Label: Grooveyard Records (http://www.grooveyardrecords.com/)
Holy crap!! I’ve been a fan of John Waite ever since I heard The Babys and “Looking For Love” on Swedish radio back in the seventies! I’ve enjoyed most of his solo stuff, too, especially the rockier stuff like “Ignition” and “Rovers Return”. I also had the great pleasure of seeing Mr Waite live in Augsburg, Germany not that long ago and man, he still rocked! Great backing band, too! So, how’s he doing on record? Well, his new album starts off with one nice firecracker of a song, the title track. My first impression is I love the naked, rough, rocking sound. A guitar, a bass, a set of drums, some occasional keyboards and the great voice of Mr W. No unnecessary overdubs, no annoying over-Americanized reverb. This sounds like a pure melodic rock album made with love and honesty. “Shadows Of Love” is another melodic rocker that takes us back to Waite in his best form.
Don’t be fooled by the title of the next track - “Evil”. It’s not the old seventies song and it’s no detuned heavy rocker. Here’s a cool melodic rocker, maybe not as hard hitting as the openers, but still very enjoyable indeed. What really makes it work is that John Waite still possesses THE voice! Next up is a classic Waite-sounding ballad, ornamented with some acoustic guitar and piano. It’s of course hard to exceed tracks like “Missing You” or “In Dreams”, but he does try and this one goes a long way. This time John is using the guitar talents of Luis Maldonado and Kyle Cook (Matchbox Twenty). The latter also co-wrote a bunch of the tracks. “Skyward” is another semi-ballad following in the same vein as the stuff Waite produced on albums like “Temple Bar”.
The cover of Tina Turner’s “Sweet Rhode Island Red” opens up sounding like mid 90s ZZ Top with dirty finger-picking phat guitars and some shuffle-style snare drumming making this an outstanding full throttle bluesy shuffle rocker. Waite sings his heart out, as usual, no holds barred! “Love’s Going Out Of Style” is a mid-pace semi-soft track with almost reggaeish guitars and a cool Nashville sounding chorus. Great bluesy solo from Kyle. There’s even some saxophones in the chorus, but very much in the background. I hate sax, but for some reason they do work well here. “Better Off Gone” kicks off with a nice guitar riff and continues in a melodic upper mid-tempo mode with the classic Waite tone all over it. It has a cool car driving mode to it, made for a top down ride, full on sunshine and sunglasses on! Next up is “Further The Sky” which is a really cool bluesy ballad with some great guitar playing from Shayne Fontayne. Again I have to praise the earthy, unpolished production giving you the feeling of the band being in the same room as yourself. I truly love that!
“Peace Of Mind “ is a track that sticks out a bit with its spoken verse. Not bad, but not really at par with the other tracks. On the other hand I truly LOVE John’s new version of one of my old favourites “Mr. Wonderful” from the “Ignition” album. Luis Maldonado does a great work on guitar giving it a dirty, bluesy live-feel. This version really rocks! Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with old classics, but this time I won’t complain, at all! Love this version! The second bonus track, “Hanging Tree”, is a previously unreleased track recorded for the sound track of the movie “Me And Will”. A great soft acoustic ballad with John singing as soulful as only he can do. There is no doubt, John Waite has again exceeded himself! I’m prepared to rate this album as one of his best releases ever, and for me “Ignition” is way up there!
Transubstans Records have a nice tendency of picking up all the great retro bands of our small but fruitful country. Mangrove made their debut in 2009 with “Endless Skies”, a great debut indeed. The follow-up does not disappoint, on the contrary. “A Distant Dream If Tomorrow” continues where the debut left off. Heavy riffs, great melodic vocals, great musicians and a more classic seventies hard rock sound than stoner. The dead heavy riff in “Never Again” reminds me a bit of bands like vintage Sabbath with a touch of Sir Lord Baltimore. They even have the Black Sabbathian simultaneous dual guitar solo, one in each channel. You don’t hear that too much these days. In the true Sabbath/Zeppelin manner they also mix it up with some nice mid tempo balladry in tracks like “I’ve Been Seen Upon The Sun”. I think I said this in my review of the debut, but I’ll say it again, singer Kataja reminds me quite a lot of Magnus Ekwall of The Quill, which is top notch in my book. They do turn a bit more stoner in some tracks, such as “Mean Woman Blues”, but they still keep their high standard. I also really like the earthy, analogue sounding mix of the album. It’s an album where it actually does happen something when you turn it up! It hasn’t been deviously destroyed in some malicious mastering process where compressors and limiters make everything sound louder than everything else. I hear dynamics, something that unfortunately a lot of albums of today lack. This is a great sounding power trio with all individuals making a serious musical imprint in each and every song. Great stuff indeed!