Pondering This Life of new Album release
Watford, just north of London, is noted for many things, not least being the home of such diverse luminaries as Geri Halliwell, Simon Le Bon, actors the Glenister brothers, Michael Bentine and Bradley Walsh amongst others…there is now a new name to add to the list of inhabitants. Meet Marcus Lazarus who has been playing for many years in tribute bands and as a solo performer and, mercifully has eschewed the musical leanings of previous residents and has just released an album that blends Americana with rock, soul and blues…This Life takes all of those, mixes in a bit of Beatles with Cream (there’s a recipe for you, Heston!) and delivers an entertaining follow up to his Save My Soul album from 2017. He has certainly approached the recording differently as he packed his bags and his demos and headed off to Italy to record this one with a knowledgeable and capable group of musicians in support.
It opens with a surprise…the title track, This Life, is a cover of a Curtis Stigers song that Marcus heard on the radio and felt the lyrics were in line with his philosophy of life…so he recorded it! It gives us the first insight into Marcus’ musical awareness, as he takes the essence of the original and infuses it, initially with mandolin and then moves into full-blown rock…now it is a song I can enjoy thanks to his restrained vocal and some power chords to give it a new lease of life. A touch of antipodean electricity finds its way into Driving All The Way to LA and, although the vocal melody echoes a little of Perfect Strangers, it is still a strong rocker with harmony guitar over organ chords that fit perfectly. The bridge is soft and string laden before a slow and tastefully picked guitar solo takes us back to that great riff. What Can’t Speak Can’t Lie gives a George Harrison/Beatles flavor as the sitar inevitably reminds one of that; the harmony vocals also bring the Beatles to mind and yet all the while the guitar paints a country tinge and sets the tone firmly in Americana territory. The next song takes a true story of slaves in the Deep South and tells it over a proper blues acoustic: called Black Hand Over The Sun it has grit in the vocal to match the tale. Back to the rock with Knock Me Out…it is a love song but set to a riff and chorus so catchy it will stay with you long after you have stopped listening! It also has a great harmony guitar solo to add to the enjoyment. A change of texture arrives in the funk laced story of self-seeking politicians…Bullshit Blues says it all over some clever bass and percussion and a few rapid-fire guitar solos; it also manages to fit a little Caribbean rhythm into the mix too. From funk to Motown next, with What You Got (Is What I Need). This is a let down for me as it is so Motown that, personally, brings nothing to this otherwise well-paced and thoughtful album…but that’s just me: if you like a bit of Motor Town then you’ll be dancing in the street or perhaps on the ceiling. Caught In The Middle is back on form however and takes a solo John Lennon sound and construction to build a pleasant slow rock, balladish track with a cracking solo. It’s back to true blues with Keep My Flame Alight and, with input from none other than Simon McBride, it hits the spot and then keeps on hitting…this will be on repeat for a day or two at least! It is six minutes of glorious blues guitar with tasteful backing from the rest of the band and the vocals are just as the blues should be. Trying To Write A Love Song, a track originally intended for his debut EP, has been developed into a nice slice of blues-rock with a guitar and key harmony riff and sparse chord work behind the verses. It is like Rainbow doing Whitesnake…if you can’t imagine that, have a listen and you will hear it all…I promise! Fab Gear Groove as a title gives a clue as to the content: numerous Beatles song titles form the lyrics over a rapid-fire, funky riff, the chorus from Hey Jude is used too: it is a little tortuous at times but still great fun. Turn Up The Heat has a disco feel and is in danger of me hitting the skip button when the synths come in, but it is listenable if only for the Stevie Salas like guitar playing behind the less enjoyable formula. Strangely, there is then silence for nigh on a minute before Black Hand Over The Sun, is revisited with some jazz infused piano on top of what seems to be the previous version. It does bring a slightly different flavor to the song, and is worth a listen too.
In summary, then, we get an album that tips its hat to a mix of genres from across Marcus’ forty plus years in the business. It is not a blues or rock album but has enough of both to make it a really enjoyable listen from my point of view. OK, the disco is a misstep but there is still plenty to enjoy and Marcus Lazarus has risen and is now officially on my playlist.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- This Life
- Driving All The Way to L.A.
- What Can’t Speak Can’t Lie
- Black Hand Over The Sun
- Knock Me Out
- Bullshit Blues
- What You Got (Is What I Need)
- Caught In The Middle
- Keep My Flame Alight
- Trying To Write A Love Song
- Fab Gear Groove
- Turn Up the Heat
- Black Hand Over The Sun (Piano Version)
Marcus Lazarus – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass on Track 10
Lee Herbert – Drums, Backing Vocals
Jez Arden-White – Backing Vocals, Guitars on Tracks 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11 & 12
Johnny Heywood – Backing Vocals, Bass on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 & 9
Guido Pietrella – Bass on Tracks 7, 11 & 12
Alessandro Cristofori – Hammond, Fender Rhodes, Synths
Daria Tanasenko – Sitar
Laura Mowforth – Backing Vocals