(4 / 5)
Fourth solo album from established British musician and artist Mike Ross. 10 tracks, all but one penned by Ross. Recorded in Brighton, produced by Mike.
Mr Ross sings lead vocals, plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and organ, bass and percussion. There’s bass contributions from Ricky Kinrade, organ from Rob Millis and Stevie Watts. Drummer Darren Lee gets in on the act too.
If heavier, blues-fused old school rock is your bag, then this is for you. The guitar skills are top end. His vocal stands out more on some tracks than others next to the axe quality, but it’s all a very decent listen and worth the investment.
Two tracks already released from the album as singles, “None Of Your Business”, which dropped in August and prior to that, “The Loser”, in July. The latter nods to The Faces and particularly the late and great Ronnie Lane’s gorgeous solo work. Mike should do more of this stuff.
Durham-born Mike is known not only for his solo work, but as part of the rock trio HRH with Jack Hutchinson and Troy Redfern, who released their debut long player “Mahogany Drift” in 2018.
Mike’s solo debut “Spindrift” hit the streets in 2014, then “Jenny’s Place” in 2018, and the Nashville-recorded “The Clovis Limit Pt.1” in 2019.
On the new album, there’s light and shade between the ‘in-yer-face’ rockers and the more restrained moments, where the tracks showcase Mike’s serving of the song and “less is more” approach to the guitar parts. Then when he does let fly on his chosen instrument, you know about it!
Early Stones-ish “Hammer” at track four is a nice job, penned by Paul Dent, slowing things down for the first time on the album. Strong vocals from Mike. “Tell Jerry” is the first of two instrumentals of the set. Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” vibes on the lovely, twin guitar-soaked second instrumental “Unforgiven”. Sweet as…..
Free and Bad Company nods on the penultimate track, “Don’t Say A Word”, one of the best cuts here and bound to become a popular staple of his live set, once there’s a live scene to go back to!
Closer “Shoot If You Run” is a commercial, powerful and menacing mid-tempo rock track that builds as it progresses – with a hook that’ll get ya! But….it ends properly at 4.40 and then there is almost another five minutes of snippets of guitar “atmospherics” and “noodling”.
Plus, what sounds like an old US radio broadcast from the war years. Not until 9.14 does the the track stop. But, if you can endure that weird stuff, you find a hidden 11th track…Maybe it was a test?
Hidden away is another version of “Unforgiven”, with “(Ramport Transition)” added to the title. This bonus track does not appear on the CD’s track listing. It is more synthy and less guitar-centric than the previous version. The first one is in the Southern Rock lane and this one is far more Prog Rock. Quite Yes-like, with some very nice harmony vocals.
There’s “more of everything” here than his previous releases, says Mike. More vocals, more guitars, more synths and more percussion. Not heard ’em, so cannot comment. Only heard the HRH album and brace of singles from this record when it comes to Mike Ross.
But for a set of songs and recordings that are 99% Mike Ross doing everything, this is pretty impressive stuff and will surely gain Mike a fair few new social media friends….. Most of whom will probably have a spare room or a garage full of guitars, amps and Fender/Gibson swag.
But there’s more to this man and this album than the skill in his hands and fingers that he is perhaps mainly known for. The song writing, the delivery and the production values here are as important as the super fretboard action.
If some big name stadium rock act ever loses their singer and their guitarist and is seeking replacements, I think they could probably save a wage packet and hire this guy for both jobs. He might well take some decent songs with him, too!
By Simon Redley
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