Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics Album review

Does Aaron have Stars on His Knees?

It may sound like a long lost Tyrannosaurus Rex follow up to the ‘My People Were Fair…” album, but the special edition of Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics’ debut album, called The Man with Stars on His Knees is actually an updated rerelease to celebrate his signing to Listenable Records after the original was done via Pledge Music. To make it different, there are two new studio tracks and three live tracks on the CD version, which I don’t have access to, but I do have the two new ones. More detail from the man himself is available in the interview he did with Liz, here on Bluesdoodles.

Aaron, in case you didn’t know, came to prominence as a vocalist with Heaven’s Basement: although with the more raucous and heavy approach here I think Hell’s Penthouse would be an apt moniker! For here lies music that weaves its way from Queen-like structures to metal via heavy rock and

even grunge pop.

It starts off with a short introductory song, Show Me What You’re Made Of, with a rhythmic drum pattern that is irresistible before Aaron’s vocals join in…this is him at his best with low and high registers working well. All the Things You’ve Said And Done is heavy, anthemic rock with the twin guitars providing a solid riff with a definite sing-a-long chorus. The guitar solo is also well-paced and placed if somewhat short. Dancin’ Down Below is catchy as hell and even the Queen touches don’t lighten it too much. It does have a bit too much of the thrash style vocal for me but it is far enough in the background to ignore. The Devil That Needs You keeps the Beelzebub theme, but this time it is buried in upbeat, infectious riff and melodies. Strangely it conjures a classical inspiration to me, but as I can’t quite put my finger on which orchestral piece it reminds me of so I won’t mention it! This is a high-quality slice of heavy rock and the heavy riff with feedback soloing to the fade is a delight. Journey Out Of Here is like a heavy hymn at first as it moves from gospel to Nirvana like psalm-y quietness. That grungey approach means it doesn’t do it for me although Aaron’s sister, Laurie, gives some real-life to the backing vocal lines as well as the guitar phrases…both electric and acoustic. The title track, however, is a vocal showcase for Aaron as it begins with a demonstration of his range, feel and power over a simple picked guitar, bass and drums. It then alternates with multi-track vocal passages of an almost operatic scope and then the twin guitars have a short section that builds May-like on the operatic sweep and makes this a brilliant proggy heavy rock song that takes a few listens to appreciate the many nuances every instrument and voice bring to it. A God Is No Friend has a delightful guitar intro as this slow bluesy, heavy rock song develops into an alternating vocal workout and sweet guitar phrases. Left Me For Dead is a heavy riff-based song for Aarons multi-tracked vocals to range across and a (too short) guitar exercise that could have made this good song great. Mind Of A Mute starts with a call to prayer and then the best riff on the album…almost Sabbathy and deliciously hefty. An interesting guitar duet/duel comes in toward the end and provides a great close. Last track of the original album is Morals…this is reminiscent of Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever…if they had heavied it up in all areas. A really enjoyable romp of a song with plinky piano, screaming and a seriously heavy solo to round it off. The first ‘new’ song is Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem and, with its rapid-fire vocal lines and ‘Woah, Woah, oh oh’ it was about to be a favourite until the thrash like timbre in the chorus (in direct comparison to the melodic phrasing elsewhere…although that was probably the point) cut in and made it too much for my tastes until a great guitar solo came in and lifted it past that minor gripe. The final track on my copy is Undertow…not the Mr Big one, but a complex time signature, nigh on a prog-rock masterpiece.

This is a damn good album that, if you don’t mind the odd harshness, is a delight from start to finish. I have a feeling that after the band’s many successful festival appearances over the summer, the next album will be an absolute corker. In the meantime, if you like your heavy rock with a slice of grunge on the side then you will love this.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Show Me What You’re Made Of
  2. All The Things You’ve Said And Done
  3. Dancin’ Down Below
  4. The Devil That Needs You
  5. Journey Out Of Here
  6. The Man With Stars On His Knees
  7. A God Is No Friend
  8. Left Me For Dead
  9. Mind Of A Mute
  10. Morals
  11. Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem
  12. Undertow

Musicians:

Aaron Buchanan: vocals

Laurie Buchanan: guitar

Tom McCarthy: guitar

Mart Trail: bass

Paul White: drums

Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics Album review

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