I first became aware of THE BLUE BISHOPS a few years ago now; but after reading MARTIN TURNER’s excellent autobiography ‘No Easy Road’ about 18 months ago (Turner being an occasional memer of the band), I was reminded of them again. On the strength of that, I down-loaded a few tracks from the highly rated “Deep” album (Speegra, 2002), and these were very good indeed.
However, after having been approached by the Bishops’ guitarist and founder member, SIMON BURRETT recently, I decided that some words about the band were long over-due. They are not known too widely, which is a shame because they are actually a very good band. So hopefully I can help to spread the word about them a little, by reviewing their last album “In The Red” (Cyclone Music, 2010).
The band currently consist of: the afore-mentioned founder member Simon Burrett (guitar, slide, and vocals); GEOFF GRANGE (vocals, guitar, and harp); JIM RODFORD (bass); and JUSTIN HILDRETH (drums). These core members are supplemented by JOHN BUNDRICK (keys); STUART EPPS (percussion); and none other than veteran keyboard maestro ROD ARGENT.
First track on the album is ‘Walking In A Hurricane’ – the old JOHN FOGERTY song. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I like a cover – but I don’t like slavish covers; I like fresh interpretations of originals. I got that with this version; and its a good choice for an opener. What struck me most of all on this track though (and throughout the album), was Geoff Grange’s excellent vocal style, which reminded me of the late, great DAVID BYRON; and a little of IAN GILLAN. Good solos from both axe-men on this track too. A great start!
Next up is ‘Screw’. Penned by Grange (as most of the songs are), this song has a good synchronised riff between guitar and harmonica. As the song ended, I thought I heard my mobile ring – but no, it was the third song ‘Wake-up Call’ beginning with a ring tone! Good heavy chord sequence on this one; supplemented by melodic lead.
‘Place In Time’ has a bluesy intro which soon develops into a more progressve sequence with a simple but effective descending bass run. This gives way to a lighter chorus. I think this is one of the best tracks on the album. Next track, ‘Life On The Line’ is a good rocker with a chorus that reminds me of good quality pop-rock song from the early 70s (that’s not a criticism – I love it!)
That 70s vibe continues with ‘Credit Card’. With words by Grange, and music by Burrett; it has an amusing lyric and great slide and harp solos. This is followed by ‘Blues Stand In Line’ which sounds to me like it could almost be a Mk2 Deep Purple creation; and wouldn’t be out of place on “Machine Head”! Fantastic keyboard work from Argent.
‘The Sea Will Rise’ is an ecologically aware song – again a collaboration between Grange and Burrett. BERNIE MARSDEN and WALTER TROUT have handled such green issues before, so why not? Its a good song – again, a bit Purple-esque – and the first of two with a serious subject matter amongst this collection. Argent stands out again here.
Time for two more covers now: in the form of Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s staple song ‘That’s Alright Mama’ (great slide and harp on this one again); followed by The Everly Brothers classic ‘Price Of Love’ (suitably rocked-up) and no doubt these are both popular live numbers.
The bluesy ‘The End Is Listless’ by Burrett, is the only instrumental on the album. (Clever play on words for the title, I must say!). You have to be careful with instrumentals – to keep them interesting, you have to know when to end them; and this is just about right length-wise. Nice axemanship and harp work here once again.
The second song with a more serious lyric is ‘The Black Diamond’. It laments the hard life of a traditional coal-mining community. Its a Prog-Rock piece and is really rather good, if sombre. Lovely lead guitar tone on this one. The final offering is ‘These Things Take Time’. A foot tapping folky, acoustically driven number; again with fine-sounding guitar work throughout.
The cover (for those of us who still like to buy a CD!) is very good too. All the basic info that you need about the band and the songs – including lyrics – is included. The centre-fold, with its collage of band pics, reminds me of Purple’s “Machine Head” (1972); QUO’s “On The Level” (’75); and HEART’s “Dreamboat Annie (’76). Now I’m in danger of lamenting the demise of vinyl, and gate-fold sleeves! (Showing my age again!)
I’ve not seen The Blue Bishops live (and this is a situation I hope is rectified soon), but I should imagine that they’re a lively band to see on-stage; and I’d guess they have a lot of fun performing too. Producer JOHN LECKIE has set out deliberately to capture the live performance of the band on the album – in fact some tracks were actually recorded live in the studio; demonstrating the tightness; experience; and confidence of the band. It works; and I highly recommend this album. Let’s hope that the Blue Bishops start getting the more widespread recognition that they deserve.
The Blue Bishops website details band profiles; samples; and gigs etc – link below:
Great album, lads! PTMQ