Holy flashback, Batman!
Anyone with fond memories of the kind of power-blues associated with the so-called "British Invasion" of the 60's and 70's - particularly Fleetwood Mac in its earliest incarnation - would do well to check out Sweden's Blue Pearls.
Bandleader/guitarist Bela Stephens leads this quintet - driven by the twin guitar attack of himself and vocalist Perry Marshall - through a hard 'n' heavy set that often leans toward extended jams with plenty of wah wah and other effects.
Everything's powered along by the pile driver rhythm section of bassist "Madman" and drummers Mick Alsterlund and Per Lindberg. Nothing subtle about their approach, but that's not a bad thing - this kind of "thumpy" sound reminds me of the Nighthawks from 'way back when. Jay Rhodes contributes moody organ, staying mostly in the background but filling the sound out nicely.
Sound quality is just a tad murky for a late-90's recording - audiophiles beware - but given the Pearls' obvious affection for an earlier era, I wouldn't be surprised if it's intentional. Seems about right at any rate.
Mr. Stephens is responsible for the originals - six out of nine - and despite claims that he's anxious to break free of the "12-bar-prison" (his words) to the contrary, shows little desire to leave standard "woman done me wrong" themes behind. Somewhat fractured English doesn't help, but shouldn't be held against him. And hey - it's a blues disc, so I doubt anyone's looking for anything too startlingly revelatory anyway.
Of the three covers two are by Peter Green, who appears to be Bela's idol as well as friend. Hence the disc closes with a live, fourteen-minute take on "Rattlesnake Shake," which the Pearls use to display an impressive command of dynamics and musical ingenuity the 'Mac themselves would be proud of. Bela's fondness for pedals and lots of notes is well apparent here, so if you're into a lean, clean style this isn't likely your cup of tea. Nonetheless, his leads are admirably inventive, and he's consistently interesting throughout. The other is something of a surprise - Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic." Credible, but again indicative of the band's fixation with a musical era that, truth be told, usually gets short shrift from blues fans who tend on average to look further back for inspiration.
Bottom line? If you grew up under the impression that Zep was really a blues band at heart, and have a soft spot for the musical experimentation of, say, Hot Tuna or the Climax Blues Band . . . or if you don't mind a fairly heavy dose of rock (that's rock, not rock 'n' roll) in the mix, you'll love this disc.
The Blue Pearls
P.O. Box 130 25, S-700 13 Orebro, Sweden
Web : www.theblueperals.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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