Tuesday, January 7, 2014

68-75 - Stay On The Ride - Atlanta Vets, Or Rookies Of The Year?

68-75 comes out of the gate with no governor on the engine, and with the pedal fully to the metal. After getting a good round of attention towards the end of 2013 via a highly prized slot on one of Classic Rock Magazine's great compilation discs, and sworn testimonials from some of America's underground experts, the band is set to unleash their first long player, Stay On The Ride, on the masses, and the masses would do well to hold on tight.

Led by longtime Atlanta rockers Suzanne Sledge on vocals, and Andrew Cylar on wicked guitar, 68-75 are braced for well-deserved rock stardom. With a disc this good in your repertoire it's surely time to load up the van and seek a place on stages and headline bills.

What's on tap here is edgy straight ahead rock with little filler - acknowledging their unabashed love of the power rock of the seventies, 68-75 would have fit quite well on the stage at Woodstock, and they'll fit just as well on festival stages in 2014 if they keep playing their cards like they have been. This is a handmade project - the band has done everything on their own, and through shrewd use of social media, they stand very ready to go to the next level - one that will engage labels, publicists, and management. Sledge and Cylar have solid star power, and they are bigger than can be grown in a small pot for long.

Camel's Back starts things off, and it's taut, distorted guitar line will stick to your bones like a mother's meal, and Sledge's well worn shout will put you in mind of such ghosts of rock's past like Marriott, Rodgers, and Reid. The rhythm section is nicely tight, but loose - they've definitely heard a Zeppelin record, or two. The lyrics tell the tale of broken love, and they're appropriately defiant, then along comes Cylar with what I lovingly call a 'Leslie West moment.' A long, bent fill that's just fat, and filled with tone - economy of language is the key, and while he says little, it speaks large. The solo is a joy, filled with sharp shards of solid rock. One of the thrills of a home brewed project is that this sounds real, like a band stood in a room and ripped this one of in one take.

"Made my deal with the devil, nobody rides for free.' So says the first line of Deal With The Devil, and it's now clear that as Sledge sets sail with her 'soul's wide open' prose, Cylar throws out memorable guitar hooks like candy off a float. Again, the guitarist sounds as pissed as the singer when he unfurls his in your face solos. Great rhythm guys are rare as anything, and Andrew Cylar is first rate. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Bleak, dark guitar, and a mournful organ announce Detroit, and again Sledge is on the edge of town with no ticket out. The riff sounds rainy and cold, and the dirge of the bass and drums march on soldierly, as Cylar's wicked vibrato shakes out the notes, leading into an overdubbed twin guitar solo section that suggests interesting possibilities for the future.

Dog Tooth recalls the best moments of seventies swagger, bringing to mind Robin Trower's best, and the whisky soaked soul of Humble Pie. Solid snare work keeps this from being just another rocker, and the riffing has a sultry smack. More great tone and fill from Cylar, who seems to know just how much spice to add toy a recipe.

Things get downright Stonesy on It's Only Tuesday with chord suspensions and a rocking acoustic track laying up next to the electrics, and a more open snare sound that lightens up things nicely. Reminds me of why I loved Mick Taylor in the Stones, as the stinging leads mix with the pumping rhythms. I hear Atlanta all over this one with fond memories of all the great guitar work that came out of Georgia in the nineties. Sledge is one point again, shouting out her melodic take on the blues.

An insistant bass drum jousts nicely with Cylar's riffing on the intro of Kicking Down The Stalls, and Sledge tells it like it is. She may be beat down, but she's never beaten. This is a voice that's lived the lyrics, I don't get any sense of fiction coming from this record. Classic blues rock belting from someone who's felt it, experienced it, and lived to write about it. More great and memorable guttering, and it's over all too soon.

If The Faces were to reunite, I'd hope it would sound half as great as Nowhere. Not that this band doesn't sound great as the classic power trio with a singer lineup, but I have to think a full time Hammondist (that's me making up words again), and another guitar could open this up even more. Cylar's riffs are so compelling and interesting that they suggest further orchestration - again, not any criticism, just me hearing possibilities that he's often laid down upon this disc.

NSC features one of those stately, and gorgeous intros that always sounded so good when they came jumping of the FM airwaves, and then it graduates to more swinging, swaggering rock. Sledge and Cylar sound like they've been doing this for eons, and they have. The pair has been working together for over a decade, and I'm damned glad they never gave up. Rock this vital is necessary to keep the ship afloat in these days of corporate destitution in the mainstream. I hope they keep their act together and see this through - this is one of those combinations I want to hear five albums from now, four world tours later - it can only get better, richer, and more valuable over time.

This is a band I want to play with - strap on an axe and hit the road. You will to when you get trampled underfoot by a riff like Send My Body Home. It takes great guitars to not completely get lost in a voice like Sledge's, and Cylar delivers again, and again - and I know how hard, and rare riff writing like that is to find. He's the best rhythm writer I've heard in a long while, and there's even some howling harp on this one that keeps the gutters fresh. This one swings, swings, and swings.

Stay On The Ride is straight up solid blues rock ripping, complete with muted chuck-a-chuck guitar mashing and psychedelic strangling that gives Sledge yet another color to weave her vocal magic across. She's a lower pitched plant than some of the raging Brits of days past, suggesting more of a Dewars and water kid of tone, and it fits perfectly with Cylar's Les Pauls.

I'm guessing that this one can't miss my top 14 for 2014, even at this early date. Hell, it's a band I want to play in, manage, produce, and take home with me - but great rock 'n' roll is like that, right. You want to own it, make it yours, and make sure it doesn't ever go away. Hell no, Rock Ain't Near Dead....

My special thanks to Suzanne Sledge and Andrew Cylar.

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