Monday, December 9, 2019

SPAZ reviews NINE BELOW ZERO and THE TRUTH!



THE TRUTH
KEEP ON KEEPING ON EP
(Splangsongs)

NINE BELOW ZERO
AVALANCHE
(Zed Records)

It has been four decades since he gained fame as the singer, guitarist, and frontman for British Blues band Nine Below Zero yet Dennis Greaves is busier than he’s ever been. Not only is he celebrating NBZ’s 40th Anniversary, he’s also treading the boards with his other band, The Truth, during his main band’s downtime. Thankfully, both bands have spent time in the studio and the results are nothing less than fantastic. While Greaves is the common link between the two bands, he’s been lucky enough to find musical brothers to act as band co-pilots – Mark Feltham (Nine Below Zero) and Mick Lister (The Truth). With such a busy schedule, Greaves has his hands full but judging by his most recent recorded output, he is still at the top of his game.


The Truth’s KEEP ON KEEPING ON EP contains four tracks: updated – and powerful – re-recordings of two Truth classics (‘Confusion Hits Us Every Time’ and ‘A Step In The Right Direction’) and two brand-new recordings: the anthemic ‘Keep On Keeping On’ and the gentle ‘Life Through A Glass’. With Lister at his side in The Truth, Greaves explores his more melodic side. The EP as a whole is glorious, but the title track stands as their finest recorded moment to date. The song ‘Keep On Keeping On’ is just about the closest thing you’re going to get to capturing sunshine and euphoria in the studio. It is confident, joyful, and empowering. It sounds like it could have been recorded by the band during their heyday in the early ‘80s yet it is certainly the song that we all need now. It is truly inspirational. It is Mod, Power Pop, Soul, and Rock at its finest. There have been a lot of great records released this year but “Keep On Keeping On” is easily the best song of 2019.




With harmonica player and co-vocalist Feltham in Nine Below Zero, Greaves sticks much closer to his Blues roots, although the band likes to throw in plenty of surprises as well. On AVALANCHE, NBZ continues with the Blues Big Band experiment they started with their 2016 album, 13 SHADES OF BLUE. However, the album travels down many musical paths, all of which are informed by the Blues. Band members on this album include drummer Sonny Greaves, bassist Benjamin Willis, keyboardists Tom Monks and Andre Noble, and many more talented players. Notably, co-vocalist Charlie Austen adds a lot more emotional depth to the band’s repertoire – her voice is both soothing and exciting, depending on how much attitude she brings to the party. The pop rockin’ ‘I Wanna Be A Wannabe’ is a playful jab at social media. ‘Ter Wit Ter Woo’, co-written by Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook and sung by Austen, is a true gem, sounding like it could have easily fit onto an early Faces album yet still sounding contemporary and unique. ‘Race To The Bottom’ is a robust Gospel-influenced bluesy rocker with Charlie providing harmony vocals. ‘Roots And Wings’ is a Gospel Folk gem that may be about the people in his life that inspired Greaves (his parents and other family members) but it could just as easily be about the records and artists that influenced him. ‘One Of Sour, Two Of Sweet’, a duet between Dennis and Charlie, is soulful Pop and is the type of song that could easily fit on NBZ’s THIRD DEGREE album or on one of the early Truth EPs. Oh, I could go on because there are a lot of highlights on AVALANCHE. From rollicking piano to glorious stabs of power by the horn section, this is an album that solidifies NBZ’s stature as the UK’s finest Blues outfit. Oh, did I fail to mention that their secret weapon is - and has always been - Mark Feltham and his amazing and emotional harmonica playing? Some stunning work on this album, but that's to be expected - he is Mark Feltham, you know! A fab journey through Blues, Pop, Rock, Soul, and Gospel, AVALANCHE is thrilling from beginning to end.


I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to hear what Dennis Greaves and his co-horts do next!

Your pal,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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