Here at AD PONTES Staines we have been big fans of the contemporary blues-rock outfit ALBANY DOWN since 2010. We saw the young band play a gig in the HOBGOBLIN and later we described their live performance thus: “hot as volcanic ash and yet as cool as snow slippers…”
We have watched, with interest, their evolution as a band, ever since. There is something about their truth, honesty and commitment that thrills our heart. We have been praying that they get the acknowledgement they richly deserve and move up to the next level.
We highly rated their “Not Over Yet” album which, we thought, spanned the gap between vintage era blues and the contemporary definition of blues rock. Of that album, we said — “bursting with ambition and verve…” and we have been looking forwards to hearing “The Outer Reach” the new album [to be released 10th June] once again produced by Greg Haver.
We have already discussed their new single, taken from the album, and titled “Feeding the Flame” which we decided had “cobra-kissed darkness hiding deep in each cranny…” This week we listened to the rest of the OUTER REACH album —
After the impressive drama of “Feeding the Flame” with the crystalline voice of Paul Muir pulled über-tight with the effort of agitated nervous tension, and with the serpentine “Ritchie Blackmore” sounding guitars from Paul Turley [the whole album has a certain familiar “Stormbringer” feel to it…] we arrive in more familiar Albany Down territory with “Do You Want Me Now.”
This tells the story of a couple trying to adjust their connection. It has fluttering riffs, sliced-through with acid-clean breaks, with the sputtering frizzle of energizing rhythms (cleverly articulated by Donna Peters on drums and Billy Dedman on bass) and with palpable tension played out in every note. This song reminds us of the kind of material produced by “Straight Shooter” era Bad Company.
“Supersonic Girl” is a funky little teenage romance number. With happy clappyness found in every line. This is princely and light. It even has some greasy keyboards and, perhaps surprisingly, a fat-brass sound. The squelch from the guitar will cause a purr to ripple through your heart.
“Mr Hangman” is the kind of song that we expect from Albany Down. There’s that adamant riff and the sun-baked dessication we look for in Southern-tinged blues. This is a thirsty anthem about the unlikely integrity of an outlaw. So it will go down well with bikergangs and their chicks. This evokes strip bar glide-pasts, desert highway romances, and a free spirited desperado lifestyle.
“Like A Bullet” lies at the very heart of this fabulous album. Albany Down always include at least one incredibly ambitious and progressivly developing hard rock masterpiece. And here’s one for the “Outer Reach.”
This song is about obsessive, bittersweet love. The song clamps a hold on your heart right from the opening bars, before expanding wonderfully before you. The songcraft incorporates strong emotion, dark moods and spontaneous anger bites.
The dark notes hint at sadness and loss. This is cleverly stylistic, perhaps even bombastic, but never feels pompous or extravagant. One gets the feeling that, in the Albany Down world, anguish and fever are a constant state of mind. So they are allowed their dramatic releases.
The album ends with the jewel-like slow tempo, rhythm and blues-inspired ballad “Sing Me to Sleep.” Like the album opener, this song has cinematic quality and presents some of the best vocals we have ever heard from Paul. And, of course, when the blue-paper is touched, you better stand back … because the guitarwork is magnificently uplifting and screams with emotion. Still want something more? How about an “I Am the Walrus” fade-out coda ? Perfect.
Yes, there is joyful melancholy here — songs about unrequited love and suffering losses — but also expect electricity, magic and turbocharged theatrics.
For fans of Bad Company, Led Zeppelin or Free.
Words & Images: © Neil Mach
Pre-order this album at Albany Down’s own site here: https://store.albanydown.com/Shop/
LIVE DATES below video