Hot Wax Album Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR – Feb. 5, 2023

RUSH! Maneskin (Sony) ****

This is the third album for this Italian quartet, a global rock sensation that combines a hard pop sound with danceable rhythms for maximum effect.  Rush is, as Evening Standard notes, “their grandstanding attempt to conquer the rest of the world”, and they just might pull it off.

This 17 track set was recorded in LA, Italy and Tokyo.  Featuring both English and Italian tracks, Rush also includes a handful of previously released singles.  The sound of the record is dense, thick and chewy, a totally in-your-face modern rock record.  Produced by Max Martin and Fabrizio Ferraguzzo, special guest Tom Morello (Audioslave, Rage Against The Machine, Prophets of Rage) is on the atomically charged Gossip- his guitar work is unmistakable.

To celebrate the new album, Maneskin’s 4 members- Damiano David, Victoria de Angelis, Thomas Raggi and Ethan Torcho- threw a ‘wedding’ in Rome, where the band formed, symbolically tying the knot in a four-way marriage, an over the top event to mark Rush’s release before embarking on a mostly sold out European tour.  I confess the sheer sound of this thing is damn near irresistible.  Sheer sonics aside and a calculated pop acumen, there is some straight up rock muscle at play and a certain punk snottiness in tracks like Blah Blah Blah that brought me down off the fence to give this thing a thorough listen and perhaps reconsider my usual view that all modern pop music is prefab crap with no soul.  Rush is actually quite catchy.

The band has been rightly praised as “a genuine force, rejuvenating rock & roll for the younger generation”, making music that appeals to a younger and older demographic at the same time.  Maneskin began busking on the streets of Rome as teenagers and now, just a few years later, they’re a razor tight group of musicians that appear on the cusp of something much bigger than just fame in their home country.  They’ve been going down a storm at major festivals like Lollapalooza and Rock in Rio- I think the world is ready for Maneskin.

HOT TRACKS:  Gasoline, Gossip (with Tom Morello), Blah Blah Blah

IF SOMEBODY TOLD ME Delta Wires (independent) ****+

Delta Wires, longtime mainstays of the San Francisco/ Bay area blues scene, have just released a terrific new album.  If Somebody Told Me, out January 24th, is the kind of rollicking, good time, well-played blues we expect from groups like Downchild and hey, there’s plenty of room for everyone at this banquet table.

If Somebody Told Me is more of what we like about Delta Wires; tight playing and highly polished horns along with some wailing harp and fine blues guitar.  The disc is a combination of originals and  a few nods to the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson and even a Count Basie number.  Finalists in the 2008 in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this band has shared stages and rubbed shoulders with a number of legends, from Van Morrison to Buddy Guy to Bad Company and more.  In a case like Delta Wires, I’m pretty confident in judging them by the company they keep.

Delta Wires are a septet led by singer/ harmonica player Ernie Pinata- Robert Plant he isn’t, but his voice has a warmth that really brings this stuff across; plus he’s a great harp player.  The band is rounded out by Tom Gerrits on bass, Richard Healey on guitar, Tony Huszar on drums with the horn section of David Bowman (trombone) John Christensen (trumpet) and Caleb Murray (sax). If Somebody Told Me can rightly be classified as good time party blues, with a joyous vibe that makes every night feel like Friday night.  The title track is a blues ballad designed to feature Healey’s guitar, Can’t Win For Losin’ is about the ups and downs of having a band in a competitive place like the Bay area, I Tried is a tribute to Duke Records and the music of Larry Davis, while Bring Me Up has a real Big Joe Turner feel.  Want some great harp work?  Check out Pinata’s playing on Hand Out of My Pocket-outstanding!

If Somebody Told Me is a real blue collar, working man’s blues band experience.  Cross Downchild with The Powder Blues Band, and that gets you pretty close to what this disc is like.  I’m very much looking forward to sharing some of these tracks on my blues radio show.

HOT TRACKS:  Sloppy Drunk, If Somebody Told Me, Hand Out Of My Pocket

HOW MANY ROADS?  Lex Grey & The Urban Pioneers (independent) ****

Here is the 8th album for these New York practitioners of the Big Apple’s rock, blues and burlesque revival.  How Many Roads is a musically mesmerizing trip of personal reflection and wild journeys, largely blues-based- an uplifting and satisfying listening adventure.

Guitarist/ singer Lex Grey brings a wealth of wild  life experience (bartender, telephone psychic animal rescue assistant) to her music, and was recently inducted into the New York State Blues Hall Of Fame as a “Master Rock and Blues Artist”.   Her voice is expressive and unique, giving these musical tales a sort of street level grittiness. There are lots of textures and depths to deal with; Ain’t From Mississippi is a straight up blues, After A Lifetime talks about adoptee Lex’s discovery of her birth family, Biker Down is about the loss of a friend in a senseless accident, and several other tunes reflect a country divided and the search for love, connection and common ground… something on everybody’s mind to be sure.  So yeah- there’s much more to these blues than “Oo baby you done me wrong”, though you’ll find a bit of that too.

Lex Grey & The Urban Pioneers are celebrated for their “skillful blend of tortured soul, poetic prose and jaw dropping vocals” (not unlike Tina Turner in her glory days)  as they weave a diverse collection of genres together with an unmistakable thread of blues.  Lots of musicians involved in bringing this thing together, and producer/ guitarist/ engineer Vic “Mix” Deyglio (Guns n Roses, Lena Horne, Spin Doctors) gives the record an earthy yet spacious sound- perfect for such an emotionally diverse collection of material. Lex’s songwriting has been compared to Tom Waits and I can hear that in songs like Aches & Pains. 

How Many Roads is an album with guts, heart and soul, not unlike an old Neil Young record but with wayyy better singing.  Once you put this on, good luck taking it off.

HOT TRACKS:  Aches and Pains, Biker Down, Ain’t From Mississippi

2 MAKE U CRY AND DANCE Electric Mob (Frontiers) *****

This is the second record for these Brazilian rockers and it’s a killer. I know it sounds like a Prince album title and the band name like some pre-fab pop band, but as 2 Make U Cry And Dance makes apparent in short order, these guys have come rock and they do… hard.

I almost passed on their 2020 debut because of the band name, but gave it a spin on a whim and was delightfully shocked.  2 Make U Cry is a modern take on classic bluesy hard rock with soulful musicianship and powerful vocals.  It’s usually one of the other, but there is metal riffery a-plenty and the album grooves like crazy.  When you hear they’re from Brazil you think maybe computer pop with salsa rhythms, but Electric Mob are like early Zeppelin as opposed to Santana or Antonio Carlos Joabim.  Their affection for the power of classic rock is immediately evident and, being of my ‘vintage’ (ahem), might be why I connect with this so strongly.

Electric Mob are Renan Zonta (vocals), Ben Hur Auwarter (guitar), Yuri Elero (bass) and Andre Leister (drums) and they lean into each song as if their very lives depend on it.2 Make U Cry, like Discharge in 2020, is a sonic punch in the face that will leave you bloody and asking for more.  It’s like rock & roll from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s all happening at the same time, energetic and physical in the way that great music often is.  It lifts you up and makes you want to take on the world, giving you a boost like shot-gunning an energy drink.  Load your body with chemicals if you want, but when I feel the need to get up and get down to business to get some shit done, this is the album that can do it for me.  EXCELLENT stuff.

HOT TRACKS:  Locked N Loaded, Sun Is Falling Down, It’s Gonna Hurt


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