Rival Sons: Head Down
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
If it was easy to grab a few Led Zep licks, add a Bad Company-styled vocalist and ride to stardom on the crunchy blues rocking results, there would be more acts doing it successfully. Heck, even the Firm which featured Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers couldn’t pull it off. So give this West Coast quartet credit for honing its sound on this, the group’s third album, and receiving major love in the UK who typically supports this retro sound, not to mention getting props from Pagey himself for a job well done.
To dismiss the Rival Sons for proudly flaunting their classic 70s rock roots which, in addition to Zepp and Bad Co. include Humble Pie, The Who, The Small Faces and others, is to ignore how powerfully their songs and rough-and-ready attack charge out of the speakers. Lead vocalist Jay Buchanan has his Plant-Rodgers-Marriott strut down cold and Scott Holiday’s guitar leads reference the blues-on-steroids punch that served Page, Beck and Angus Young so well. A mid-album changeup to gospel ballad “Jordan” shows these guys have a tender side and can write convincingly in that vein too. That said, nearly thirteen minutes of “Manifest Destiny”’s parts 1 & 2’s lead guitar shenanigans is twice what most will consider necessary and Buchanan’s occasional Freddie Mercury falsetto, especially on the closing ballad “True” can get grating pretty quickly. Regardless, this is the band’s best effort and if they can continue to channel the energy that make the snarling, stop-start, charging “You Want To” such propulsive, riff-a-rama monsters and lose some of the excess, this is an outfit that can proudly follow in the footsteps of their Brit musical heroes.