Friday, September 21, 2018

Sari Schorr - Never Say Never

Sari Schorr’s theme song should really be something like ‘Gypsy Roadhog’, because the woman seems to be in perpetual motion. Even the making of this second album seemed to take in a few locations before settling into The Grange Studios in Norfolk.  But there are no signs of fatigue on Never Say Never.  Far from it.  This is an adrenaline-fuelled set, full of ideas both musical and lyrical.  So strap yourself in for the ride.
The intro to opener ‘King Of Rock’N’Roll’ is deceptive, a Dire Straits-ish bit of mood music that blends brooding guitar and tinkling piano until all concerned shake themselves into action, and Schorr weighs in with a husky vocal.  It climbs into a rousing chorus, and Ash Wilson gives it plenty with a scorching guitar solo and more fills besides.
Ash Wilson and Sari Schorr - fireworks abound
Pic by Rob Blackham
And right there you have the twin engines that will power this album into your consciousness, in Schorr’s powerful, versatile vocals and Wilson’s fizzing guitar work.  Oh, there’s plenty more besides, in the form of quality songwriting, the tight but flexible rhythm section of Mat Beable’s bass and Roy Martin’s drums, and the colour added from Bob Fridzema’s keyboard palette.  But there’s no getting away from the Schorr/Wilson axis – and believe me, you won’t want to.
‘Thank You’ features a squelching wah-wah intro, and supercharged guitar chords and organ on its pre-chorus, with Schorr delivering catchy ascending vocals in the chorus itself. It makes good use of dynamics, and Wilson gets mightily stuck in again with a solo.  Then they cool things off with a reading of Bad Company’s ‘Ready For Love’ that respects the original but adds its own seasoning.  It’s a perfect fit for Schorr’s blues rock tendencies, and her ability to be sensitive as well as towering.  There’s a nice interweaving of guitar and keys to deliver the signature theme, and Fridzema delivers a delicate, halting piano solo ahead of an elegant, dying fall to close.
‘Valentina’ and ‘The New Revolution’ display different faces of Schorr’s wordsmithing skills.  The former features a narrative about a lonely woman “living in a trailer by the sea”, and is a no-nonsense, straight-up rocker with a gritty riff, another impressive solo from Wilson, and full-on vocals from Schorr.  The latter convincingly expresses Schorr’s political ethos with a
Sari Schorr unleashes a vocal tsunami
Townshend-esque lyric, set to a curious amalgam of a taut, Stonesy riff, like a slowed down ‘Jack Flash’, and a melody on the verse that brings to mind Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’ of all things. Whatever, it works.  And later, penultimate track ‘Freedom’ plays a similar lyrical card, with a literate rant laden with irony about the agenda of “bible and gun” as it whips up a righteous storm.
At the mid-point of the album, ‘Beautiful’ ushers in  a shift towards Diane Warren-ish AOR territory on some of the remaining songs, on which Schorr’s resonant voice takes on a remarkably Cher-like complexion at times.  ‘Beautiful’ itself is a ballad with a low key opening, and piercing guitar from Wilson as he adds another couple of well-pitched, emotive solos to the mix. ‘Turn The Radio On’ is musically in a more upbeat vein, although a tale of relationship pain and envy, with Schorr unleashing her voice on the chorus, while ‘Back To LA’ has a sunny feel, and a strong hook, over a snapping snare drum from Roy Martin.  Meanwhile Schorr’s vocal reaches tidal wave proportions at times, to the point where you could imagine ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ being next on the track list. 
In and around these big, glossy affairs, ‘Maybe I’m Fooling’ seems a bit slight, though it’s still appealing enough with its bumping rhythm and catchy chorus.  But the aforementioned ‘Freedom’ raises the roof again, with both Fridzema and Wilson letting rip, before Ian McLagan’s titular ‘Never Say Never’ rounds things out in restrained and soulful fashion – maybe a more downbeat conclusion than ideal for me, but still a strong song, with imagery that’s a good fit for Schorr’s style.
Never Say Never is an album that will grab you by the scruff of the neck and not let you go. I may prefer the blues’n’raunch side of it to the slicker, more constructed later songs, and I’d have liked a pinch more of the funkiness evident on A Force Of Nature to be added to the recipe somewhere.  But it is, quite simply, a bang-up job.  Schorr’s commitment to her material is absolute, the guitar fireworks from Ash Wilson are often stunning, and the musicianship from all concerned is top drawer.  And guess what, the album’s not even out yet and the gypsy queen is back out on the road. Go see her and enjoy this stuff live.

You can find Sari Schorr's tour dates here.
Never Say Never is released by Manhaton Records on 5 October.

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