Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gunslinger- Earthquake in E Minor

Waveriders, have we got a special treat for you!  In the formative days of independent rock journalism, one of the definitive, pioneering metal fanzines was Kick Ass.  Today, we got a special Ripple contribution from none other than - Mike "Artie O." Hannon, one of the original innovators at Kick Ass.

If we all clap hard, beg, and plead, we may be able to get Mike to contribute more, but in the meantime, we're thrilled and humbled to welcome Mike into the Ripple fold.

ATTENTION: Citizens of Earth! This is Alan Davey, Panic! Do you remember the following words from somewhere? "Know your body's made to move, feel it in your guts / Rock 'n' roll ain't worth the name if it don't make you strut." If you do, this Gunslinger release must certainly have been what that great sage was talking about.

Friends, have I got an album for you. When was the last time you heard an album that was absolutely killer from start to stop? Better yet, absolutely killer over the course of eleven tracks?! Then when it stopped... you immediately hit start again! Well, this is one of those. Bass Assassination 101, delivered in spades, right here. I have had this one spinning on endless repeat and "Valium 10" since discovering its greatness. (Why is this scorcher not being praised on all corners of the globe? Yet shite like the latest album from Green Day is somehow honored as genius?! Questions for the ages, I guess.) I am more than a bit biased to players of this caliber, being a HUGE fan of the bass guitar and those who know precisely (and dangerously) what to do with it. Dare I say, Alan Davey is the ONLY person who could actually front Motorhead, other than Lemmy Kilmister, if the occasion ever arose. Big words, I know... but these are BIG sounds. The likes of which you just don't hear very often, if at all. Alan already did, essentially, take on that heady task during his lengthy tenure with Hawkwind. He was the perfect heir apparent, and the entire period was of great interest to me, conjuring memories of "Doremi Fasol Latido", "Hall of the Mountain Grill" and "Warrior on the Edge of Time". All older Hawkwind classics on which Lemmy had cemented the bottom so very brilliantly. Also, a few of my all-time favorite albums. So, this is where I stand in my vision here. It may be slanted, but it's slanted for all of the right reasons. If you are like-minded, please proceed and enter the craft...

The story of Gunslinger is a long one, dating back to 1979 when Alan Davey and his cousin, Nigel Potter, began to structure what they call "the sonic wall" that would soon become Gunslinger. At this time, their obsession with powerful, flat out rock and roll was beginning to take shape(s). During those early formative years, name change followed name change, but it was when they called their latest incarnation 'Chainsaw' that the real story begins... It was here that songs like "Warhorse", "Gunslinger", "Night Song" and many others first came into sonic being. The immense sound that was to become Gunslinger was thus born. With influences ranging (and raging) from Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Motorhead, Hawkwind and many others, the full-on assault was then thought to be in full flow. The band quickly gained a reputation for playing extremely loud and built a solid, loyal following. They then recorded a demo tape and a record deal was promised, but the deal was never signed. Alas, it was just not meant to be. As they say, the rest is history... until now, that is! But first, a short bit of further backstory is in order...

A long-time Hawkwind fan, Alan Davey ("Bass Assassin # 2", appointed that grandiose title by none other than one Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister himself), sent a demo of his playing to Hawkwind main man, Dave Brock, and was rightly recruited to join the Hawkwind ranks in 1984. Alan then went on to become the second longest-serving member of the band, playing and recording with them for 22 years. (Why didn't they make a movie about that? Instead of that crappy "Rock Star" debacle from a few years back. I'll tell ya, there is no justice in this world.) His time with Hawkwind was a very productive one, to these ears. The man's first gig with the band was at the legendary Stonehenge, for goodness sake. That is just epic stuff! No two ways about it.

But this isn't a Hawkwind write-up, it's a Gunslinger one. So, on to the meat and potatoes of this essential beast known as Earthquake in E Minor. (The album IS Earth-shaking, as the title suggests.) As advertised with the following quote: "Straight up dirty rock/metal, Alan`s 1st band with cousin Nigel Potter who wrote ALL the songs with Alan between 1979-82. If ya like old Motorhead & Hawkwind this is the perfect mix of the two!!" I couldn't say it better than that myself, so I let the quote speak for itself. Well, Motorhead and Hawkwind are two of my all-time favorite bands, so you know I'm going to praise music with a sound like that *IF* they get it right. I am happy to say that not only did they get it right, they have surpassed any expectations you could possibly have. (And I have expectations, believe me.) The music (barely) contained herein is so impressive to fans of the style, that it prompted a comment from a friend which revered: "Is this really Gunslinger? You sure it's not songs that were supposed to be on the album between Overkill and Bomber?" That is MIGHTY HIGH praise, and gives you a perfect launching pad for appreciation of the concept.

