Sunday, October 16, 2011

Voodoo Highway - Broken Uncle's Inn - A Fabulous First Album

I don't exactly remember how Voodoo Highway entered my consciousness, but I do remember that they hit it like a ton of bricks and wearing a big grin. It was some sort of social media meeting, and I immediately decided that these upstarts were the best all new hard rock band to hit the world scene in several seasons. Busting out out of Italy (Italy?) this band wears its influences like a badge, but they do it damned honorably, and with some balls.

Here is a bit of what the world is saying:

"The new movement of heavy metal has arrived! This band is the next Deep Purple!" (Craig Gruber, former bassist from Rainbow, and Gary Moore)

"Just one word for this band: "Brilliant"!" (VH1 Channel)

"Best thing to come out of Italy since Super Mario!" (Classic Rock Channel)

Personally, I call them the best thing to come out of Italy since Gina Lollabrigida, but I get it. I agree with all of the above, and actually think that these guys are just getting started. They are a young band, and I expect that their next long player will blow this one away, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about Broken Uncle's Inn, which is one hell of a good hard rock record.

Much has been said about the obvious Deep Purple connection as the band's key influence, and that is certainly no mistake. This album would have fitted rather nicely in between Blackmore's exit, and the entry of Tommy Bolin. Had these guys have hit the states in 1975 they would now be legends. They would have had their own Starship, and a trail of groupies from here to there, and back again. They exhibit none of the whiny shit I hear from today's radio rock, and all of the chest beating beauty of the classic English hard rockers. However, I must say that while they use the Purple template, it never comes across as plagiarism, but rather like genuine love and respect.

Opener Til It Bleeds is a great example. The band pulls every shade of Purple out of their playbook, and you've never been happier to hear the return of a familiar sound in a new wrapper. From a beautifully wailing Hammond organ to the staccato Strat/Marshall intro of the guitar solo, they certainly show that they learned their lessons well. Everyone in the band pulls their weight brilliantly, especially lead vocalist Federico De Marco, who keeps things from getting too influenced by the past - he has plenty of power and a great range. 

Anthemic power rock is on tap with The Fire Will Burn Away, and I can see arenas full of pumping fists along with a huge sing-a-long chorus. This is much less Purple and more 80s riff rock. Yeah, these fellows would have been high up on past bills at Reading and Donington, and I hope they hit the European festival scene hard next summer. This music will blow away fans of classic rock and metal. Guitarist Matteo Bizzarri tears this one up with scorching hot riffs and a lovely wah fueled solo.

If there was ever a song that kept an album out of Walmart, it would have to be J.C. Superfuck! While incredibly politically incorrect, the rock on display here is amazingly correct. This tune sounds like a slightly pornographic, and hugely blasphemous version of Chinn/Chap bands such as, The Sweet, who owned the British charts for much of the early 70s. The tones and dynamic interplay at work here is right on the mark - Voodoo Highway is always on the mark with what they deliver.

The band never sounds like upstarts - they consistently display great taste in what they play, and how they interact. The keyboards are always driving things, along with a splendid performance by now departed drummer Lorenzo Gollini. This is more rock solid riffing than virtuosity, and they wisely kept things focused on the songs and arrangements for their debut. I'm guessing in the future we'll see more histrionics, but believe me, their is plenty of great playing going on in every cut. Bassist Filippo Cavallini supplies great playing on every track, and also provides fantastic vocals throughout.

Window kicks off with some nice keyboard wizardry from Allesandro Duo', whose playing across the whole of the album is nothing less than superb - the best straight up rock and roll organist since Jon Lord. This one almost encroaches upon prog rock, but with a thunderous drum track that keeps it in the realm of harder rock. A great fucking tune. Di Marco's vocals are acrobatic and always very melodic. This might show the band off better than any track here, and I'd guess this is where the band's true strengths may lie.

YouTube is the new rock hit radio, and Running Around is the band's 'hit' at this point, and it's immediately apparent why. This is just cool, cool rock and roll. It's a fast paced rocker that will have you singing along on the first go 'round.

If Steve Harris had hired an organ player instead of a second guitarist, the album's title track, Broken Uncle's Inn would have been perfect for Iron Maiden's first album. Sophisticated changes and another strong melody - these guys do some great vocal work, and they make it sound easy and natural every time. A young band with great songwriting chops, what's not to like?

Heaven With No Stars is another fabulous showcase for keyboardist Alssandro Duo', as well as a masterful vocal performance by Di Marco, who shows on this piano based ballad that he has skills that extend beyond big rock vocalizing - much of this tune is reminiscent of early David Bowie, no small compliment. The arrangement is sensational in it's scope and it also features a lovely acoustic guitar solo by Bizzarri. Voodoo Highway is much more than just an exceptional crotch rock ensemble, they have a great many tricks up their sleeves, and this bodes very well for their future.

A seriously slamming swing between the bass and drums opens up Gasoline Woman, and it's back to the rock - and yet another new flavor. This is big and expansive riffing, with Di Marco wailing in the upper register of his range. Slick production lifts this up, and the band keeps the groove rolling and the melodies flowing. They have a certain style, yet they never get mired in it, and there is much to differentiate the tunes. Here we see Duo' throwing down an beautiful solo that establishes his place amongst the Aireys, and the Lords of the world. Great work by the whole band - another mind blower which will be something to see on stage in a live setting.

In Fact It's The Worst brings the album full circle, and they're back in Blackmore territory, be it DP or Rainbow. A very strong Strat/Marshall riff carries this, and the entire band is in full, open throttle mode as they ride out one of the finest debut long players that it has been my pleasure to hear for some time.

While not as virtuosic as their predecessors perhaps, these guy can play and sing their collective asses off. This record is all keeper, and no filler - I couldn't be more thrilled by Italy's latest export - a brilliant first showing.

Hey America - buy this record, so we can get this bunch over here for some shows this year. We need all the great hard rock we can get!

My thanks to Axel Wiesenauer - Rock n' Growl Management and Promotion, all of the members Voodoo Highway.

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