Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we’ve got new albums from Pearl Jam, Black Spiders, John Waite, Areknamés and Lunatic Soul. But all that pales into insignificance compared to a mighty reissue from a 1970s Australian band known only as… Buffalo!
A live album from Pearl Jam is nothing new. In fact, there are now – count ’em – 79 of the buggers, including the 72 ‘official bootlegs’ released between 2000 and 2001. Still, that shouldn’t turn you off Live On Ten Legs (Island). In a sense, it’s much like the classic 70s live albums released when the members of Pearl Jam were impressionable schoolkids; albums such as Aerosmith’s Live Bootleg and Kiss’s Alive! It has that same celebratory air, and it features many of Pearl Jam’s best-known, crowd-pleasing songs: Jeremy, Animal, State Of Love And Trust, Alive. Plus its big-room ambience gives a palpable sense of the scale on which this band operates on the road: the roar of a really big audience is unmistakable.
After a few low-key releases and a huge number of live performances, Sons Of The North (Dark Riders/Cargo) marks the point where Black Spiders step out from the cosy wing of the pre-cajoled media and live or die by their own creative efforts. Pleasingly, from the clattering bravado of the opening Stay Down and the cheeky Kiss Tried To Kill Me onwards, their fiery commitment to slamming the best bits of AC/DC, Motörhead, (early) Aerosmith and Black Sabbath together in one huge, thunderous slab of old school rowdiness bears high-quality fruit. The big hooks of Just Like A Woman, St Peter, and Si, El Diablo could easily sound like warmed-up clichés in less skilful hands, but the Spiders attack everything with passion and it’s hard to imagine hearing any of this at a live show without wanting to headbang, drink heavily and leer lasciviously at members of the opposite (or indeed same) sex.
Teaming up with Matchbox 20 guitarist and songwriter Kyle Cook for his first album of original material since 2004’s The Hard Way, John Waite – of Babys/Missing You fame – has returned to his roots on Rough & Tumble (Frontiers). The album begins with such nimble, seductive ease that one can almost imagine Waite wiping a brow with relief at the return of his mojo. Compositions like Shadows Of Love, Evil and Further The Sky saunter along with aimless transatlantic ease, coloured by intensely hummable melodies and the singer’s distinctive wordplay.
If Van der Graaf Generator had formed in Milan rather than Manchester, they’d likely sound a lot like Areknamés. For a start, the playing style of band leader, organist Michele Epifani, clearly owes a lot to VdGG keyboardist Hugh Banton. And the VdGG vibe is heightened by some parping David Jackson-esque saxophone work on a track called Alone. But don’t get the wrong impression – Areknamés also have a cool style of their own, so there’s plenty of Armani amid the angst on their new release In Case Of Loss… (Black Widow). The undoubted highlight is the 21-minute closing track, The Very Last Number. It’s a morbid, mesmerising marathon that really rams home the central theme of (you guessed it) loss.
Polish prog legend Mariusz Duda (of Riverside fame) has come up trumps again with the second instalment of his Lunatic Soul side-project. Lunatic Soul II (Kscope) sees Duda reining in his patented ‘prog death grunts’ and adopting a more sedate, not to say mysterious, approach. Beginning with The In-Between Kingdom, which with its ethnic vibe sounds like a Jade Warrior outtake, we embark on a journey that sounds like something Peter Gabriel could’ve created while being simultaneously tortured and under heavy sedation. The undoubted highlight is the 11-minute Transition, full of swirling, windswept sounds and a half-spoken singing style that veers frequently between reflective and despairing.
Finally, here’s a cracking reissue – and one that certainly deserves a portion of your hard-earned pennies. Ladeez ’n’ gennelmen, allow me to introduce you to the obscure delights of the one, the only, Buffalo. Dead Forever… was the band’s debut album, released in 1972. Imagine if Black Sabbath had been a bunch of Fosters-swigging larrikins, or if Free had spent their life ogling birds in bikinis on Bondi. That’s Buffalo for ya. Vocalist Dave Tice (later of London pub rock stalwarts The Count Bishops, would you believe) leads the way with his psychotic barking, while bassist Pete Wells (who would go on to become the slide guitarist in Rose Tattoo) ain’t far behind, sounding like Andy Fraser crossed with a Sumo wrestler. Pay My Dues could be a Blue Cheer demo; I’m A Mover is 11 minutes of madness and mayhem; Ballad Of Irving Fink lopes like Skippy The Kangaroo with a tranquillizer dart up its arse. Sadly, Buffalo’s career advancement was hampered by their sexist attitude. But they ploughed on regardless, later recording songs like I’m A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser. Attaboys!