Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Rising Souls - Yardbird

About 56 seconds into ‘Hurricane’, the subdued first verse sweeps into a chorus with which everything about The Rising Souls clicks into place – a funky bass line from Roy ‘Kelso’ Laing, the rhythm Tom Reed creates on his càjon, a complementary acoustic guitar riff, and a catchy vocal melody from Dave Archibald.  It’s a hook so good that really it should be given a turn or two more around the block than it gets, even if it does morph into a singalong coda along ‘Hey Jude’ lines
Roy 'Kelso' Laing and Dave Archibald - bunnets ahoy!
Why start here?  Because it’s indicative of what this lot are capable of, even if the appeal of some of the material on this album is less immediate.
Patience and restraint are not commodities that are often in evidence in modern music, but they play a distinctive part in what The Rising Souls offer.  Partly this may reflect the confines of their semi-acoustic line-up, but it’s also indicative of Dave Archibald’s capability as a songwriter
The opening ‘Intro’ and following title track evolve from slow, restrained guitar picking and wordless humming with a crackly, 78 rpm feel, into a minimalist arrangement – a guitar chord here, some scattered bass notes, a swish of cymbal – underpinning a vocal from Archibald heavy on melisma, that stretching and bending of vowels typical of blues and soul singing.
Dave Archibald’s soulful voice isn’t the only aspect of their sound that occasionally brings to mind Bad Company.   ‘Preacher’ offers a tense, pulsing bass line that harmonises with Archibald’s guitar, carefully punctuated by Tom Reed’s box and percussion – and another simple but great hook.  The result is something reminiscent of, say, ‘Ready For Love’, or ‘Bad Company’ itself, though shorn of piano and Mick Ralphs’ chunky electric guitar.
Tom Reed - box master
A song like ‘Miss Hero’ is indicative of the Souls’ simple side.  Its easy, laid back melody is played out over a loping, country-style bass line and spare guitar chords, while Tom Reed supplies a trotting rhythm and interjections of harp.  Occasionally the recording could be a bit more intimate, as on the vocals of ‘Just Ask’ where a bit more warmth and less reverb wouldn’t go amiss.  But it’s still a song with appeal, the shimmering, gentle chords of its opening recalling Zeppelin’s ‘Rain Song’, of all things.
A couple of the slower efforts lack the distinctiveness of the best material, but on the other hand the Souls table a couple of trump cards in the course of this album.  ‘Don’t It Feel Right’ is three minutes of infectious danceability, propelled by a funky bass line from Laing, and featuring Motown-ish handclaps as well as great vocal phrasing from Archibald.  Meanwhile the closing ‘The Boxer Part 2’, following up a track from their earlier mini-album, sounds like James Brown going semi-acoustic to deliver a brief drama of the fight game, further enlivened by Laing throwing in a ‘Groove In The Heart’-like bass riff.
If Dave Archibald is the creative heart of The Rising Souls, he’s certainly found some kindred spirits in Laing and Reed, and together they’ve managed to get a lot out of their unconventional three-man line-up.  But Yardbird was barely released when they announced that they were adding a fourth member – electric guitarist Joe Catterson, who appeared with them for a few songs at the album launch.  With that extended line-up, Yardbird may be a stepping stone to new sounds and horizons.

1 comment:

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