There is a good blend of styles in the lineage of The Sharpeez. In case you are new to them, leader Bill Mead was in a Mod/R’n’B band called Rebel, which was gigging with bands like The Stranglers in the musical melting pot of late 1979. Guitarist Loz Netto also has a history, as he was a founding member of Sniff ‘n’ The Tears around the same time. Fate drew them together and they have just released their fifth album, Wild One, named after the famous Marlon Brandon film, or so I am reliably informed.
Their sound is an intriguing blend of Dire Straits (when they moved out of first gear), The Who and Dr. Feelgood, with a healthy portion of blues thrown in. I guess the nearest comparison in feel and outlook, would be the Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey collaboration of a few years back.
They open with Automatic Mode, which is an excellent introduction to this lively band. It’s solid R’n’B for the modern age, with some great guitar embellishments throughout the verses and a really tasty solo. Next is Bullet, a co-write with Brian Willoughby of Strawbs fame and a Nashville based composer, Cathryn Craig. This shows the prowess of bassist Baz and the strong backing of Brendan O’Niell (of Rory Gallagher’s band) on the drums. A complex bass line, punctuated by more clever guitar and Teresa’s vocals make their impact on the chorus. This is a bit of a shuffle with pop sensibilities woven into the fabric of the song, while we get some nice reverb on the guitar parts.
My allusion to Dr. Feelgood is perfectly illustrated on…Dr. Feelgood. This is like its namesake in feel, but is expanded by a great series of slide guitar patterns from Loz Netto. The slide solo is up there with the best exponents of this wonderful style; think Mickey Moody. Loz forgoes the bottleneck on the next track, Losing Hand. Instead the good old ‘whammy bar’ is used to great effect and, coupled with some clever use of harmonics, it lifts this one out of a potential ‘heard it all before’ feeling. Stilletto Heels is co-written with former Sharpeez guitarist Pete Goodey. This one has acoustic backing overlaid with a sweetly picked solo, but it may have benefitted from being heavied up, as (to my ears) it falls into an almost lethargic Tom Petty-like song which doesn’t achieve it’s promise. Title track, Wild One, however, is such a well-structured song that you soon forget and forgive the weakness of the last track. This one has everything… a solid blues-rock riff backs the story of this particular wild one, sung by Bill in a startlingly Daltrey sounding voice. It is further improved by another superbly picked solo. A funky riff drives Heartache Express and has Loz exploring different tones to fit the emotion of the track. Heat of the Night is another strong composition, which has me imagining the Who doing the Stones. Heartache Express sounds like it would be at home on the Coverdale/Whitesnake Restless Heart album due to its Vandenburg style crisp chord introduction. Netto puts in another slinky slide solo. The closing track, Desperate Man is a good way to wrap up the album. It is written by Meade and the ubiquitous blues-man of many talents Pete Feenstra and has an ingenious chord pattern behind the song backed a subtle yet beefy drum pattern, with the best solo on the album: it is played almost in discord but with a hammer-on technique that makes it mesmerising.
Wild One then combines the very best elements of British R&B. The band keeps true to their roots and yet, through a well produced and well-disciplined approach from every single member, it is still a 21st Century take on a classic genre. It is, without doubt, a great album with only a couple of minor missteps, so if you like your R’n’B British and true to the meaning of Rhythm and Blues you are going to love this.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Automatic Mode
- Bullet (Mead/Willoughby/Craig)
- Dr. Feelgood
- Losing Hand
- Stilletto Heels (Mead/Goodey)
- Wild One
- Heartache Express
- Heat Of The Night
- Desperate Man (Mead/Feenstra)
Bill Mead: guitar, lead vocals
Loz Netto: guitar, vocals
Baz Payne: bass
Brendan O’Neill: drums
Teresa Revill: vocals
All tracks composed by Bill Mead, other than those noted.
Recorded at the Coach House Studios in France.