Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Reuben Archer's Personal Sin: A Life's Sentence
Let's get this out of the way - I hope you can rock like this when you're seventy. No - really? I just hope that at some point in your life, from the cradle to the grave, you rock this way.
Reuben Archer has made the best record of his life, and it takes me straight back to the time in which melodic hard rock ruled the radio. His vocal cords are in fantastic shape, and the best thing I can say is that he sings the way he sings - no need for auto-tune, no stepping back from the tough notes, he takes them to the mat head on. His writing is brilliant - part hard rocker, part skillful soul man. This is like how Frankie Miller should've to turn out.
Rob Wolverson is just 23 years old, but he sounds like he was raised on a diet of organic guitar rock since he left the womb, and has done little since. His lead work is a gas, and it's going to get the attention, but he's a natural riff writer and rhythmatist. He jumps from fierce power chording to smooth, linear single note fills to staccato stabs with an ease that suggests this is not his first stampede.
Archer and Wolverson are a grand match indeed, reminding me of the mating of Mogg and Schenker in the hey day of UFO. The singer gives the guitarist all the room in the world for his expansive, expressive soloing, and Wolverson plays like he actually knows the words - a near dying art for guitarists. His soloing on Time On My Hands is simply classic - it doesn't sound like he's aping Schenker - it sounds like he's cut from the same cloth. This is the new guitar hero. Great band guy - he sounds as if he's just living for the song.
Bulletproof is hard rock with a nice sheen - polished to a fine reflection, it's big rock and makes no bones about it. Great chorus with groovy gang vocals, and there's plenty of gritty guitar with Wolverson coming out riffing. The arrangement is pretty deft, there's some sophisticated musicianship on tap hear, and it's always cool to see Rocky Newton show up. A nice first chapter that sets things up well for the listener. First song in, and the guy gives his guitarist a slot for an epic solo - and the guy knocks it out of the park.
Archer shows that his ear has been paying attention to the recent rock - his production is stellar, and you'll love his effected voice walking over a nicely distorted bass line that leads into a chorus of real rebellion, as the veteran belter is just doing what he's always done. Playing his rock and roll. Play My Rock 'N' Roll lays out the case as well as it can be played. Guilty as charged, Mr. Archer. I'd love to hear this in a club anytime - pure rock bliss.
Any song that mentions the Queen of Diamonds is a winner, and it's the same for Personal Sin. This one rocks with a swagger that suggest the Young Brothers mixed with a whole lot of slipping and sliding melodic guitars. The tune is a big winner, and when the Townsend-esque bridge sails in, I'm lost for words - Archer proves himself a scholar - when he goes to his reference points and shows his influences it is always a joy. His stacking of voices on the choruses is sheer mastery. Goddamn good rock by any measure.
Lately is a classy mashup of hard rock and cocktail rock - it goes blithely from some pub rock to some sophisticated rock shapes in a manner that Lynott seemed to do so well. Wolverson's fills and harmonies are well placed, well-played, and his tone is just so - I'm a bastard when it comes to guitar tones and this guy has it right. Never too much gain, and just the right grit for the job, and when goes clean it's tight and precise. A great thinking and drinking piece of Brit-rock.
Reuben Archer is singing like his life depends upon it - whether belting the rock, or stretching out on the piano driven ballad Time On My Side, he steps up and does the job. He seems to never take the easy way out, and he sings to his voice's capacity, but never beyond it - beautiful control of his instrument. After comping cleanly and cool through the vocal sections Rob Wolverson plays the solo of a career - Archer gives him the space, and again he delivers in spades. He takes off on a bit of fiery fret tapping on the ride out that is required listening for anyone interested in how speed and soul should be combined whilst soloing on the electric guitar.
Desperation Train throws in some nice harmonica work as Wolverson picks out a slinky rhythm track for Archer to sing over before the chorus gets thicker and prettier - the lost art of differentiating between parts as band and singer. Vocal production doesn't get much attention in record reviews, but Reuben has done yeoman's work in getting everything just right. Yeah, and there's another corker of a solo by the kid.
A faster pace is approached on TV Junkie, and instead of being a throwaway rocker, Archer uses his writing and arranging skills to lift the tune up way beyond its riff rock heritage with moves that sound simple until you try them. Writing great rock riff is harder than brain surgery, and the doctor is in. Rock ain't near dead, nor will it be when stuff such as this is about.
Hard rock done right - Ace Cafe rocks like mad, but it's sophisticated and intelligent, classy in the great lineage of bands like UFO. Melodies abound and a hummable refrain that sticks to your brain. This is tight and taut - no sloppy playing, or missed beats that have come to be acceptable in the days since Seattle. This one's blessed by the always great drums of Harry James, and some of the Saxon bunch.
Spanish Nights indeed does start with some flamenco-ish acoustic guitar before segueing into a flowing riff that mocks Jumping Jack Flash very mildly (and brilliantly) - fans of melodic British vocalists who aren't already hip to Reuben Archer deserve a chance to hear this, just beautiful writing and singing. Rob Wolverson plays way beyond his tender years - but, really he's playing just as he should - let's not forget that most of the classic Brit axemen did their best work around that age. He plays great for any age, don't be fooled, this kid is a great fucking guitar player.
Paul Raymond of the legendary UFO is a close pal of Archer's - the singer works with Raymond in his solo band, and the multi-talented veteran makes an appearance on Reuben's Blues. Raymond is another guy that's made a great solo record this year (Terms & Conditions), and he's another example of rock growing old with beauty and grace. This one is appropriate for self-titling - Archer sings like he's writing his autobiography on tape.
Shakin' All Over is given a very cool and rocking re-tooling, and The Who classic hasn't sounded this fresh in decades. Some super-hero drumming on this one (I wish I had more complete liner notes, because there are plenty of great performances on this record that deserve proper mention).
Epic - a scary word, one that gets used too often for reasons that may relate more to public relations, but a worthy word for Like A Clown - Archer parses out the parts like he has a library of them before him in his lap. There's a hint of Plant and Zep on this one, but in the real things absence this is pretty damned good. Studio wizardry figures heavily on this record - Reuben Archer plays the studio like an instrument, and I'm glad that there are those who 'get it.' Records are meant to sound wonderful, and this makes that mark, and exceeds it. One of the year's best.
Sooner Or Later is a pot boiling set closer, and it harkens back to the rough riding rock of the early eighties, before it became a sin to shake your ass to rock 'n' roll.
Reuben Archer has uncorked a great rock 'n' roll record for you, kids, and I'd suggest you buy a copy. For rock to carry on it must be purchased. I hate to lecture, but it's the truth. A guy makes a piece of work like this, he sure deserves to get paid. Reuben Archer's Personal Sin may just be salvation to the right ears, who knows?