Sunday, November 20, 2022

Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band - 105

KERRANG!  That seems to be the most apt descriptor for the thunderous squall of the intro to ‘Breaking The Stones’, the opening track on this new album by Scotland’s Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band.
And yep, if you’re after a hard rocking riff, then Gerry Jablonski’s your man.  There are plenty of ‘em on 105, from the grinding chords of the aforementioned ‘Breaking The Stones’, to the driving affair on the uptempo ‘Goddamn’, to the mean’n’nasty beast that rears its head on the dynamic ‘Heavy Water’.  And more besides.
Gerry Jablonski and chums get electrified
So yes, the Electric Band are a hard rock band.  But they’re not yer typical hard rock band, due
to the presence of harmonica blower Peter Narojczyk.  The prowling, electric intensity that Narojczyk offers on stage is difficult to get across on record, but his playing still adds a different dimension to the sound.  He shakes up the stuttering, Purple-esque riff of ‘Strange Love’ with an early harp break, and on the more relaxed Paul Kossoff tribute ‘Koss’ his shivering sound beefs up the chorus.  He complements the spiky guitar riff on ‘Tiny Thoughts’ in zig-zagging fashion, then shows that he can wail with the best of ‘em on ‘Goddamn’.  But he also brings a mournful, cowboy-like aspect to the intro of ‘Heavy Water’.
Sometimes though, his harp and Jablonski’s guitar feel like uneasy bedfellows.  Whereas harmonica lends itself easily to blues and rock’n’roll vibes, Jablonski has a penchant for more exotic guitar territory, illustrated by the closing ‘Dark Island’, on which he gives a romantic Scottish song from the 60s a positively ‘Star Spangled Banner’ solo guitar treatment.  He pulls that off with conviction, but the Van Halen-like squiggling of the solo on ‘Strange Love’ is an example where the tonal difference with the harp sound jars a little.  When they funk things up a bit on ‘Tiny Thoughts’ though, Jablonski’s zingy guitar solo and the call and response with Narojczyk’s harp work well together.
The Jablonski/Narojczyk axis isn't the be all and end all of GJEB, mind you.  The rhythm section of Lewis Fraser on drums and Grigor Leslie add plenty of muscle to the riffage, with the frothing bass and whip-cracking drums playing their part in making the bluesier rock of ‘Goddamn’ a standout.  Fraser also steps forward to share the elegiac lead vocals on ‘Hard Road’, a meditation on the Ukraine war on which all concerned demonstrate both sensitivity and power.  Meanwhile Grigor Leslie complements Jablonski’s spangly guitar with tastefully meandering bass on ‘Breaking The Code’, setting a romantic tone that’s reinforced by some trilling Narojsczyk harp and Jablonski’s best vocal.  And Fraser and Leslie also combine to provide notable backing vocals at times, including the Yardbirds-like choral segments on ‘Breaking The Stones’ and the harmonies that lead into and beef up the chorus of ‘Tiny Thoughts’.
The Electric Band never let songs outstay their welcome, I'm pleased to say, but now and then they have too many ideas for their own good.  The wah-wah guitar overdubs on ‘Strange Love’ and the martial coda on ‘Tiny Thoughts’ are both examples of unnecessary frills.  Sharpening their focus a bit would allow the essence to shine through more clearly.  But hey - the riffs, the musicianship and the intelligent lyrics on 105 are all quality fare.  Give it a whirl and see if it takes your fancy!
105 is released on 25 November, and can be ordered here.

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