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Published: 2014/01/11
by Brian Robbins

Chris Wilson
It's Flamin' Groovy!

Twenty Stone Blatt Records

Chris Wilson’s new It’s Flamin’ Groovy! belongs in the same category as Ronnie Wood’s I’ve Got My Own Album To Do or Ian McLagan’s Troublemaker : fine, fine solo albums by veteran rock ‘n’ rollers who have nothing to prove, playing music they love because … well … they frigging love it.

Note that I would’ve compared It’s Flamin’ Groovy! to Keith Richards’ Talk Is Cheap (a personal favorite) right off the bat, except for the fact that ol’ Keef recorded that one with a bit of a chip on his shoulder during the Stones’ black 80’s period. Wilson – who joined the Flamin’ Groovies back in 1971 (a San Fran-based band who managed the unique feat of never receiving the accolades they deserved while influencing a couple generations of rocking power pop psych punks in the process) plays with no chips on his shoulder whatsoever here. This is a gang of bandmates and buds, armed with talent and smiles.

Groovies founders Cyril Jordan (guitar), George Alexander (bass/guitar/harmonica) and Roy Loney (the man Wilson replaced in the original lineup – guesting here on vocals) all contribute to the album, along with appearances by other Groovies alumni (guitarists Mike Wilhelm and James Ferrell) and legendary Procol Harem keyboardist Matthew Fisher. Anthony Clark (who has collaborated with Wilson in the past) wrote or co-wrote a number of the tunes on It’s Flamin’ Groovy! , along with laying down some killer guitar and bass. Drum duties are split between Greg Paulett and Andy Woodard, while Dick Coppen produced – and added some tasty bits of guitar, percussion, and vocals to various tracks.

So what does it all sound like, you ask? Well, much the same as those great ol’ albums mentioned earlier: you start It’s Flamin’ Groovy! a’spinnin’ and – whizzo-bang – you’re off and flying to a place you’ll swear you’ve been before. Wilson, Clark, Jordan, and keyboardist Andy Thomas-Emans all know how to write tunes that capture familiar vibes without ever imitating anything. (Hell, when you’re dealing with a vet like Chris Wilson, chances are good that your “That reminds me of …” ponder will lead back to him, anyway.)

“All The Action” launches things off with enough dreamy jangle to recall early Groovies glories, but enough snap and growl to put things in right-now perspective. Following the rocking reality check of the last verse, the tune swings into a cool extended outro – still packing plenty of wallop and guitar snarl, but poignant at the same time.

“Heart In Her Hand” and “She Satisfies” are both “lost” Cyril Jordan-penned songs from years ago: the former features a catchy suspended chord-powered guitar riff and big keys by Fisher; the latter is a chugging rocker with a nasty break by Anthony Clark. Clark’s “Last Roll Of the Dice” showcases Wilson’s soulman side; “Shake That Feeling” is layer-upon-layer of six-string lusciousness; the Keefish guitar grunt of “Down To The Wire” is a dandy platform for guest hornman Tomas Gisby to lay down some sweet sax work; and both “Semaphore Signals” and “Sweet Anne” combine enough twang and grit to make any grievous angel smile.

“Can’t Let Go” is a hybrid mix of Stonesy gruffness and Byrdsy sweetness (tempered by George Alexander’s mouth harp) – and it’s Alexander’s bass that gently lugs “Feel Your Love” along with a gentle sway. Meanwhile, Andy Thomas-Emans lends pounding barroom-style piano to the album-closing “Gamblin’ Man”; his “Kashmir”-ish keys combine with Wilson’s tambura and Mike Wilhelm’s slide guitar to infuse “Bad Dreams” with both curry and swamp.

Throughout it all, Wilson proves himself to be a master at honing in on a given tune’s groove and spirit. His vocals ring true with the tone and delivery of one who’s lived plenty of life; at the same time, the son of a gun can – and will – rock your ass off. This is one cat who will always look real in a leather jacket with the collar turned up.

Rejoice, fans of real rock ‘n’ roll: Chris Wilson is still making ‘em like they used to.

*****

Brian Robbins hangs his leather jacket on a nail over at www.brian-robbins.com.

Comments

There are 2 comments associated with this post

Mike Wilhelm January 14, 2014, 01:41:07

I’ve been singing this guy’s praises for years but who the hell am I? This review is spot on. Chris, and the Groovies are finally getting the praise and recognition they have deserved from the beginning. Glad I (and everyone else involved) lived to see it.

jeff case January 14, 2014, 04:24:18

i too am glad the band and alumni are finally getting some recognition. only 30 years too late. go see them if you can. well worth it.

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