304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful heavy rock album packed with varied and crafted songs of quality.
I have to be honest, the 90s music fad that was Britpop, held zero interest for me…the main protagonists, in my humble, recycled a multitude of older ideas into something that was uninspiring and bordered on the insipid. One band that stood above that generic crowd was Reef: they at least had some originality and adventure, even if it still didn’t fully float my boat.
My attitude changed however when they emerged from their 2000s exile with a new guitarist (the son of Ronnie Wood no less) and, in 2018, an album very aptly called Revelation. This had rock writ large and even a delightful cameo from Sheryl Crow…this was when Reef arrived in my mind and record collection.
Now we have a new album and another lineup shuffle: founding members Gary Stringer and bassist Jack Bessant with Jessie Wood are joined by new drummer Luke Bullen and guitarist/producer Andy Taylor who is actually a class, rock guitarist. He’s also produced some very good albums for a variety of bands (most notable, to me, is a couple of Thunder masterpieces and he played lead guitar on Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love, although I never noticed if he was in the video!)
As with the last album, once you get used to the occasional harsh vocals from Gary which are sort of Joel O’Keefe but more Cormac Neeson and Tom Keifer when he reigns it in, then he is very good indeed.
This new, ten-track work, called Shoot Me Your Ace, which is all Taylor co-writes, certainly fired him up…“I’ve been looking to make a record like this for a long time, I can’t love it enough. The chances you get in life to do something as great as this album don’t come along very often, so when they do you just grab them.”
It kicks off with the heavy rock of the title track, Shoot Me Your Ace. The airborne vocals make sense after a few listens but what is apparent from the off is that the Wood/Taylor pairing is inspired, from both a rhythm and lead perspective. The next track, When Can I See You Again, has a greater degree of subtlety with a great vocal, Faces-like chord work and an excellent bluesy guitar solo to top it off rather nicely.
Refugee is even better, with an Answer like feel (and that is a huge compliment)…great sing-a-long chorus plus plenty “all right”’s and “Yeah”’s behind a creative guitar section. Best Of Me also has ready for an audience feel as the AccaDacca like intro builds, via an irresistible vocal melody, to a solid rock song of variation and imagination…and some ‘Na, Na, Na” bits for us to join in with. Listen out for the genius guitar behind it all.
The next track also has some AC/DC touches but with a complex and clever drum, bass and background riff: Wolfman must also vie for the best “howl” on record. Hold Back The Morning has a delightful bass intro and builds into a tasty heavy, bluesy rock song of quality and a slightly too low-in-the-mix guitar solo that is so intelligent. Right On is a harmony-filled soft(ish) rock song with many layers to enjoy…particularly the crafted guitar solo. Next, we travel aboard a ship carrying convicts to the land of Four-Ecks…I thought a visa was all that was required these days! Everything Far Away weaves this clever tale into a mid-paced heavy blues with a hint of proggishness, that works very well.
I See Your Face is a great song filled with ‘that sounds like’ moments but is an entirely original heavy rock song of love. The final track, Strangelove, will have the “just like his dad” comments for Jessie but, for all of the similarities, it is very much Reef and uniquely, has two distinct vocal melodies wrapped in the constant, rock-solid instrumentation. Its six minutes allows time for some bass, guitar and vocal excursions that are fascinating.
This Reef at full throttle and delivering a varied and fascinating set of songs that will perhaps surprise some…but it won’t disappoint.
Shoot Me Your Ace
When Can I See You Again
Best Of Me
Hold Back The Morning
Everything Far Away
I See Your Face
Gary Stringer: vocals
Jack Bessant: bass
Andy Taylor: guitars
Jesse Wood: guitars
Luke Bessant: drums
Shoot Me Your Ace is out now on CD, black vinyl, coloured vinyl, cassette and digital.
Reef are continuing their tour, catch them at these venues (tickets from the usual outlets):
02/07/2022 – DCBL Stadium, Widnes (w/ Bryan Adams)
08/07/2022 – Festival Too, Norfolk
09/07/2022 – Fi.Fest, Windsor
16/07/2022 – Kubix Festival, Sunderland
23/07/2022 – Chalfest, Chalford
30/07/2022 – Rock & Blues Custom Show, Derby
08/08/2022 – Falmouth Weekender
13/08/2022 – Lakefest, Worcester
26/08/2022 – Bear Grylls Gone Wild Festival, Devon
16/09/2022 – Looe Festival, Looe
21/09/2022 – 3Arena, Dublin (with The Black Crowes)
24/09/2022 – Manchester O2 Apollo (with The Black Crowes)
26 and 27/09/2022 – London O2 Academy Brixton, UK (with The Black Crowes)
12/11/2022 – Shiiine On Weekender, Minehead
(iTunes ran on to deal blues from the masterful Reese Wynans, then some Sabbathian rock on the 2019 album Turn from Reflector, some power metal from 2018 on Refuge’s Solitary Men and then a reminder of how good a guitarist Bernie Torme was when his skills graced the Rene Berg album called Gang Bang from 1982.)