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Blues Pills – Live

Nuclear Blast

Blues Pills - LiveBlues Pills are one of the best new bands to emerge in recent years that very generously tip their hat at the great heavy rock and psychedelic music of the late sixties. This limited release album by Nuclear Blast finds them performing live at the Freak Valley Festival (and what a great name for a festie) in May 2014.

OK, let’s start off with the cover; its another fantastic reworking of one of Marijke Koger of The Fool’s ’67/’68 posters in its full-on psychedelic loveliness with the name of the band subtly added to it; this is Blues Pills statement of intent, straight away nailing their (multi-)colours to the freak rock wall.

“High Class Woman” kicks in with pounding tribal rhythmic drumming and chugging guitar which builds up nicely to the entrance of Elin Larsson’s powerful vocals, like a cross between Janis Joplin, Ann Wilson and, dare I say it, Ozzy Osbourne. Her voice soars in a wonderful melodic way that just sends shivers down the spine. Larsson is one of the finest vocalists around today, with pure passion in her voice that she twists from the subtle to the raw and emotional As the track progresses we get the band moving through wonderful loud Hendrix-style freakout guitar to taking things down to a drifting Pink Fairies otherness that could be the isness but isn’t. A fine, blistering opening to the album that shows the individual talents of the band in fine form and segues into “Ain’t No Change”, which has some fantastic blues guitar licks from Dorian Sorriaux. Here he becomes Santana, Peter Green and Paul Rudolph all merged into one — you could hear his guitar sound travelling across the fields of Woodstock or radiating around the tall trilithons at the Stonehenge free festival.

“Bliss” hits in like it could be an out take from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with both Zack Anderson on Bass and André Kvarnstrum on drums, giving the rhythm the feel that the UFO club must have grooved to in 1967. The track moves through kaleidoscopic colours of sound that give trace effects within the mind’s eye. “Dig In” has a stumbling rhythm and a laid-back vibe that drifts around like spires in the sky in a hemp-heavy haze that could easily be played over footage of hippies at the Monterey Festival. It’s beautiful and has a powerhouse middle section that stops it from becoming too dreamy. “Black Smoke” is a hash oil monolith, with its scatter drum pattern, loose guitar riff and lysergic lead that becomes machine gun like at points, but is also driven emotionally and melodically. When the track settles down, the high priestess of smokes vocals take the song into another realm before it hits an almost Deep Purple stride. “Time Is Now” is classic freak rock riffing that slips a little into Sabbath territory with its heavy, crashing chords.

The wonderful “No Hope Left For Me” is filled with passion and heartfelt, heartbreaking sentiments. Elin’s vocals are magnificent and the tune is one of Blues Pills’ finest, a true paean and expression of love — marvellous. “Devil Man” begins with Elin’s massive blues call out before the big riff hits in and we are swallowed in Hoffman-pure psychedelia territory over some massive pounding percussion. “Astralplane” is a cosmic rocker that sets its controls right to the heart of the universe. This is the sound of joss stick-filled bedrooms with tie-dyed hangings and black light posters, the kind of tune I imagine the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers listening to. “Little Sun” finishes the album with more Peter Green-sounding chords that create a warm heat haze of summer evenings. As the sunset and lights spring, on the track begins to lift and pick up pace as its melody wafts around the air. A great way to close both the band’s set and the album.

If this album is as limited as they are saying, it is it‘s well worth grabbing now before you end up paying silly prices second hand for it. The cover looks glorious, the music is glorious — what more do you want?

-Gary Parsons-

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