Friday 25 May 2012

Jack White Showing His True Colours

With The White Stripes musical genius Jack White stepped into the spot lights. With The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather he already proved there's a lot more than just that duo. It's obvious this man is chuck full of ideas and is a musical carnivore. But only now he's releasing a solo album. First thing on any one's mind: what would it sound like when he's not restricted to a band's format?

Jack White - Blunderbuss (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

Somehow we knew that we could expect something good. But the song that preceded the record 'Love Interruption' didn't show anything extraordinary. It actually sounded really normal: an easy going country song. Fortunately this is just one of the many faces this record is showing. Jack White is using most of the spectrum available to him. Instead of choosing one direction he knows how to combine them and mend them together into one steaming album.

Yet it doesn't result in a wild mix of ideas. He knows how to keep it coherent since every song unmistakably bears his signature. From the swinging album opener 'Missing Pieces' to the hard rocking 'Sixteen Saltines', from the piano driven R&B song 'Trash Tongue Talker' to the psychedelic 'Take Me With You When You Go'. This record is giving you the best of everything. White is showing he doesn't need a band format to excel. He seems to feel comfortable in any environment. True genius will always reveal itself.

Listen to 'Blunderbuss' on Spotify.

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Tuesday 22 May 2012

Blaudzun's Enchantment

Photo courtesy of Mark Minkman

Singer Blaudzun released a great new album earlier this year. Heavy Flowers is filled with beautiful songs and a rich variety. For the Indiestad festival which is spread over several locations of Amsterdam, he was performing in a church. For some one who grew up in a religious environment like him, this promised to be a special experience.

Blaudzun at De Duif Amsterdam, May 14 2012

Photo courtesy of Nynke Sietsma

Right from the start he's using the not every day stage to its full extent. Singing 'Wolf's Behind The Glass' from the church's pulpit all by himself, without mic or other amplification, his voice sounds vulnerable but also strong at the same time. It's ringing through the big high church hall. The band starts playing while he's making his way to the stage. It was supposed to be an acoustic set but this is not really the case.

The band isn't playing in an average band setup though. Violin, cello, banjo are just some of the instruments used. It's not so weird that some of his songs are sometimes reminding of Arcade Fire. The band are playing fine but are never really excelling. It's Blaudzun who's making the difference. His voice and appearance are remarkable. He has become more relaxed on stage over the years. This makes his performance comfortable to watch.

'Flame In My Head', that appears early in the set, is even making people clap their hands to the beat. As an encore all band members gather at the front of the stage for a special version of 'Blindspot'. By this time everyone here tonight already is convinced: Blaudzun is a unique artist.

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01. Wolf's Behind the Glass
02. She's a Gentleman
03. Another Ghost Rocket
04. Monday
05. German Girls
06. Flame on my Head
07. Who Took the Wheel
08. We Both Know
09. Streetcorner
10. Heavy Flowers
11. Midnight Room
12. Sunshine Parade
13. The Choking Game
14. Solar
15. Blindspot
16. Elephants
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Wednesday 16 May 2012

A Day In Ghana With Ebo Taylor

The 76 year old Ebo Taylor from Ghana was almost forgotten. Despite an impressive career and extensive catalogue he became a name from the past. A rich past, since Taylor has been around for many years. In those years he worked with many top musicians. Fela Kuti probably is the most famous one among them. Fortunately the record label Strut noticed that the guitar player still has plenty of creativity and energy and released his album Love and Death world wide in 2010. This brought the attention back for Taylor and now he is considered a living legend.

Ebo Taylor - Appia Kwa Bridge (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
With Appia Kwa Bridge he is showing that he totally earns that title. The record is full of typical afrobeat, funk and highlife songs. Many African celebrities like Tony Allen, one of the founders of the afrobeat, and Oghene Kologbo, guitar player of Africa '70, contributed to the album. Afrobeat is the dominant style here without getting boring. Mostly they are cheerful songs, richly arranged and sometimes intimate as well. The album takes you to the colourful homeland of Taylor where he's taking you on a day trip.

Cheerfully we start the day with 'Ayesama'. Slowly the sun is climbing higher and the temperature rising with 'Nsu Na Kwan'. We're swinging along with 'Kruman Dey' after lunch, while we're opening the first cold refreshments of the day. Then the night is falling, but after dinner we continue dancing with Taylor in his birth place Saltpond. There we can find the small 'Appia Kwa Bridge' where it's time for reflection. Taylor is sitting down on the bridge and starts playing the heartbreaking 'Barrima' for his diseased wife.

The original sounding album is just as cheerful and friendly as the Ghanaian people. When you close your eyes you can see them dancing to the music. You smell the scent of wood fire with roasted chicken and can almost taste the palm wine. The sun is burning on your skin and you're feeling intense happiness. It doesn't matter any more what kind of weather it will be. With Appia Kwa Bridge you're bringing home the sun once and for all. We should thank Strut they prevented that we would forget about this great guitar player with his great songs and music.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Appia Kwa Bridge' on Spotify.

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Monday 14 May 2012

Hot Sweaty Rock Night With Drive Like Maria And Bombay Show Pig

A few years ago Drive Like Maria blew me away with their first album Elmwood. Great rock songs with big grooves and riffs played with a lot of energy. Live it sounded even better. Then it got quiet for a while but now they're back with a new album simply titled Drive Like Maria. They were gonna play a special 3voor12 showcase to present the album and I was one of the lucky ones to go. As a bonus Dutch duo Bombay Show Pig, who just released their exciting debut album Vulture/Provider, were the ones to warm us up.

