Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Redwalls - Universal Blues - 2003

Chicago's Redwalls are clearly in thrall to classic rock: classic in the '60s sense, that is. Dylan, Neil Young, the Beatles, CCR, the Stones -- anyone who matched impassioned vocals with literate lyrics, and a rough-and-ready, small group rock sound. "Thrall" might be putting it too mildly. It is like classic '60s rock has them hypnotized. When the hypnotist's fingers snap, the band sets to work recreating note perfect imitations of their idols. "Colorful Revolution" is Dylan filtered through Stealers Wheel ("Stuck in the Middle"), of all people, with topically political lyrics (just like they used to have back in the old days); "It's Alright" is CCR fronted by John Lennon; "Speed Racer" is late period Beatles-styled rock 'n' roll, as is their cover of ZZ Top's "Balinese." "It's Love You're On" is mid-period Beatles rock 'n' roll; "I Just Want to Be the One" sounds like an outtake from Highway 61, right down to the organ. There is not an original note on this record. By all rights, it should be terrible. Actually, it is kind of fun. The band wins you over with their enthusiasm, dedication, and ability to craft songs that sound like their heroes' songs, but also sound good too. Besides, the Beatles broke up ages ago; Lennon's dead, and Dylan hasn't made a decent record since the motorcycle crash, so there is a gap in the market for a band like The Redwalls. They fill it with panache, and any classic rocker would be silly to dismiss Universal Blues as mere imitation. Better to just throw away your purist notions and enjoy the rock. -AMG


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