I don’t know what they put in the water in Wales, but that lovely little country has birthed more great music per capita than any other…particularly in the blues and rock world. Steve Logan also hails from that fair country and has been active for a few years now in covers bands (including a Free tribute and, with the band Geronimo, presenting a mix of Neil Young songs with Logan’s own compositions) and cites Young, Dylan, Free and Zep as influences. Interestingly, he also includes some of the great poets of the past as significant too… Wordsworth, Yeats, Keats and Dylan Thomas amongst others: I guess this is part of the reason for calling himself a “song-poet”.
He has recently released his fourth album, Backstreets of Eden under his own name, alongside bandmates Phil Bryant (drums), Andy Cross (bass guitar) and Rhys Wilson (electric and acoustic guitars). The album consists of a mix of rock, blues and acoustic across the twelve tracks, all penned by Steve.
It starts off with Spotlight: this opens in a mild Neil Young style of rock, the guitars strummed to good effect for the backing with a picked phrase to highlight the melody. Steve’s voice isn’t what you normally classify as rock and actually sounds a bit like Beggars Opera in places (in both vocal and instrumentation). The solo is so laid back it nearly doesn’t impinge on the consciousness, until you listen to it again, when it’s complexity is revealed. Luck Dollar starts similar to the preceding track but with the addition of a harmonica to change the feel…but only slightly as its appearances are brief. The title track, Backstreets of Eden, takes the acoustic route with more Young tinges (although he can sing better than him!). The playing is very good and the subtle bass in the background makes the song stronger, as Steve uses all eight minutes to tell his story and only a small guitar exercise to the fade. This is a Don Mclean like epic with no let up in the singing and, although it is pleasant enough, with the acoustic duet sounding a bit Box/Hensley in its construction, it does overstay its welcome a little. Skylark goes back to electric with the trademark-strummed background of electric and acoustic, punctuated with the odd flourish from Rhys, which is very welcome. The solo too is a well thought out blues biased phrase but is lamentably short. This is CSNY territory in the feel and execution. Biding My Time stays in the same area and even name checks Neil Young in the lyrics, and blurs with its predecessor. Paperboy is an acoustic song with some lovely picked phrasing and a simple harmonica solo in the middle. Yesterday’s Hero (Part One) is separated from its other part by two songs, presumably because this first one is an acoustic and Yesterday’s Hero (Part Two) is electric. The first is again a six-minute-plus vehicle for his story and the second is an electric, eight-minute-plus vehicle which, regardless of the quality of those lyrics is too much (for me, at least) to take. Lead in My Pencil starts of with a nicely picked intro while the blurred, Young style chords provide the backing yet again: this time we do get some guitar; two damn good ones actually and one to the fade, as Rhys uses the whole fretboard. This makes it the best track by far as it gives me something to listen to and appreciate beyond the lyrics. Pontymister is an acoustic/harmonica led song, I guess about a Welsh town and the mister who hails from there. This is another, in isolation, an enjoyable outing with some clever references in the lyrics but again has little to break up the storytelling. Faker starts out with the harmonica and then falls into a familiar pattern (apart from the clever use of the snare drum). It finishes with Hyacinth Girl with some great lyrics but, guess what? Apart from a too short exploration of how good acoustic guitars can sound, it is all about the story.
The early part of the album gives me a feeling of prog without the keyboards; partly because of his storytelling method (lots of words fitted in with diverse imagery) and partly because of the blurred chords spread across the electric songs. When it isn’t prog it is CSNY reborn and, although the acoustic numbers break up the electric songs, it still comes across as samey throughout. Steve seems intent on the storytelling first and foremost and needs to give us instrument lovers more to enjoy and to draw us into the stories he is trying to convey. The lyrics are involving and it is all well and good being a “song-poet”, but I wanted to be involved beyond the words which come too thick and fast: the solos, when they do come, are always well played and entertaining. Across the one hour and sixteen minutes there is plenty to enjoy, but not in one sitting I’m afraid. The songs often blur together and I’d love to hear more from Rhys and songs from Steve with more of his Free and Bad Co influences to add a spark and inject some blues into the equation. So this is a well-crafted album showing dexterity with words and guitars…just not enough guitars. However, if the narrative first approach appeals to you, then look no further…for me it will always be the odd track on shuffle, rather than all at once.
SIXdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Lucky Dollar
- Backstreets of Eden
- Biding My Time
- Yesterday’s Hero (Part 1)
- Yesterday’s Hero (Part 2)
- Hyacinth Girl
All songs composed by Steve Logan
Steve Logan: vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Phil Bryant: drums
Andy Cross: bass guitar
Rhys Wilson: electric and acoustic guitars