Hot Wax Album Reviews by the ROCK DOCTOR Sept. 21, 2022

PATIENT NUMBER 9 Ozzy Osbourne (Epic) ****

It’s getting late in the day for this Prince Of Darkness, his age combined with recent health problems do not bode well.  Color me pleasantly surprised to find Patient Number 9 to be good, and shockingly so.  It’s Osbourne’s 13th studio album and easily his best since No More Tears.

I was skeptical going in.  The albums since 1991’s No More Tears were little more than exercises in cool production techniques and 2020’s Ordinary Man, while well intentioned, didn’t exactly set the world on fire… and Andrew Watt was returning as producer.  The use of several different ‘star’ guitarists seems like stunt casting, a desperate attempt by an aging rock star to get some attention. That might be the case, but the results are impressive.

Patient Number 9 is Ozzy’s most engaging record in decades.  Watt’s production is beefy but not overpowering, and using different guitar players has resulted in a variety of textures and tones.  Jeff Beck contributes solos to 2 songs as does Tony Iommi, who appears on one of Ozzy’s albums for the first time.  Other guitarists include Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and longtime sidekick Zakk Wylde plays on several tracks too.  With Black Rain (2007) and Scream (2010) Osbourne was just a cog in the machine, but this is the most ‘Ozzy’ he has sounded in a VERY long time, a blast of fresh yet familiar air.

If radio singles were still a genuine big deal, Patient Number 9 has several tracks that have huge potential.  Ozzy is singing better than he has in years- leagues better than he did on Black Sabbath’s swansong 13 certainly and the songs are melodically engaging with each guitar player bringing something special to the table. Osbourne also has the good sense not to stray too far from what the fans expect.  To pull an album like this out of his hat at such a late stage is a towering artistic achievement.  The song No More Tears is my favorite thing Ozzy has ever done solo, but I’d put Dead And Gone from the new record right next to it.

When I first heard 2020’s Ordinary Man I thought “eh, it’s okay” but Patient Number 9 blew my doors off from the very first spin- best $22 plus shipping I’ve spent in quite a while.

HOT TRACKS:  Dead and Gone, Degradation Rules (with Tony Iommi), Immortal (with Mike McCready)

THREE SIDES OF ONE King’s X (Inside Out) *** ¾

This is, I think, the 13th studio album from King’s X.  Three Sides Of One, their first in 14 years (!!) is pretty much what their fans want and expect; Dug Pinnck’s soulful vocals and understated bass lines, with superior rock drumming from Jerry Gaskill and lots of inspiring guitar workouts from Ty Tabor.  It’s tough, it’s dreamy, it’s groove-centric and it feels really good.

I’ve been a fan since 1990’s Faith Hope Love, and when reviewing 1994’s Dogman referred to them as “Metallica meets The Beatles”.  Their attention to detail when it comes to three part vocal harmonies is uncommon in hard rock, and the musicianship on display is top shelf.  This is such a great band one has to wonder why they aren’t huge.  In a recent interview bassist/ main vocalist Dug Pinnick said that the band has never made money and that all three guys have to do ‘other things’ to make ends meet.  It may or may not have something to do with the band’s name which has led some to mistake them for Christian rockers (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but they seem to exist between the cracks while lesser talents laugh all the way to the bank.

A review of Three Sides Of One on calls it “classy, intelligent, powerful stuff”, and in terms of the King’s X discography I’d put it next to Dogman and Ear Candy.  The album was produced by Michael Parnin at Blacksound Pasadena in 2019, 2020 and 2021 thanks, no doubt to the pandemic.  For a record laid down over such a lengthy period it sounds and feels focused.  They get our attention right off the bat with a prototypical King’s X rocker in Let It Rain.  The leadoff track and first single, before settling down into what the band does best; take a sonic and lyrical journey with several tangents and moods that always manage to feel like them.

Pinnick and Gaskill are a meat ‘n’ taters rock rhythm section, existing in each other’s pockets as if they’re joined at the hip.  Tybor is an excellent guitarist with great feel, and while nothing here matches the manic intensity of his solo on Monajam from 1990, there is still lots to sink our teeth into.  This far into their career (over 30 years) King’s X can still pull out a casually excellent record like Three Sides.  They may not be a household name but unlike many of their contemporaries they’ve never, ever put out a bad record.  Is this their best yet?  No- but it’s definitely in their top 5.  Gotta give it just one more spin before I turn in for the night.

