Many years ago, I saw a 60s covers band named Ready Steady Go, whom, as their name would suggest, specialised in those from the mod sub-genre. They were supporting a Jam tribute band who’d severely over-charged for tickets. Before their set, Ready Steady Go’s keyboard player told me they hadn’t been allowed a soundcheck because “the fake Paul Weller was acting like a prima donna”. He claimed that, in protest, he was going to go on stage and “stab knives into his keyboards, like Keith Emerson”. He was clearly in a very bad mood.
Five years or so later, I found myself in a pub watching my friend Rich Barnard play an acoustic set which so many people seem to insist on talking over – including the promoter. That night’s headline act was Maker – a band which played late 60s/early 70s rock, heavily inspired by The Faces and The Black Crowes, featuring Anthony Brooks (previously of Ready Steady Go) on keyboards. As Maker tore into their opening number, the volume was almost deafening, to the point where it became almost impossible to pick out the fineries of their performance beyond the sheet of noise (however, with a bit of distance and a couple of walls to deflect the blast, they sounded great – apparently, the ladies toilets were the best seats in the house). Even though their sound mix was less than flattering, visually, it was obvious Maker had the necessary qualities required to become professional musicians. Watching Brooks hammering away at the organ, he’d clearly improved as a musician in those intervening years.
Released four or so years after that rather loud gig – and on the back of countless other live shows, including some high profile support slots – comes Maker’s debut release, and it sounds superb. Right from the start of the opening track ‘Run and Hide’, driven by a pumping bass, the band displays a huge amount of confidence. Against the hard rhythm section, Brooks adds a great countermelody on the organ, giving the number a great groove. Alessandro Marinelli’s husky vocal features the perfect retro qualities for Maker’s sound, and in all, it’s a sound that’s more than solid. The guitars have a bit of a back seat for this track, but it provides a good showcase for Brooks’s Brian Auger style organ work; a swirling solo has plenty of character, if a little short.
‘Tell Me I’m Wrong’ is a moody piece which would fit squarely among Free or The Black Crowes’ slower material. Marinelli gets the chance to stretch out and deliver a vocal line with a little more soul. Andrew Donaldson’s guitar playing is understated, but his bluesy lines are delivered with plenty of feeling. John Austin’s bass work does a fine job in holding everything together, but essentially, this track is Marinelli’s finest moment – particularly as his vocals build to a climax at the close of the number.
#Closing the EP, ‘Pour Your Heaven’ is a great showcase for Gavin Donaldson’s hard drumming style. Built around a fantastic drum riff, the number captures Maker at their most spiky. The guitars punctuate the drum riff while slabs of organ add plenty of depth. Marinelli’s vocal performance is urgent and the guitar work is more aggressive than on the previous tracks. Of the three numbers featured, this is probably the most instant – it’s certainly got one of the better choruses. Repeated listens highlight some particularly good, fairly complex bass runs between the tracks more insistent moments.
If you’re a fan of 70s influenced rock, then this is more than worthy of your time. You won’t find anything here particularly original, but to expect such would be missing the point. Maker delivers music which feels good, with influences and a style that’s almost timeless. Clearly, that very loud pub band always knew what they were doing.