Tuesday, October 11, 2016

John Verity - My Religion

John Verity played guitar with Argent and Charlie back in the mid-70s, and has kept at it ever since with a number of solo releases.  This latest features ten tracks, four covers and six self-penned songs, the latter ranging across a variety of styles.
Title track ‘My Religion’ is the most straightforward blues of the originals, an enjoyable and witty imagining of the ideal afterlife for a blues lover.  Verity may have a limited, slightly reedy voice, but he still makes a decent fist of his vocals, and he sprinkles a series of sparky guitar licks over the song to good effect.
John Verity plays the devil's music
But the pick of Verity’s own songs is ‘The Devil’s Music’, which sounds just like the kind of tune by his fellow Argent alumnus Russ Ballard that Rainbow might have snapped up for a radio-friendly cover back in the 80s.  Verity’s voice may strain a bit on the opening verse, but some excellent backing vocals then kick in to stand up to the big guitar chords deployed on the chorus, and Verity contributes not one but two fizzing solos to elevate the song to a higher level.
Verity explores some rather different avenues at the end of the album.  ‘Farkhunda’ is a simple acoustic guitar and vocal piece named after an Afghan woman who was beaten and killed by a mob in Kabul after being falsely accused of burning the Quran.  As a song it may not set the world on fire, but it’s a heartfelt performance by Verity nonetheless.  Closer ‘Oh Why?’ is similarly built around a simple acoustic motif, and confounds my expectations by never bursting into something bigger and instead majoring on some luscious choral vocals, beautifully recorded, which ultimately dominate a wordless outro.
The cover versions on display are all well and truly familiar, all good songs, and all captured well enough.  But ‘Chain Of Fools’ is really the only one that stands out as offering a fresh perspective.  It’s a tough and chunky reading, with choppy, aggressive riffing, a standout vocal from Bianca Kinane, and Verity doing a bit of testifying in the background.
‘Going Down’ seems to be the blues-rock cover du jour for numerous artists, and while it’s a reliable rifferama here it doesn’t really go the whole hog.   ‘Spoonful’ features some nice mournful harp from Lee Vernon, and Verity invests the vocal with feeling, to the degree that it compares well to the Fresh Cream version, probably less so to the Wheels of Fire cut – and inevitably pales beside Howlin’ Wolf.  As for ‘Cocaine’, well I’m sure it goes over well live, but I’m not sure I see the point in recording it here.

My Religion shows John Verity still laying down some interesting material.  It would be good if he could push that envelope even further, perhaps by complementing his own songs with modern treatments of some less obvious covers.  But meantime he’s still out there doing it, and more power to his elbow for that.

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