HOT TRACKS:  Let It Rain, Nothing But The Truth, Swipe Up

BURN IT ALL DOWN Lauren Anderson (independent/CPI) ***

Lauren Anderson’s 3rd album is a rough and tumble charmer.  Burn It All Down is a scorching set from this singer/ songwriter and blues disciple, powered by gritty vocals. Originally from Chicago she counts a wide array of female singers as influences that you can hear in the music- Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Joss Stone among them.

Lauren began classical piano lessons at age 8, was an active member of several choirs, and began taking classical voice lessons in high school.  She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in music with an emphasis on voice and originally planned on being an opera singer, but realized rock and soul music were more her style… lucky for us.

Burn It All Down has an intentional and endearing scruffiness to it thanks to production by Lauren, her band, and Taylor Lonardo.  There’s a few different vibes on display, from the reggae-tinged Never Too Late down to the rousing Zombie Blues (with Albert Castiglia guesting on guitar) where she threatens to “eat you alive”- all in all a rollicking good time. “My goal in live performance is to offer people a good time, but also to give them something that will resonate long after” Lauren says. “I enjoy the exuberance and joy in making music but I also like sharing the backstories of my songs as well as the emotions and experiences that allow people to relate and connect in ways they can appreciate and understand.” There’s a looseness on the album that is seems a good indication of what her stage shows must be like, a real ‘live off the floor’ feel that not nearly enough records have these days.

Making A Scene sums up Ms. Anderson and the gifts waiting for you on this disc in saying she “stakes her claim as an ever-evolving songwriter whose music modernizes and reinterprets the bluesy, boundary-breaking females who came before her.”  There’s a sass in her delivery that reminds me of Beth Hart, though perhaps not quite as intense.  Burn it All Down is an intoxicating blend of blues and soul with traces of funk. The production is solid without being fussy, and Lauren’s voice can’t help but draw you in to listen closer.  When she opens her mouth to sing you can feel the heat and the passion, so yeah… it’s time to Burn It All Down.

HOT TRACKS:  Hit The Spot, Fool, Burn It All Down

BRASS Brass Camel (independent) ****+

These rockers hail from Vancouver, Brass is their debut, and it’s a beautiful thing.  Progressive might be the easiest way to describe them as they weave through adventurous arrangements with fierce determination while having a total blast.  No wonder they’re Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar)’s favorite Canadian band.

If you dig Rush, Queen, 10CC, Supertramp, Kansas and Muse, Brass Camel belongs in your collection.  They aren’t just hard rock warriors either- the wah guitar in Pressure Cooker has a distinct Shaft flavor, King For A Day has a 10CC art rock feel to it, there’s the spacey blues of Only Love, and prog fans will really sink their teeth into the Yes-iness of I’ve Got The Fox. They rock and groove like mad bastards, but not always in a straight line.  The website photos of the band only shows three guys but this is a full band sound.  Live photos show three guys up front (2 guitars, bass) as well as a drummer, so I wonder how they pull off the keyboards on stage.  Brass sounds like one hell of an album to put across in a live setting.

When it comes to rock & roll my taste is blues-based and essentially basic, but I also appreciate a band like Brass Camel that goes right to the edge and peers over. What they do on their debut contains echoes of the bands mentioned above, groups that I love too.  Brass Camel has a sense of fearlessness that you can’t help but get caught up in, yet they aren’t just weird for the sake of being weird.  There’s some straight ahead rock greatness here, yet a song like Easy is like the greatest Supertramp song you never heard.  I guess that’s the beauty of Brass; you can never be entirely sure of what to expect from one track to the next.  As Beatroute Magazine says on the Brass Camel website, “Though influence is apparent, Brass Camel is still totally fresh, unique and original… it’s a technical musician’s dream that leaves you wanting more.”

In an age when music has become maddeningly predictable, you just gotta sit up and take notice when a band like Brass Camel comes along. Brass ties in beautifully with so many bands and songs that I already enjoy but it’s a totally fresh and thrilling adventure at the same time.  These guys show no fear and this album is the BALLS.  Rock & roll is exciting again.

