Rock Ain't Near Dead, and if you need any convincing on this point, look - no, listen no further than Michael Des Barres fiery new live set, Hot N Sticky Live. Coming on the heels of last years fabulous long player, Carnaby Street, this disc will cure what ails you with ample doses of rhythm, the blues, and a heaping helping of a sensational love of rock 'n' roll.
Des Barres has returned to the stage after an absence of way too long, but it's better late than never, and if you miss a true London bred hero fronting a tight but loose group of swaggering pirates, look no further. This makes good on the promise set to lie by such acts as Rod Stewart & The Faces, who left to soon only to not return - well, I'm here to say that this is as good as I could have dreamt for rock's growing up into the new millennium. This set moves, grooves, and shakes you down with a top flight band of LA aces, and a frontman who melts all before him.
Rock's regals seem to have made it through the dimly lit darkness that enveloped the breed and the art throughout the '80s and '90s - the real rockers, the Ian Hunters, Glenn Hughes, and yes, the Marquis Des Barres (oh yeah, he's got lineage), have all saved it up and not spent it all, they're alive well and proving on a regular basis that rock may not be on the radio, but it's doing just fine as an art form.
Des Barres has a long standing habit of keeping a guitarist with hellacious firepower just to his right, and he continues the tradition with LA veteran Mark Tremalgia who sounds perfect in his role, firing off shards of spiky leads, slippery slide playing and a great counter to the bosses solid rhythm playing. He never overplays, but when he steps up it's a rock 'n' roll joy to behold. He's bolstered on the left by Des Barres regular Paul Ill, a bassist who's obviously worshipped some Jamerson licks, but may have soaked them in some sophisticated musical stew while at Berklee, and he's a constant presence - jumping between solid pumping and melodious flights of fancy with great authority. They're joined at the back of the bandstand by drummer David Goodstein, whose name has been attached to more artists than I have room to name, but the list includes Waddy Wachtel, Edgar Winter, Ivan Neville, and the late, great Clarence Clemons - yeah, he's got that kind of rhythm, he moves this band. Keyboardsist Damon Fox rounds out this stellar outfit, and if you don't know of Damon Fox, well just remember that you heard the name here first. Google Bigelf, and look for that name in 2014, but I digress....
My mention of the band is longer than most reviews, but bands are damned important, and I salute Michael Des Barres for going the extra mile to track down the best LA has to offer.
Carnaby Street kicks things off, being the lead track of the band's last studio offering, and it's rock 'n' roll nirvana - Paul Ill chases the fiery frontman across the track, and the band is blaring, but this is unquestionably Des Barres' show. The man is in great voice and chock full of piss and vinegar. It's a no holds barred performance, and when we get to the whooping background vocals, and the solos, it's simply blissful. Like he says at the end of the track, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen - welcome to a fucking rock 'n' roll show. Indeed, and amen.
Soulful organ, a slamming backbeat, and groove-a-liscious bassline leads us into another key track from Carnaby Street, You're My Painkiller, and it's a serious slice of rockin' rhythm and blues. Des Barres has always been an excellent composer of life confirming lyrics, and he puts it over here as well as better than ever. A killer guitar solo that's underpinned by a baseline that will have smart bassists running to the woodshed, and when Des Barres steps back in, he sells it, and it stays sold.
Hot N Sticky (Down South) is one that's for the ladies, and it does well strut as well as The Faces ever did. Fox's organ fights with the guitars for room in the mix, and it's a fight worth watching - the guitars are dirty, but not too dirty, just the right amount of swirling grit, and girth. Listening to this reminds me of why I adore rock 'n' roll. This is a church service of the highest quality. When we get to the musical interlude in the mid-section, you just want to stay there and steep in it.
|Photo by Heather Harris|
Please Stay is a slow, simmering blues, and Des Barres brings the audience into the proceedings as the band goes gospel, and the singer pronounces his undying love. If there were still hit singles, this would be a top tenner. The whole band sings, and they sing like angels, so listen up.
The band goes back to 1977 for Detective Man, a cut off the great lost album and band, Detective, who were amongst the first signings to Zep's Swan Song label. If possible, the band is in even higher gear as the set progresses, and it's getting hotter and hotter. My only regret is that we didn't hear this more in the years that have come since. There's a scorching wah solo on this one - handle with care.
Things get heavy for Little Latin Lover, the guitars are getting louder and even more lively. This pays it's dues to the memory of the Morrison Motel by way of Carnaby Street. This is straight up rock 'n' roll with no chaser, and it's got quite a punch. I wish I had been at this show - I don't know where I was that night, but I doubt I was having this much fun.
Redemption and love are never far from Des Barres' mind, and he wraps up the set beautifully with a medley that ties it all up quite neatly - leading off with My Baby Saved My Ass (from my wicked past...), which features a stinging slide guitar solo from Tremalgia before Des Barres becomes a jet fighter coming into JFK and landing squarely atop a loving tribute to Humble Pie and Steve Marriott with a slamming bit of I Don't Need No Doctor, and after smoking solos from the guitarist and Fox, we get a reminder that Des Barres did spend time with supergroup Power Station as the band jumps into Bang A Gong (Get It On). What a great way to end a fucking rock 'n' roll show.
If you had played me this album in 1985, and told me that this would have been the state of the art in 2013, I wouldn't have been upset at all - Hot N Sticky Live certainly makes the case that Rock Ain't Near Dead, and Michael Des Barres continues to age like fine wine, getting better and more valuable by the moment.
When he's not throwing down top shelf rock, Des Barres can be found on several Internet outlets preaching his unique blend of rock, love, and light.
Thanks to Michael Des Barres, and Billy James at Glass Onyon PR.