Friday, December 7, 2012

S.U.N. Something Unto Nothing: Big, Brash, Bold Rock

Sass Jordan has been one of rock's best belters for ages, that's not news. But Jordan teaming up with Brian Tichy and Michael Devin of Whitesnake, that's news. S.U.N. is the result of a meeting between Tichy and Jordan twenty years ago that has finally borne fruit. More news is that drummer Tichy is playing guitar and writing the rocking riffs on this, one of the most satisfying hard rock records of 2012.

Turns out that Tichy has been stroking the strings for almost as long as he's been bashing the skins, and his riff writing has the freshness of someone who's not yet jaded by decades and decades of riffage. He's no shredder, but more in the realm of the great Les Paul/Marshall maulers like Billy Gibbons and Mick Ralphs in the Bad Company days, and it all fits perfectly with Jordan's hard blues approach. Bassist Devin brings a thick muscularity that updates the tunes to this century, but you can sure hear why he's made such a great John Paul Jones in Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience band these last few years. Tichy's drumming is also exemplary, as usual.

I always had the suspicion that if Jordan had a band equal to her superb talents that it would be, as the kids say, epic - and this is just that. Burned is the set opener and it's the perfect primer of what's on tap. This bunch isn't in a hurry, but they are insistent. This is Bad Company bold - Devin's bass operates stealthily before he jumps out with a brief bit of soloing that leads into a sizzling solo from Tichy, and I'm all grins.

Crazy Head reminds us that Jordan is this generations rock answer to Janis - the intro almost quotes Move Over, but it's more homage than rip, as the band instantly makes it their own, and Jordan brings you right up to today. This must be a barrelhouse in a live setting. This is a head banging, sing along of the first rate - built for big stages and pumping fists. Tichy's wah working solo is some nice icing on the cake - he milks it well, especially on the songs tag - hot damn.

A more modern approach takes us into the desert sun for Nomad - detuned slide sludge is brought up to speed by Devin's super heavy bass, and a Bonzo heavy backbeat. It's a great testament to Jordan that when she finally found her big band of rock bad asses that she still dominates the landscape. Devin's fireball bass break leads into a runaway train of a finale and Tichy breaks out some greasy slide that brings it back into the station. Great grooving on the outro, and it's a take.

For all it's metallic, blues rock bluster, the band can also funk it up, and they do just that on Did Me No Good. I love Tichy's soloing - you can tell he's spent a lot of time with some amazing players, and he's great at playing for the song and not just showing that he can play. Hats off to a guy that can change gears from behind the kit to the front of the stage.

Mobile Again has a great strut of a bass line, and this one lives musically somewhere between Bad Company and The Clash, if you can wrap your brain around that. Jordan struts a bit herself, and when things turn dreamy and melodic for a nice interlude, you cop some of this bunch's smooth sophistication - they shift gears without grinding and the changes are exciting and exquisite. The tag on this one is a Heartbreakers delight.

Tichy is a riff writer of formidable  skill. Writing rock riffs is much tougher than one would imagine, and he sounds like he's given the matter a good deal of thought - most of these riffs have that unfamiliar familiarity that makes great rock work. I'm The One is a straight ahead rock and roller, and some cool hand claps, tamborine shaking, and start-stop syncopations make this one move.

If I Was You is the record's first ballad, and it manages to avoid cliche and ham-handed writing - some big reverberated guitar slides keep lifting this higher, and Tichy gets tasteful with a smooth solo over some angelic harmonies. This one will burn up some butane in a lot of arenas if it gets a chance.

After Tichy's instrumental In The Beginning Of The End, the band turns up the heat for Razed a huge slab of pure metal that has a nice Middle Eastern tempo that always fits heavy rock so well, and Jordan tells a tale that keeps things contemporary and tight. A great drum track (Tichy did play all the drums on the album - live, without a click), that eventually eases into a soothing interlude - an oasis in the mire of metal, but soon enough the riffage returns. Ah, sweet riffage....

Speaking of Tichy's instrumental, you'll see that he's not shown all his cards to this point. He's got chops, and you can hear the drummer's rhythmic sensibilities galore here. His right hand is mad accurate (think of Gary Moore's right hand when he was still a metaller, and of course, EVH circa 1978), and there are flamenco flourishes under his nuclear alternate picking manifesto that will have heels tapping. His detail work is astonishing, and not just that - theoretically, the guy knows what he's doing. Maybe as impressive as his single note lead work is the work he's doing on acoustic underneath the rage. He's told me that he hasn't yet began to fight, that he's got a great deal more to unleash upon the world as a guitarist. Coming from some, I'd take this with a relative grain of salt, but this guy will deliver - he's a serious student of the art, a grand gypsy rocker, and a hell of a good guitar player and songwriter. This is only the beginning of a chapter.

Wide Ocean is just that - it covers a lot of ground with it's big strummed acoustic guitars, hammering drum sound and another tastefully great solo from Tichy.

No Way Home is a brash boogie living somewhere between Pasadena and being trampled underfoot. I wish they had sold this one to the Van Halens and spared us from some demo leftovers last year. I'm so glad they take the time to nod their heads to the legacy of '70s rock - they tip their hats, but they never stay long enough on anything than to make it just that.

Something Unto Nothing is the album's instant classic. This would be great in any decade, and it's a beautiful haunter of a track. Jordan creates her own version of CSN&Y, as Tichy layers guitar on guitar on guitar in a magical fashion. The guy keeps blowing me away with his taste and restraint - he can play his ass off, but he's more musicianly than to ever let it get the best of him. This is one of the coolest tracks I've heard all year, putting me in mind of Glenn Hughes's epic Afterglow from the BCC record of the same name - great rock is being made, and damn I'm glad. I can only imagine the smiles on the face of the band when they heard this mastered. One of those 'worth the price of admission' tracks.

They wrap things up with the bluesy Goodbye, and it's a nice closer. S.U.N. is one of the great surprises of 2012 - not a bad track on the album, and loads of gold to be mined.

Sass Jordan has finally made the record I've expected her to make for ages, and Brian Tichy has shown that he's no one trick pony, and a helluva complete musician. S.U.N. - I hope they get a chance to take this act on the road - I gotta think some festival dates in Europe would be pretty cool, and God knows America needs some decent live hard rock. Oh well, you know I'm a dreamer.

This album's a scorcher - get on it.

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