Drive Like Maria/Bombay Show Pig at Desmet Studio's Amsterdam, May 10 2012

It wasn't really necessary to warm us up since the temperature in the small venue was already hitting tropical numbers. Nevertheless Bombay Show Pig turn the heat up some more. I've seen this duo a few times now and it's great to see them play with so much fire and pleasure. Their songs have a lot of variation and they use electronic effects in a very creative and playful way, giving the songs that little bit of extras. Even though they are only a duo and there's no real front man or woman, they still know how to keep an audience focused. Good songs, tight playing and a lot of musicality do the rest.

Watch full Bombay Show Pig show here on 3Voor12

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So by the time Drive Like Maria take to the stage we're already sweating our pants off. They don't give us time to cool down, but fly right into it. Of course many new songs come by, that sound more heavy than on the album that I already got to listen a few times. They don't always sound exaclty the same as on the album. That's a good thing and this way they mix very well with the older songs. 'Like A Train' and 'So' of course are still one of the favourites, but new songs 'Black Horses' and 'Ghostrider' could be fan favourites soon too. By bringing in drummer Bram van den Berg, singer Bjorn Awouters now only has to focus on guitar and vocals. This makes their performance even more lively and energetic. It looks like the band members are now interacting more.

Guitar player Nitzan Hoffmann is still an attraction by herself, with her screaming guitar licks and solos. In her lively performance she's going through some of the best rock poses, while getting the most out of her guitar. It's good to see that they have a wider sound on the album, exploring new directions, but at the same time know how to stay true to the soul of their sound. I hope I will see a lot more of both bands, maybe at the summer festivals. You can expect a review of both albums soon on this blog.

Watch full Drive Like Maria show here on 3Voor12

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Friday 11 May 2012

Alabama Shakes Is Shaking The Music World

A year ago hardly any one knew about Alabama Shakes. How things can chance, since they are the most hyped band at the moment. Full rooms at SXSW a few months ago, without even an album out. But here it is finally, Boys & Girls is hitting the stores. So are they over hyped or is this band from...Alabama of course, living up to it?

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

A mix of R&B and soul is what the band is playing. Nothing unique really. But the band is playing in a laid back manner and is doing it convincingly. Then Brittany Howard starts singing and it immediately grasps your attention. Her voice is so unique and powerful, it is perfect for this kind of music. The band knows exactly when to hold back and let the vocals do their job.

They create beautiful dynamics and tension where needed. The production is just right. It's not an overproduced record, but production is kept to a minimum instead. First track on the album and single 'Hold On' probably was the first introduction to Alabama Shakes for most people. It is showing exactly these elements. Take a listen to the rest of the album. 'Hang Loose' sounds really authentic but not outdated. Beautiful ballads like 'You Ain't Alone' and 'Heartbreaker' are chuck full of emotion. The brilliant soulful 'Be Mine' is followed by a hearty and exciting 'I Ain't The Same'.

Alabama Shakes are for once a band that fully live up to the hype. Their album is full of authentic and honest tracks, perfectly balanced. It may not be unique or original but the band puts so much heart in it and it all sounds really sincere. It's safe to say that this band will most probably be huge in a few years, since they sure haven't used up all of their potential. Far from it. Hopefully we can expect big things from them.

Listen to 'Boys & Girls' on Spotify.

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Tuesday 8 May 2012

Warming Up With Live Music On Liberation Day

At Liberation Day, every May 5th, we remember and celebrate that the allied forces liberated The Netherlands and ended the World War II for us in 1945. Many bands are playing all over the country. This year I was lucky that this day fell on Saturday, since it's only a Bank Holiday once every five years. There's always a nice line-up in Amsterdam that has a few stages scattered around the city centre. This year we watched Wooden Saints, Go Back To The Zoo, Sven Hammon Soul, Hit Me TV and the veterans of The Scene.
Wooden Saints

Go Back To The Zoo

Sven Hammond Soul

Hit Me TV

The Scene

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Friday 4 May 2012

Energy Boost With The Phantom Four & The Arguido

You may have read my review for the album from The Phantom Four & The Arguido. I got to see them without The Arguido as singer Rudeboy calls himself for this occasion. I got to see lead guitar player Frank Gerritsen aka Phantom Frank with The Arguido in an acoustic setting. But the ultimate combination is the whole bunch together. And that was finally gonna happen on one of Amsterdam's nicest squares De Nieuwmarkt that hosts the annual April celebrations days ahead of our national holiday Queen's Day. The Phantom Four & The Arguido at De Nieuwmarkt Amsterdam, April 27 2012

Before they start playing Phantom Frank announces they will play one set with Rudeboy and one set without him. They do start with the opening track 'The Arguido' which is instrumental as well. This gives Rudeboy the time to prepare and pump himself up. He jumps to the mic and fiercely starts singing in his usual way: somewhere in between singing and rapping. You can see this fires up the rest of the band as well and of course the crowd. In between songs he needs to grease his throat with some tea. Many years of touring with the Urban Dance Squad has taken its toll. Nevertheless his vocals are strong and the songs even sound more energized than on the album. Then it's time for The Arguido to take his well earned break and the band continues without him, the way their original line-up is. You can hear that without vocals they get more room to play their parts. These instrumental songs are more heavy on surfrock with Frank's great lead guitar riffs and solos. By now they already have won the crowd over and a pit has formed in front of the stage. This is pleasing the band and it's obvious they are enjoying themselves a lot. For the encore Rudeboy is invited back to the stage. With a ferocious The Ramones cover 'Havana Affair' it's game, set and match.

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