Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Black Star Riders- The Killer Instinct album review

Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct
Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Rating: ****

Following up their 2013 debut All Hell Breaks Loose, hard rocker band Black Star Riders have released The Killer Instinct. While their name might not sound familiar, Black Star Riders are a band with historic origins as the band consists of musicians that were in the reunited version of Thin Lizzy. Of the band’s five members, guitarist Scott Gorham is the only member that was in the Phil Lynott-led version of the band. Still, the other members in the band are well versed in the Lizzy songbook and are true fans. For a second album, The Killer Instinct is pretty solid.

            The album opens with Lizzy influenced title track. From the trademark twin lead guitar harmonies to the anthem driven chorus, it’s a strong start for the album and a great choice for the album’s lead single. Guitarist/singer Ricky Warwick shines on the album with his Lynott-like vocal approach and superb songwriting, having co-written more than half of the album. While Black Star Riders are a band that pays tribute to the music of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy, the band sounds like they are trying to make a name and sound for themselves. This is certainly the case for songs such as the rocking “Bullet Blues,” the remorseful western-esque “Blindsided” and the strutting riffs of “Through the Motions.” These songs are great and show that the band is capable of making other songs. However, a few of the songs on here aren’t as catchy or memorable as the ones on All Hell Breaks Loose.  It sometimes sounds like the band is recycling older material. In fact, the chorus for “Charlie I Gotta Go” sounds an awful lot like the chorus from “Hoodoo Voodoo” from the previous album.

Still, Black Star Riders have written some great songs on here and some do sound a lot like modern day Lizzy tunes. “Soldierstown” has Lizzy envy written all over it, with its twin lead guitar harmonies and subject matter (war and history- something the late Phil Lynott enjoyed writing about) while “Turn In Your Arms” features some killer psychedelic-riddled guitar riffs (a la “Massacre”). The nostalgic “Finest Hour” is another highlight while the band show some off Fleetwood Mac Peter Green era influences on the hard-hitting “Sex, Guns & Gasoline.” The album closes with slow rocker “You Little Liar.”

The Killer Instinct is a good album from Black Star Riders. While I do find myself preferring All Hell Breaks Loose, this isn’t a bad album at all. I’m glad these guys are still together and making music. With two albums under their belts, Black Star Riders can now go on tour and mix these songs in with the classic Lizzy tunes. As for a third album, I will be patiently waiting for it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sam Andrew dead at 73

Sam Houston Andrew III
December 18, 1941-February 12, 2015

Sam Andrew, guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company, passed away yesterday from complications from open-heart surgery. Andrew was having the surgery done after he had suffered from a heart attack. Andrew was 73. 

Andrew was one of the founding members of psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band formed in 1965, with Andrew, guitarist James Gurley, bassist Peter Ablin, and drummer Dave Goetz. The band also consisted of singer Chuck Jones, who was in the band briefly before being fired. The band found a new singer in Texas born singer Janis Joplin. With Joplin, the band soon took off. During his time in the band, Andrew was a interesting guitarist,  as he had a background in playing classical and jazz music before becoming a rock guitarist. Big Brother were among the many bands that made up the West Coast psychedelic rock scene, along with other bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Moby Grape. When Joplin left the band in late 1968, Andrew went along with her. With Joplin, they were able to form the Kozmic Blues Band- a group that would act as Janis' solo backing band. The group recorded 1969's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! before breaking up shortly afterwards. Andrew would rejoin Big Brother at various times during the next couple of decades, with the core of himself, Gurley, Ablin and Goetz in tact. Of the "classic" line-up of Big Brother, Andrew is the third to pass away- following Joplin in 1970 and Gurley in 2009. 

I'm sad to hear of Sam Andrew's passing. I can't say I'm too surprised though: Big Brother's Facebook page had uploaded a picture of Sam in the hospital. Something like that stands out on one's news feed and it did have me a little concerned. The man was a great musician and it's just sad to hear. 

RIP Sam.