Posts Tagged ‘Slammin Gladys’

For fans who have been waiting for new music from Los Angeles based rock band Slammin’ Gladys, the years of anticipation are finally over. Their second studio effort, TWO, was released on Feb.12 — almost three decades after the band first garnered wide-spread attention with a captivating self-titled debut album along with their energetic live performances that steam-rolled concert venues across the U.S.

The new batch of nine songs is a satisfying, diverse mix of well-crafted slow blues rockers, funk-inspired groovers, and knockout pop-rock songs. TWO is a culmination of all the best song elements that were commonplace on rock radio back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, melded into its own refreshingly modern and well-produced sound.

The original lineup, Dave Brooks, J.J. Farris, Al Collins, and Stephen DeBoard, now all well-seasoned music industry veterans, are a versatile and cohesive unit whose sound and songwriting has evolved. Gone are the limitations and musical genre ‘boxes’ that came with being labeled as a ‘hard-rock’ or ‘hair-band’. This may disappoint closed-minded fans and critics who question how advancing musically past what the band was 30 years ago can be considered a success. That’s a shame. As a listener, you get the sense that Slammin’ Gladys created this record exactly as they wanted. And any notion that TWO would be just a half-hearted attempt of a band trying to relive its past glory days is shattered.

The nuanced lead track “Toxic Lover” alone makes the time since the band’s last release worth the wait. With its lyrically rhythmic chorus, lush backing vocals, and melodic guitar work, this infectious pop-rock gem is reminiscent of Def Leppard’s sound at height of their popularity. The kind of catchy song that just seems to make the world a better place. “Hold Up My Blue Sky” stands out for its similar qualities.

 

Funk-inspired tracks “Dragon Eye Girl” and “Light Up” stay true to the band’s original sound with deep grooves laid down by Collins and DeBoard. Farris’ sizzling erotic guitar licks would have Hendrix and Prince smiling like proud parents. The rap performed by drummer DeBoard on “Light Up” provides an unexpected and interesting twist — and undeniable proof of Slammin’ Gladys’ musical freedom.

Nowhere is lead vocalist Dave Brooks’ and the band’s maturity more apparent than on gritty, blues-based songs “Lost in Texas” and “Ice Water.” Highlighted by the authentic, bad-ass harmonica-playing of guest Stacie Collins, the band leaves L.A., and heads south in a figurative manner. Brooks clearly has maintained his strong pipes over the years, and it is evident throughout TWO that the songs are a good fit for his vocal range. These two tracks, plus “Toxic Lover,” truly display his ability to use his voice as a fine instrument, perfectly adding subtle inflections and expressions that build the character of the songs.

The game-changer on TWO is the decision to plug guitarist J.J. Farris in his double-duty role as producer. Farris, who has honed is production skills over the past decade or two in Hollywood, recorded, mixed, and mastered all the songs. His creativity, attention to detail, and instrumentation choices bring the songs to life in the best way.

Clocking in at an ambitious 7:20, the anthem-like song “Poison Arrow” closes out the album. The recorded version feels just a smidge too long, but the hopeful, soulful track, elevated by a Hammond B3 Organ, should translate very well in a live setting when concerts return. You can envision fans on each other’s shoulders, with their cell phones waving in the air and lighting up the arena, swaying and singing along ‘Hey, hey, you can lean on me.’

One common trait of a great record is that it gets even better with every listen as the special nuances of each song continue to reveal themselves over time. Well-written, performed, and produced, TWO really is a trifecta and deserves an honest listen. Your ears will be glad you did.