The current band is made up of Davey on bass and keys, his nephew Louis "Snag" Davey on guitar, and a young phenom simply named "Cat" on drums and backing vox. The guitar and drums on this particular album are performed by an earlier line-up consisting of Nigel Potter and the mysteriously named George A., respectively. Together, they form a triple threat, which virtually flies off the disc and comes looking for your blood. I haven't heard this kind of decimation in a LONG time, folks. (I'm a bit of a jaded old bastard, and never really heap praise like this on very much at all. I don't even write reviews, unless I've been truly inspired.) The collective is an absolute winner. Recalling, for me, the same feeling I had upon discovering Motorhead in my misspent youth. Maybe you remember when you first heard Tank's Filth Hounds of Hades and were just pummeled from beginning to end? Well, this is that kind of deal. A real deal, made up of monster basses and all the aces!

I'm not really a track-by-track reviewer, but you would be hard-pressed to find a dud in this bunch. If I was pushed to name a few favorites, I would simply and honestly respond with, tracks one through eleven (this one really does go to eleven). As I said earlier, it is a completely enjoyable experience from start to stop, and really should be consumed as a whole. Sometimes half a dose does the trick, but this is a better pill when swallowed whole. Hell, the music makes me feel young and virile again... and that's not an easy thing to do! ha (Mission accomplished... and thank you for it!) This is the kind of music that first inspired me to start a band. This is the kind of music that can start and/or end wars, whichever may be your preference, of course. If any of this sounds appealing to you, and it should, get your hands on this album. Scare your kids, scare your dog, scare your cat. Hell, scare your lion... whatever may have you. I dare you to try and tame this monster! Take the bull by the horns, yes, but be forewarned that this choice may lead to blunt trauma and (motor)head wounds. Try fighting the "Snaggletooth" and "lemmy" know how you make out... if you survive, that is. (How's that for props?) Hey, it's fun to play with words like that (I haven't used some of those wonderfully over-the-top terms in years), but I really can't emphasize enough just how strong this album is. If it had been released in the early '80s, it would have been on many different top-lists as a favorite, I'm certain of it. Alas, that was not to be. But the time is now, and there is no better time than the present. Earthquake in E Minor is a winner on all counts. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the talented lead guitar and drums of the current line-up, as well. (See vids on the Gunslinger MySpace page and YouTube.) If only more of the younger players had this kind of education. Snag and Cat are really firing on all cylinders, and I am amazed that Alan has made discoveries like this in a younger team. Kudos to you all. Top-notch!

Alan and Gunslinger are also hoping to make their way to the USA for some shows. (Isn't there someone out there who can secure this?) The last time I saw him live was on a Hawkwind tour, many moon phases ago... which is entirely too long between visits. Let's do what we can to get that in order, huh? Phone your local politicians, fly a banner from a plane... whatever! This music is made for a live setting, and I hope I will get the chance to see that happen. The band's bio included this apropos proclamation, "We're loud, mean and coming to town!" Let's hope so. I would certainly be there... and you should save a calendar date, too. Gunslinger will be releasing a live album titled "Unlawful Odds" in February 2011. I am impatiently looking forward to that release from this unlawful act. Until then, I will keep cranking Earthquake in E Minor, while I gleefully watch the neighbors' lawn die! Hell, the only complaint I have about the Gunslinger album is that there is no umlaut used above the letter "U" in the band's name. Can't get any better than that for a current release, can you?

I fully realize that there are a lot of Hawkwind and Motorhead mentions in this review. That is not the only chapter in this story, but it's almost impossible not to reference those things when reviewing this album. If you are a fan of either band, make it your business to get this album. (After all, it is the business of the future to be dangerous.) Of course, there is far more to the Church of Alan Davey, so check them @ his web site. He is involved in many creative projects and is a very crafty musician of varying styles. I enjoy them all. Maybe you will, too? They don't make 'em like this anymore, that's for sure. Alan is also currently playing with Hawklords, a collective which showcases many other important former Hawkwind alumni. "25 Years On", and all are still a force to be reckoned with. That is an impressive feat!

For your consideration (as a fun side-note): Alan has even been spotted boldly sporting a T-shirt which reads, "My Rickenbacker Is Older Than My Wife!" Hell, if that doesn't win you over... I guess nothing will sway you. Remember, "If the Bombs Don't Get Ya, the Bullets Will". Carpe diem, baby!

Update: After completion of this review, Alan has now informed me that Flicknife Records will be releasing the live Gunslinger album. And the band have also acquired an agent in the USA who can finally get them some gigs on these shores. "So watch out, we're coming!", exclaims Mr. Davey. Heed the man's words. Hope to see y'all there...

Buy direct: Alan Davey
Buy Amazon: earthquake in e minor

1 comment:

Mighty High said...

Come on Mike, what have you got to lose? (Except for those few remaining brain cells).

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