It’s that time of year again, when music bloggers go through the year’s releases and highlight the best of the year. The usual caveats apply; these are the best records of 2016 I’ve actually had the chance to hear. I only have a finite CD budget, and even though I’m a part-time music writer, not every record company sends me free promos.
We’ll start with 25 to 11. Except that they’re not ranked in any order, because that would be next to impossible.
Update Because I missed out one record by mistake, this year’s list now goes up to 26. You will have to guess which one it was yourselves.
Voodoo Vegas play old school twin guitar hard rock, and their second full-length album “Freak Show Candy Floss” makes a powerful statement of intent. The title reflects life on the road, driving hours to play high energy rock’n'roll in places like Merthyr Tydfil and Basingstoke, and how that dedication to live music must seem incomprehensible to those with 9-5 lifestyles.
From the opening chords of “Backstabber”, this is the sound of a band who mean business. Laurence Case has a classic hard rock voice, Ash Moulton and Jonno Smyth make a hard rocking rhythm section, and guitarists Meryl Hamilton and Jon Dawson serve up monstrous riffs and shredding solos. Which would all count for little unless the songs were there, but Voodoo Vegas have the songwriting chops to match.
It’s one of those albums where it’s hard to single out highlights. “Killing Joke” with its references to dancing with The Devil in the pale moonlight along with freaks and candyfloss is almost the title track. Then there’s there’s the blues-rock stomp of “Lady Divine” with Lawrence Case throwing in a harmonica solo. Some of the strongest songs appear on what would in the days of vinyl have been the second side of the record. “Black Heart Woman”, “I Hear You Scream” and the album closer “Walk Away” are driving hard rockers with barrelling riffs. There are a couple of changes of pace, with the swampy blues of “Poison” and the acoustic “Sleeping in the Rain”, but there’s no filler here, every song on the album is a belter.
This is an album of no-nonsense no-frills rock and roll that does what it says on the tin. When working within a fairly traditional form, you have to be very good at what you do to avoid sounding like a derivative pastiche of other, better bands that came before. Voodoo Vegas pass that test with ease. To put it simply, they rock.
“It’s hard and at times, it’s completely crazy”, says guitarist Meryl Hamilton, “I mean, don’t get me wrong, to have the opportunity to do what we do is amazing and we’re extremely fortunate. But for anyone that knows what’s its like to be in band, working full on, whilst juggerling (see what we did there?) traditional work and personal lives, to people outside this bubble, they think we’re mad.” “Yep”, chimes in Case, “The name ‘Freak Show Candy Floss’ comes from the idea that people who don’t live in this music world can’t understand why we travel for hours and hours only to play music for a short amount of time. Some people think we are crazy, insane, maybe even FREAKS! The name Freak Show Candy Floss comes from that, we are crazy, we are insane, we are FREAKS who love writing and playing our music, and the candy floss is the music and gigs we play, it’s there, it tastes so sweet, but then it’s gone so quick just like candy floss.”
They’ve announced a handful of dates across southern England and South Wales over the next couple of months.
9th Sep – FERNDOWN – Barrington Theatre
10th Sep – SWANSEA- The Scene Club
11th Sep – MERTHYR TYDFIL – New Crown
24th Sep – SOUTHAMPTON – Talking Heads
1st Oct – OXFORD – The Cellar
4th Nov – POOLE – Mr Kyps
5th Nov – ANDOVER – The Lights
10th Dec – BASINGSTOKE – Stage Live
If their barnstorming set at the Cambridge Rock Festival in August is anything to go by, these dates should not be missed.
The Cambridge Rock Festival is a great little festival specialising in blues, classic rock and progressive rock. It’s always had a reputation as a friendly intimate event, and with all three stages under cover the music takes place in the dry even if the great British summer does its worst. Though it missed a year in 2015, it was back in 2016 for its twelfth event, held again at its usual site at Haggis Farm Polo Club just outside Cambridge. And it promised a strong bill, with a good balance of regular favourites and intriguing-sounding new names. Continue reading →
I manages to get a photo pass for a night of metal mayhem with Fozzy & Breed 77 at Reading’s Sub89. It’s not the sort of gig where I’d risk my camera anywhere near the front without a pass for the pit!
Opening act Voodoo Vegas played some old school rock and roll. Good to see a woman in a rock band who’s not the singer.
Breed 77 were probably the most musically interesting, mixing alternative metal with flamenco and eastern influences to produce something that wasn’t a retread of things we’ve heard many times before.
Fozzy were a lot more traditional, rocking like it was 1985, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by their ability to work a crowd. This is a band who really understand the art of showmanship.
Even with a strict “3 songs only” I still ended up with a lot of photos. Plenty more photos from that night on my photo gallery site.