John Verity began his music career in the early 1960’s, playing guitar in various local groups around his hometown of Bradford, Yorkshire. He was spotted by Rod Argent to fill the band’s lead vocalist/guitarist vacancy following the departure of Russ Ballard. He joined Argent in late1973 and the rest, as they say, is history. Argent recorded and toured until 1976 when they effectively disbanded. Over the course of a distinguished career, JV has released well over 20 albums and now the follow up to the highly acclaimed ‘My Religion’, from 2016, is available. Comprising a mix of covers and originals, Blue to My Soul does exactly what the title suggests and effortlessly blends the blues with a patina of soul across its ten tracks.
Opener, Such a Feeling, is a delightful shuffle with an expressive guitar overlaying a solid backing. JV’s vocals are quite high in register and, once you get used to the AOR feel to them on top of the blues, it does actually work. (Imagine Boston doing proper blues). The solo is a great exploration of the entire fretboard, which I always appreciate, as opposed to the top half dozen frets being employed to scream away all of the time. It’s a pity the fade of just keys and guitar do actually fade – turn this up as it quietens and you’ll be rewarded. This Old Dog is a classic heavy blues riff and sounds great. The Hooker/King stop/start approach is far from original but if, when done well, as it is here, it is always an enjoyable structure. The keyboards put a lovely colour across the backing and behind another well thought out solo. Blues in Heaven has a bass and drum intro and back-line that reminds me of Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell but, when the guitar cuts in with stinging phrases around the verse, it becomes pure Verity. The Blues Is My Business was written by Kevin Bowe, a Minneapolis based composer, producer and performer, and Todd Cerney, who has co-written with everyone from Cheap Trick to Kenny Rogers. This track was written for, and performed by Etta James on her 2003 ‘Let’s Roll’ album. In JV’s hands it is a piano and guitar led good-time rhythm and blues number. It is a very good version of a song that I thought Etta had made her own. Next up is Never Gonna Change by David Gogo and Tom Hambridge. Gogo is a Canadian blues guitarist of some note. Hambridge is a star in the world of songwriting, drumming and production. I first came across Tom, and this song on Buddy Guy’s album, Rhythm and Blues, where Hambridge had a hand in writing many of the tracks and produced that great record. JV certainly does it justice, as the guitar “tells this story with these 6 strings”. The piano rolling away in the background does help though, and it lifted further by some very clever and fitting drum patterns. Say the Word is a slow-ish blues-rock gem, with some gospel feeling to the backing and lustrous guitar throughout. Wasted Years has a fabulous opening and makes it my favourite on the strength of that alone. After the heavy, staccato intro, it surprises with gentle guitar and a ballad style melody. The solo in the middle section is a master class in restrained, emotional playing. A Better Way brings us into acoustic territory and a straightforward ballad. Final track is that one! Yes, the anthem that is Hold Your Head Up, written by Rod Argent and Chris White and, apart from their other anthem (God Gave Rock ’n’ Roll To You which, dependent on your view was made more famous and ruined by Kiss) is Argent’s most well-known and covered legacy. Steppenwolf and Uriah Heep did the best of the versions available. On JV’s reading, it isn’t changed that much and yet he manages to give a fresh feeling to this old standard. The bass is an octave higher on the intro and the chords are fluid, without the original pauses. Inevitably, I suppose, without Rod Argent holding the reins there are no keys. Instead we are treated to a guitar only interpretation. (It’s not the Geordie version either… “Whoa, man, hold your head up” which I always preferred). To be honest, I think I would have preferred another JV original or a choice blues cover as, although a decent cover, it doesn’t sit as well as the true blues on the rest of the album.
In summary, this is a class piece of work with some excellent original songs, which show how good he is on guitar. The covers work too and bring a different outlook to a couple of classics. Well worth a listen.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
1. Such a Feeling (Verity)
2. This Old Dog (Verity)
3. Blues in Heaven (Verity)
4. The Blues Is My Business (Bowe, Cerney)
5. Never Gonna Change (Gogo, Hambridge)
6. Say The Word (Verity)
7. Alabama Blues (Robey, Nixon))
8. Wasted Years (Verity)
9. A Better Way (Verity)
10. Hold Your Head Up (Argent, White)
John Verity: guitar, vocals
Steve Rodford ,Liam James Gray; drums
Bob Skeat, Roger Inniss, John Gordon, Jamie Mallender ; bass
Jamie Pipe, Bob Fridzema, Ian Gibbons; keyboards
Bianca Kinane, Jayne Tretton; background vocals.
Recorded, mixed and mastered at 101 Recorders, Cardington UK.