originally posted on Saturday, 21 September 2013
For the past few months, on every Tuesday (new music day) I’ve been checking out any and every new rock album that comes out to see if it’s worth a listen. I usually hope these albums aren’t too hard to get my hands on, because I, of course, would like to write about them. A few weeks ago, I came across The Rides. I was impressed, on the short clips that I heard of a couple of their songs, at how they sounded; blues-rock but more on the blues side, something I didn’t think modern rock bands were capable of. I had only listened to bits of two songs before I saw, right on the album cover, it showed the name Stephen Stills.
Hopefully that name sounds familiar to most; two time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, one of the geniuses in the aptly named Crosby, Stills & Nash (or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, depending on the album) as well as countless other contributions to the late 60’s, early 70’s golden age of American rock and roll including the band responsible for his second rock hall induction, Buffalo Springfield with the legendary Neil Young. Needless to say, when I saw that name on the cover, without bothering to further listen to anything else on the album, I decided this was a purchase I had to make.
Along for the “ride” on this album (yes, pun intended) are blues guitar protégé Kenny Wayne Shepherdand Barry Goldberg, a well respected blues keyboardist who has played alongside such important names as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, to name a few, in his 70 years. These three men round off a somewhat super group that also includes bass player Kevin McCormick as well as someone Stevie Ray Vaughan fans would know, former Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, who for some reason is staying in the shadows of this super group when realistically his contributions to music are practically as great as the three main members of the band.
When I first turned on the album, I realized, rather quickly, that this may be more of a side project than I thought. While some songs sound well thought up and exceptionally written, others seem to have been more or less quickly written. Take the opening track, Roadhouse. When I see a song title like that, I picture a good, badass driven blues rock song, but instead the song is a tad held back. Back in the late 60’s/70’s, when Stephen Stills was more prominent in rock, he had, at the time, one of the more raspy voices compared to most singers. I never quite heard it, but former Eagles guitarist Don Felder, who knew Stephen when they were in their teens, called the voice “uncanny” in his autobiography. Well, even though I didn’t hear it then, I definitely hear it now on Roadhouse and all other tracks sung by Stephen on this album. The years haven’t quite been the best to his voice, but luckily his guitar playing hasn’t suffered too much.
Yes, the album is most definitely a guitar driven album. Exactly half of the tracks on the album, five, are covers; three of them are covers of songs from the golden years of the blues. For some reason, the only songs that Kenny Wayne Shepherd (a gifted singer and song writer) sings lead vocals on are four of these five covers. This includes all three of the classic blues covers such as the 1956 R&B Big Maybelle hit That’s A Pretty Good Love, which features a more bluesy arrangement with guitars replacing the original horn section. The bands rendition of the 1969 Muddy Waters song Honey Bee is a slight improvement on the original version, only because I find the original version of the song to not be one of Muddy’s best, while The Rides have added a little more meat to the music, along with an absolute monster of a blues keyboard solo by Barry. Then there is the 1960 Willie Dixon written Elmore James song Talk To Me Baby. I enjoy how The Rides turned this song in to more of a roadhouse bar track than the previously mentioned opening track to the album.
The fourth of the songs sung by Kenny on this album is a curious choice, a cover of the Iggy Pop and the Stooges song Search and Destroy. The Stooges have been credited to both an early influence to both metal and punk, but Kenny Wayne Shepherd trying to turn this song in to a blues rock song just doesn’t quite seem to work.
Stephen Stills takes lead vocal duty on the fifth of the five covers on the album, and understandably so considering it’s a cover of his long time friend and collaborator, Neil Young, and a well known choice at that. The bands take on Rockin’ In The Free World sounds more like a jam session to a familiar song. Stephen’s vocals seem a little too free and the drums and piano parts sound like they were thought up on the spot. It gives the album a loose feeling, and without comparing it to the original version, the song is a good inclusion, but comparing it to the original version just further shows how this album is more of a side project rather than a serious band.
Four of the five originals, including the opening trackRoadhouse, all have writing credits to all three of the main members of the band, and all five are sung by Stephen Stills. For the most part, the songs are good slow blues songs. Don’t Want Lies reminds me of the kind of track Stephen could have written in his heyday.Can’t Get Enough Of Loving You, an even slower blues song, which would have sounded better if a younger Stephen Stills were singing it, but the guitar solo makes this six minute song worth all the while. Only Teardrops Fall is not as slow as the previous two songs, but the sound of the song is a little more melancholy.
The album ends with Word Game; which is a re-recording of a Stephen Stills solo song. The song ends the album on a faster, slightly more aggressive note, which I like. It is hard not to take Stephen serious on this track with his aggressive singing. One complaint I do have is the drums. The drum beat selected for this song is all wrong and takes away from any further aggression that this song could have had.
This album should be accepted as an excuse for a bunch of well respected musicians to make music together. The song writing isn’t phenomenal, which is a slight disappointment considering some of the musicians involved in the album, but it is definitely a guitarists album. Both Stephen and Kenny, for the most part, bring their A game with some terrific solos. I wouldn’t recommend this album for the sake of getting it, but I’d recommend it for fans of either Stephen or Kenny.
“Don’t Want Lies” – This song is calmed down, with a lot of cleaner sounding guitars, similar to the Crosby, Stills & Nash stuff that fans would expect from Stephen Stills, while adding a much more dominant blues element to the track. Remember, CS&N were more of an acoustic rock band than a blues band. I feel, though, that if a fan of Stephen Stills were to wonder what this album might sound like, this would be the best song for them to hear first. If I recall correctly, this was the first song that I listened to that convinced me that this would be a worthwhile listen.
7 (Out of 10)
|That’s A Pretty Good Love||2:52|
|Don’t Want Lies||4:41|
|Search and Destroy||2:28|
|Can’t Get Enough Of Loving You||6:13|
|Rockin’ In The Free World||6:09|
|Talk To Me Baby||3:46|
|Only Teardrops Fall||4:54|