HOT TRACKS:  Pressure Cooker, I’ve Got The Fox, Easy

YOU SHOCKED ME Bob Corritore & Friends (SWMAF Records/Vizztone Label Group) *****

Nobody can take you all the way back home like Bob Corritore can. You Shocked Me is an all-star blues showcase for Bob and some of his friends, 16 killer tunes and spirited performances, captured during 12 recording sessions between 2018 and 2022.  Produced by Corritore in his masterfully understated style with the energy of live performances, this is as authentic as it gets.

You Shocked Me has a vintage yet timeless feel that readily appeals to your average blues fan.  Featured vocalists include longtime collaborators Alabama Mike (4 songs), soul/ blues/ gospel icon Johnny Rawls, Bill “Howl ‘N’ Madd” Perry, Sugaray Rayford, Diunna Greenleaf, Jimi “Primetime” Smith, Oscar Wilson, Bob Stroger, Francine Reed and Willie Buck… yet with such a wide range of singers the album maintains a cool purity of vision and sound.  I was too young to experience the initial rush of blues resurgence in the 60’s, listening to the Beatles and Doors records my older siblings were bringing home, but putting You Shocked Me on makes me wish I could time travel back and dive into the scene head first.

The blues is an honest, straightforward and simple form of musical expression.  You Shocked Me deals with some timeless topics here like love and lust, plus politics (more or less) on a song like The World’s In A Bad Place.  In other words, these are songs about life.  The feel of the performances is at least as important as the lyrical conceits, perhaps moreso. You won’t hear any wanking or overplaying- Corritore’s harmonica is a part of every song, but his expressive “serve the song” playing ethic is the glue that holds everything together, whether it’s a slow burning blues or something more jaunty like Work To Be Done.

As soon as you throw You Shocked Me on, one of the first things you’ll think is “these guys are the real deal”.  Bob’s overdriven harp and the way the band just naturally grooves away like it ain’t no thang is refreshing.  There’s lots of modern blues and blues artists that I really dig, but when I’m thirsty for a taste of a more historic sound, I’ll reach for this gem.  You Shocked Me is a bluesy blast.

HOT TRACKS:  Train Fare, The World’s In A Bad Situation, Blues For Hippies

I DON’T NEED YOU BigN (bandcamp) *** ½

Gene Simmons has said more than once that ‘rock is dead’, but no doubt he was referring to it as a business model for young ‘uns to aspire to.  When it comes to the music it’s very much alive and thriving, thanks to artists like BigN.  For some, the guitar driven Brit power pop sound with a tongue in cheek punk attitude could be a turn off, but that’s exactly what makes I Don’t Need You a whole bunch of fun to listen to.

There’s no point trying to glean serious information from the press info or their bandcamp page.  This is a direct copy of what it says;

Using state of the art recording techniques in a derelict, council swimming pool with a tin can percussion section and 25 kazoos, the album ‘I Don’t Need You’ knows no equal when it comes to recreating the sound of a stone caught under a door on a slate floor.
It’s been described loosely as Back in Black meets The White Album, others have said it’s more like The Annoying Orange meets Pee Wee Herman. Who’s right? You decide!

So, attitude firmly established, what’s the music like?  Is it any good? Does it rock?  Well, yeah.  The immediate comparison that comes to mind is Dire Straits crossed with early Kinks and/or Marc Bolan with jangly guitars and a simple, propulsive and occasionally loopy psychedelic energy that recalls the late 60’s.  There’s also something catchy and hooky about the songs too, though on second thought calling them ‘guitar driven power pop’ does them a disservice.  You’ll hear some string sounds in the background- synth generated probably- that lend an air of faux seriousness or playful pomposity, not really sure on that.

I Don’t Need You, at the end of the day is a well-played and energetic disc that would’ve sounded good on the store system in the movie version of High Fidelity with all the hipsters nodding and bobbing their heads knowingly, maybe even dancing between the record racks.  It starts out strong and then grows on you, which is a good sign.  The album doesn’t come out until November 20th, but pre-order it now on BigN’s Bandcamp page and get 5 tracks right away.

HOT TRACKS:  The Spooky Spoons, Nothing Will Change, I Don’t Need You


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