Review by Teresa Hopkins
Artist: MOTHER ROAD
Label: Road Songs/AOR Heaven
Release Date: May 23, 2014
01: The Sun Will Shine Again
02: Feather In Your Hat
03: Drive Me Crazy
04: Out Of My Mind
05: These Shoes
06: Dangerous Highway
07: Poor Boy (Long Way Out)
08: Dirty Little Secret
09: Blue Eyes
10: Still Rainin’
11: On My Way
Let’s take a little mind trip for a moment…
The oppressive heat of a mid-summer’s day exhausted you, but you’re feeling restless. You’re tired of just existing and want to have some fun. You go out to the garage and take the tarp off that old 1972 Chevelle SS 454 with the Centerline wheels and the Cherry Bombs. It’s been a while since you got the car out for a spin.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, you turn the key and amazingly, it fires right up. The faint scent of old Naugahyde and gasoline are slightly intoxicating, as is the sound of that big block motor glug, glug, glugging with a healthy idle. You want to feel what it can do again. Cruising through town and out of the hustle and bustle of the city, you turn on the stereo to find your go-to radio station is playing all of your favorites from Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, Free, Montrose, Bad Company, Rare Earth, Mountain, definitely early Whitesnake, and oh, yeah, Deep Purple, too, when Ian Gillan was with them.
Sundown over the horizon illuminates the long, straight stretch of road ahead. It’s a few miles to the next town, and there isn’t another car in sight. You rev the accelerator a little, let up off the clutch, and then floor it. The jolt of the torque makes you a little shaky in the knees as the four-barrel opens and the engine roars. What a rush!—as you and the machine are one, almost flying, and you have never felt so free.
DRIVE is everything that first made me fall in love with Rock & Roll! We might venture out a bit in musical taste and exploration, but we always enjoy coming back home. This is a wonderful time to be a classic rock fan if you’re open to checking out some new music. It makes me proud to have had the privilege of growing up during the era of music that MOTHER ROAD respectfully and unabashedly celebrates with a modern flair here in the 21st Century.
You know how you’ll think of an old song or hear it on the radio out of the blue, and it just has that special something that has lasted the test of time and still gives you goosebumps? The songs on DRIVE are so good—musically, lyrically, and in their delivery—that they come off like instant classics. They’ll remind you at times of some of your favorite bands, singers, and songs, but as soon as you think you’ve nailed which one, they switch it up. Their performance is authentic, though, and the more I listened, I felt that the songs were simply and honestly the result of playing what naturally came out. I believe that DRIVE is an album that can stand alongside the classics in its own merit. The whole album, while evoking an era past, has such a fresh and lively feel to it. The production and mix, which they handled themselves, are very well done—I couldn’t pick out anything that I would personally change.
Chris Lyne (SOUL DOCTOR, HEARTLYNE, LIZZY RELOADED) has the sort of electrifying sparkle in his playing and his tone that I’ve always loved about guys like Gary Moore, Ronnie Montrose, John Sykes, and the list goes on. He is the sole guitarist in the band, and he rises to the challenge. But he makes it seem effortless; to me it sounds like he is just reveling in the joy of playing with such emotion, attitude, and versatility. (I’m going to have to check out all of his other stuff now…!)
Keith Slack (MUDPIE, MSG, STEELHOUSE LANE) has, in my opinion, the quintessential golden voice of true Rock & Roll today.
I’ve read that he started out in music playing the drums. Well, whoever talked the man into picking up a microphone should be commended. His voice, smoky, soulful and powerful, is smooth deep in the low ranges and had just the right amount of growl and rasp when he gets up there in the scale. The man sounds so much like classic David Coverdale at times, he’s liable to find Tawny Kitaen slithering across the hood of his car! And I would not be surprised.
It sounds like the spirit of Jon Lord has graced Alessandro Del Vecchio (EDGE OF FOREVER, EDEN’S CURSE, HARDLINE, SILENT FORCE), who seems to channel him easily at times. Alessandro’s work in the aforementioned bands is impressive, but I don’t think we’d heard the best of him until now. I dare you to listen to him play that B3 like a boss or tickle the ivories with a Calloway flair and not get goosebumps. This is what’s been missing in great rock music for a long, long time.
Any time I’ve seen Zacky Tsoukas (SOUL DOCTOR, ERRORHEAD) play is every bit as fascinating as listening to him. He’s all over that set of drums with a wonderfully energetic skill, style, and precision, dazzling the casual fans and the impressionable hopefuls. Guys like Ian Paice and John Bonham were some of his favorites growing up, and I’ve no doubt he could hold his own with them.
