FLESH & BLOOD – Blues For Daze

flesh-blood-lpFollowing the dissolution of their short-lived band Place Called Rage in 1995, the founding members briefly went their separate ways. Guitarist Al Pitrelli joined power metal band Savatage and drummer Chuck Bonfante stepped away from the spotlight. Reuniting in 1997, the pair provided the driving force behind an almost equally short-lived project entitled Flesh & Blood.

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BIJOU PHILLIPS – I’d Rather Eat Glass

The daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas (about whom plenty could be said, given some past revelations, but now isn’t the time) Bijou Phillips is actress. At other times, she’s a model. When neither of these, she’s been a wild child and your average Google search would suggest she’s someone who’s keen on taking her clothes off. Lesser known facts about Bijou include her abilities as singer-songwriter, which so far have yielded just this one album. ‘I’d Rather Eat Glass’, produced by ex-Talking Heads man Jerry Harrison, is a mixed bag. As the title suggests, it’s quite spiky around the edges, though essentially most of it fits neatly into the rock-pop mould. …And yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking a model/actresses album is some kind of vanity project, but don’t dismiss this, as Bijou has a really strong voice and more than enough talent to make this work.

The opening track ‘Hawaii’ instantly grabs your attention. The guitar riff is a little off centre and in a tuning which seems a step away from the norm. Sadly, I’m not a musician, so I can’t elaborate on that, but it’s a great way to get things started. The alternative pop-rock seems in keeping with a large chunk of the album’s material, but just when you think you know where it’s going, it breaks into an odd calypso-ish break.The guitars are turned up for ‘I Own You’, which is very chorus driven. You’ve heard this all so many times before, but somehow it still retains its charm. Similarly as rocky, but delivered with a quirky vocal, ‘I Never Shot The President’ starts with attitude and then refuses to let go. ‘Little Dipper’ is a stand-out ballad, with a piano led arrangement and probably one of the most heartfelt vocal deliveries this album has to offer, telling a tale of childhood visits to the protagonist’s mother’s house. It stands out, in part, due to a contrast with the spiteful edge present on most of these songs. ‘I Am A Mountain’ seems at first to be in a similar style to ‘I Own You’, but then during the between-verse breaks, the guitars are quite thrashy.

‘When I Hated Him (Don’t Tell Me)’ was the lead single and it’s not difficult to see why. Its radio-friendly angst fit the late 90s model of strong female singers, after Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ took over the world and seemingly opened doors for dozens of people to bare their souls. At first listen, this may feel a little drawn out at over six minutes, but it’s a slow burner and the addition of gospel style backing vocals for the last couple of choruses is a nice touch. ‘Breakfast’ provides good closure, being acoustic based, allows the listener to wind down a little after some of the sharper edged stuff.

I’ve had this in my personal collection for a while now, having bought it purely on the strength of a couple of really positive reviews, without hearing a note. In short, I still can’t recommend it highly enough and most of the people I’ve played it to feel the same way. If you’re out there and those Natalie Imbruglia albums are just that little bit too sugary for you, you know where to look next. This could be a genuinely overlooked gem from the tail end of the last century.

September 2007/November 2009

GREGG ALEXANDER – Intoxifornication

It’s probably fair to say that if you heard Gregg Alexander or were aware of his work in the early 90s, you almost certainly discovered him by accident. This seems a pity as this, his second solo album, is a decent record. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but like Prince (who seems an obvious influence on bits of the album), sometimes it’s the flaws which make it more interesting.

Alongside a handful of tunes featured in different form on ‘Michigan Rain’ (Gregg’s incredibly rare debut), this sophomore album features some new material. Pop-rock drum loops mixed with rock guitars provided the basis for the smut-driven ‘Smokin’ In Bed’ and ‘Electric Girlfriend’, both of which very much set the tone for this album. The title track, as you’d expect, follows suit, but benefits from a punchy guitar riff and a verse with a call and response vocal (it’s amazing what you can do with a ‘hey hey’ if you’re gifted enough), but it’s the pre-chorus which is the real star. Gregg was always meant to be on the radio – and once you hear this, you get the feeling that he presented this track (and indeed the rest of this album) with nothing but arrogant self-belief.   ‘I Wanna Seduce You’ is slightly different, in that the slightly alternative leanings present all but vanish; this track is pure 80s chorus-driven goodness. It reminds me of a Def Leppard cast off except it’s better than that. ‘Save Me From Myself’ (one of the songs originally from ‘Michigan Rain’) provides a decent counterpoint to a lot of the more up-beat tunes and has a vocal delivered with anguish. Even though it’s never going to be a classic album, I’d say the only time the album really misses the mark is on the uncredited bonus track (listed on the Japanese pressing as ‘Wear Your Love Beside You’). I’m not sure what happened here, but Gregg’s voice sounds lethargic and the music sounds like it came from a tape which was slightly warped. I suppose it was an uncredited track for good reason.

After the release of the album Gregg co-wrote most of the songs on ‘Arrive All Over You’ the debut album by Danielle Brisebois (who’d provided backing vocals on ‘Intoxifornication’). As you may expect, her album continued where Gregg’s ended with a similar style of power pop, rock and tongue in cheek smut. Unsurprisingly, her album was greeted with similar indifference by the public at large. [At the time of writing, Danielle’s second album remains recorded but unreleased].

 I’d owned ‘Intoxifornication’ for a couple of years and was convinced that only a few people in the UK would ever hear Gregg Alexander and then at the tail-end of the 1990s, something unbelievable happened. Out of nowhere, a band named New Radicals appeared. Their single ‘You Get What You Give’ was a monster hit. The vocals felt very familiar, but no, it couldn’t be…could it? Gregg Alexander fronting a hit band? Danielle Brisebois appearing on the album too?! Their time had finally come…and then, after a fairly short time in the spotlight, Gregg and Danielle retreated once again, but those with a keen eye and ear can spot Gregg writing songs for Ronan Keating, Rod Stewart, Enrique Iglasias and Danielle writing with Natasha Bedingfield, among others.

Good luck with tracking down any of Gregg or Danielle’s albums mentioned here; they’re worth it.

April 2008