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Blues Explosion - Damage


Review: Jack Foley

THE Blues Explosion have been one of the most consistently reliable bands on the blues scene for years, so it comes as little surprise to find that their latest album, Damage, merely extends their reputation for delivering albums of blues-soaked rock 'n' roll that recall the heyday of the era.

Imagine the Stones, at the height of their Seventies popularity, or the guitar-playing verve of Hendrix, given a contemporary edge, courtesy of some blistering guest vocals.

Damage is an album which seemlessly combines the best of the old-school with some wonderfully observed nods to the new, courtesy of guest slots from the likes of Martina Topley-Bird and Public Enemy heavyweight, Chuck D.

What's more, it arrives with some fairly slick production values, courtesy of the presence of DJ Shadow, David Holmes and, needless to say, Steve Jordan (who is a veteran of the Rolling Stones).

It makes for a heady, gutsy mix that really ought to rate among the essential purchases for any blues fans, or rock 'n' roll junkies.

Blues Explosion (formerly The John Spencer Blues Explosion) are comprised of lead singer and guitarist, Spencer, Judah Bauer, on slide guitars, and Russell Simins, banging those drums, and they certainly know their stuff - given that Damage is their 17th long-player in 20 years, and their first since 2002's gritty Plastic Phang.

Highlights include Hot Gossip, which finds the band ripping it up into hip-hop territory, courtesy of Chuck D's authoritative vocals, and the DJ Shadow-polished Fed Up And Low Down, which brings in an element of funk.

Title track, Damage, hugs the retro-vibe, with Spencer's vocals doing their best to emulate Jagger's in their prime, while the sultry tones of Martina Topley-Bird sex things up whenever they get a look in (especially on Spoiled).

Occasionally, the album feels a little too self-indulgent, or as though we might just have stumbled into a jamming session, as in Rivals, but then the band also seems to have found the knack of catering for the hardcore fanbase, as well as reaching out to potential new listeners (enthralled by the possibility of seeing how their collaborations work out).

But it is a tribute to Spencer's talent, and willingness to mix things up a bit, that when he hollers, 'can you dig my band!' during the title track, you'll want to scream back 'yes'!

I can't remember the blues ever sounding quite so intoxicating as when Spencer bleeds them.

Track listing:
1. Damage
2. Burn It Off
3. Spoiled
4. Crunchy
5. Hot Gossip
6. Mars, Arizona
7. You Been My Baby
8. Rivals
9. Help These Blues
10. Fed Up And Low Down
11. Rattling
12. Blowing My Mind

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