sure ain’t for this old Mod.
So without comparing and contrasting with his classics that helped change Rock music in the 70’s where does his 31st studio album, BLOOD RED ROSES fit into Sir Roderick’s canon of work?
Let’s find out shall we?
Opening track Look In Her Eyes is actually a very good song, that needs less Bass n Drums and more guitar to give it the oomph that the lyrics and melody deserve.
Hole In My Heart, which follows is more like it with Rod giving it his all on a cracking rocker of a song about loving and losing; and the Blues Brotheresque horn section ain’t half bad too on the choruses.
The clever lead single Didn’t I is quite fascinating; as it’s about a father talking about the perils of the Rock n Roll lifestyle to a daughter that is on the verge of a wayward life; but you can tell he is troubled by the hypocrisy in his own words as she fights for her life in a hospital bed. Not for the only time on this record; I’d love to hear an acoustic version of this song.
Obviously there are a couple of now obligatory Irish/Celtic folk songs; with Grace being a delightful and windswept love song, but the title track Blood Red Roses is sure to be a showstopper on the Live Tour especially when (I guess) a troupe of River Dancers come on stage; but hmmmm….it sure ain’t Rock & Roll, is it?
At times the songs can be ‘Rod by Numbers’ with Give Me Love sounding like it’s an out-take from Blondes Have More Fun, and Rest Of My Life and Farewell both sounding like something he’s written before, dusted off and basically just tarted up…… but Mrs Magpie actually loves the latter, which is about a great friend/relative from his youth who is no longer with us (about a friend called Ewan Dawson and not Ronnie Lane as I first thought).
But; when he puts his mind to it Rod can still be the electrifying Rod Stewart we all love and adore. Honey Gold; about an intriguing yet unnamed young woman who, again, has the essence of Killing of Georgie running through it and should have been the lead single; and still has the time to rack up quality radio plays across the whole Western World.
Possibly drawing on the Great American Songbook days; the beautiful ballad Cold Old London which closes the disc is very theatrical in construction and one of the few of his songs with a full orchestral backing that I will admit to liking.
Then, while not exactly groundbreaking Rest of My Life is as good a Love Song as our man has recorded in 30 odd years and doesn’t just get you tapping your toes but it will put a zing in your heart too! Plus, it’s now Mrs Magpie’s Favourite Song here.
My own Favourite song here is an either/or between the ‘obvious,’ Muddy Water’s Rollin’ and Tumblin’ which I last heard on Full Cream; and shows that even now; Rod still has great taste when it comes to covering songs (more like this please next time!) and the lovely and wistful story of unrequited teenage love Julia (14 to Rod’s 10 years)……funny how these things come back to us, isn’t it?
It’s a ‘given’ for a fan like me to think that everything here is a little bit over-produced with some weird Disco-Bass and electro backbeat combos distracting from Rod’s voice and his really well written and constructed songs; even if Mrs. Magpie vehemently disagrees (as usual!).
If I give it time, like my wife has and actually will, BLOOD RED ROSES will definitely grow on me in a way very few from the last 35 years has ever managed, so I will place it on the shelf next to Human and Foolish Behaviour.

Released September 28th 2018