There’s a post office stamp in issue at the moment that features Rodney from “Only Fools & Horses” with the tagline “Cosmic”, one of his catchphrases. The joke being that Rodney, despite his aspirations to be different, was far removed from any new age or otherworldly lifestyle. His use of the adjective cosmic was generally inappropriate and used for comic effect. The “Fire Cosmic” is a great title and the album cover features a fabulous comic style cosmic illustration, inspired by Marvel, which Troy Redfern created himself, so, clearly a man with multiple talents. However, while the sonic power of this new release, particularly on side one of the record, is powerful enough to send sound waves thundering through the ether and perhaps rock a billionaire’s spacecraft en-route to the outer reaches of space, the soundscape couldn’t really be described as cosmic, despite some impressive moments.
The singer and guitarist said that he wanted the album to “sound massive” and he certainly achieved that goal. Recorded at the renowned Rockfield studio the artist recruited the assistance of heavy hitters drummer Darby Todd (quite literally in his case) and Dave Mark on bass, with another heavyweight, producer Paul Winstanley, directing operations. Troy’s previous recordings reveal a definite rocky, almost punky edge to his borderline blues-rock sound. On this recording, as well as the amps being turned up to 11 (maybe even 11 ½) the style, at least on side one (or songs 1-5 if you’re a dedicated CD player or cheapskate streamer), has emphatically moved towards heavy rock, driven by the monster rhythm section and having the riffs doubled up on bass and guitar. Personally, I think the bass and drums are too high in the mix on the opening songs and, while they add a real live feel and vibrancy to the recording, the main man competes to be heard even with some waspish and searing slide playing.
The balance is much better on side two, kicking off with the punchy “Lay That Love Down”, which features some scorching slide, the bottleneck zooming around the frets to great effect. This features the title repeated as a refrain (not really a chorus) with the vocals heavily multi-tracked, as they are throughout, to create a big impact.
The current single “Ghosts” is the stand out track on the album and is more representative of the artist’s style to date. Rather than smashing the heck out of his Ludwig Vistalite kit, the drummer lays down a lively but controlled double-time tattoo over which delightful acoustic guitars and a National steel lock together, underpinning a strong melody and a rousing chorus with harmonised vocals and evocative lyrics like “when love is gone only ghosts of memories remain”. This also features a really excellent solo from Troy that is allowed the space to expand into. Incidentally, the accompanying video for this is excellent, featuring the artist walking across the (not quite) badlands of the Welsh borders to pose moodily on the porch of a shack, over which is superimposed a beautifully filmed image of a maiden wearing a distressed and flowing white dress riding a galloping horse across an empty beach. What do I know, but for me more songs along these lines would have made for a stronger offering musically, if less likely to make your speakers hum.
“Saving Grace” is another corker, opening with some melodic slide over a strummed acoustic and, similarly to “Ghosts”, has a strong chorus that is likely to become a bit of an earworm. The arrangement for this also includes some interesting vocal harmonies that add to the feeling of a wide musical landscape.
The album was given to Frank Arkwright, the senior mastering engineer at Abbey Road, with some impressive credentials to his name, and his contribution helps to create the really superb audio quality of the recording, which especially shines through on the quieter tracks, where the music is allowed the space to breathe more.
“Sanctify” is a rollicking number with a crunching, but not overpowering riff, driven along by some acceptably dominant drumming. Unlike some of the opening numbers, this has a proper chorus and is definitely going to induce some air drumming and general dumb arm-waving. “Stone” closes the collection and builds slowly to a huge, anthemic wall of sound, that dies away at the death with just the sound of a piano playing. This is great and a few more moments of light and shade like this on side one would have been welcome.
It has to be said that the album opens brilliantly with “Scorpio”, which is a classic out and rocker with multiple riffs and the whole production kitchen sink was thrown into the mix. For me, it goes a little formulaic for a few numbers after this impressive opening but taking the vinyl approach, side 2 is the place to start listening to this strong collection as a warm-up to the sonic explosion that is presented by side one. This sounds like the beginning of another chapter in the artist’s career.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle paws The Fire Cosmic! fuels Troy Redfern’s Guitar and is definitely a great listen throughout, the second half takes us into a different orbit.
1. Scorpio (4:50)
2. Waiting For Your Love (3:34)
3. One Way Ticket (3:50)
4. Love & War (4:37)
5. On Fire (4:09)
6. Lay That Love Down (3:23)
7. Ghosts (4:02)
8. Saving Grace (4:07)
9. Sanctify (3:46)
10. Stone (5:50)