Frank Binke (KINGDOM COME, SOUL DOCTOR) has a warm, smooth, vintage sound with some funky rock grooves, perfectly holding down the bottom end with finesse. His bass playing is the perfect complement to his bandmates and the music they’ve created.
Already in the brief time I’ve written for Metal Shock Finland, it seems I’ve developed a little habit of sounding like that old commercial: “If you like that, you’ll LOVE this!” If I’m introducing a new band that you might not have yet heard, though, I want to entice you to give them a listen too. Being an audiophile, this is the simplest way for me to do so.
Sometimes the comparisons are inevitable—and that’s not at all intended as a bad thing. I mean it as the highest compliment, because if a band can get me this excited about music now, I can hardly wait to hear what they will put together in the future. This assembly of talented musicians really hit the mother lode with MOTHER ROAD, for here is where the radiance of their individual and collective artistry really shows.
“The Sun Shines Again” begins with some real knockout acoustic guitar, and I think my ears are tricking me. Did somebody discover some old lost tapes of Led Zeppelin recordings never before released? Not sure—the production is too crisp and clear on this. Before I can really figure it out though, the song powerfully kicks in and Plant (Slack) suddenly morphs into some kind of Gillan-Coverdale rock beast, his voice suddenly more soulful with a rich smooth vibrato that makes me grip my seat as the pedal goes to the floor. Lord, have mercy! We’re in for a wild ride!
“Feather In Your Hat” reminds me of Grand Funk Railroad, and why I had such a wild crush on Mark Farner when I was in Kindergarten. (Hey, I was no fool…) So yeah, I’m rather fond of it. This is a catchy tune with some funky grooves, interesting variation in the percussion and timings, and great flashy licks on a Les Paul with a sweet bite. (I could be wrong, but I think I hear a Gretsch in there somewhere and maybe in a few other songs too…and that’s always a good thing to me.)
“Drive Me Crazy” is hot stuff. It makes me envision Ian Gillan and Mick Ralphs hanging out for a jam session. If there were a sequel of sorts for Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, this one would pick up where that one left off and things would heat up from there. I adore the way Chris Lyne’s little bluesy fills hit those high notes that just pull at my soul as they talk back with some sass to Slack’s vocals, teasing and creating vivid imagery of the dance of anticipation and passion. This is probably my favorite on the album.
Under the spell of love, lust, and desire, “Out Of My Mind” is the classic ‘hurts so bad, but it feels so good’ tale that makes for a great rock song.
“These Shoes” reflects the perspective of one who might be afraid of falling too hard, getting in too deep, and losing who he really is. But the pull is so strong, even beyond the physical plane. It’s a solid, smooth, and steady rocker that might have easily fit among the tracks on Whitesnake’s Slide It In.
Del Vecchio’s Leslied-B3 intros “Dangerous Highway”, warming up the feeling and the power for this terrific driving tune. He and Lyne take turns front and center on “Poor Boy (Long Way Out)”, a tune that might remind you a little of some royalty from down Louisiana way…
“Dirty Little Secret” is a slower, sultry, moth-to-the-flame tale with a bit of a darker feel and some lively fretwork from Lyne.
A nice southern rock feel, easy tempo, and soaring guitar solo make “Blue Eyes” an instantly memorable ballad, remembering vividly and poignantly the one that got away.
I’m not sure who to call Boss on “Still Rainin’”–it has a terrific classic R&B feel to it. Chris’ guitar stands up to Alessandro’s piano and B3 which are featured for the main lead break of the song. Nice way to spice it up and variate. I like Frank’s bass lines and chords and the wall of soulful background vocals that really add to the feel and the appeal of the song.
“On My Way” seems to wind down the adventure just as it began with some more Led Zep flavor for the first verse and chorus.
The middle of the song gives us one more kick into passing gear with Lyne displaying another facet of his impressive versatility on the slide guitar for a nice southern feel, before finishing the album off on a great note.
The only thing I didn’t like about the album was when it was over. So I played it again. And again.
DRIVE is an impressive introduction to the band MOTHER ROAD. I’m so glad that they are carrying the torch for the timeless music our generation will continue to enjoy and share with the next. And so begins the journey again.
I highly recommend that you go out and buy your own copy, put it in your stereo, roll down the windows, and enjoy it for yourself.
Flawless. Utterly delicious.
Band Members (L to R):
Alessandro Del Vecchio: Piano, Keyboards, Background Vocals
Chris Lyne: Guitars
Keith Slack: Lead Vocals
Athanasios “Zacky” Tsoukas: Drums, Percussion
Frank Binke: Bass Guitar
For news and updates, visit their page at https://www.facebook.com/themotherroad