Angel Air Records (label)
03 October 2011 (released)
03 October 2011
I’ve fallen in love! With a CD, mind you. 70s blues rock band Medicine Head have just released their first album for over 37 years and I know this is one love affair that won’t fizzle out any time soon.
Fronted by John Fiddler (who also used to be very active playing for British Lions) wrote and recorded the new material in the past year. Fiddlersophical features eleven tracks that offer his trademark rich voice, harmonica, and some damn fine acoustic guitar play. Above all, it features great songs that effortlessly slide between bluesy rock, country rock and even a bit of folk.
Let’s start with ‘Free’ – a wonderful number dominated by a distinctive harmonica sound, accompanied by an equally distinctive guitar sound. While the chorus is more on the harmonious side, the rest has echoes of Dylan and Guthrie ringing through, though it all blends just fine. Indeed, it’s like the art of blending some mature whiskies, each with its own flavour, and then putting it into a musical context.
Second number ‘Cadillacs and Diamonds’ is one of those drift off and drive into the horizon affairs that is simply irresistible. Utterly catchy and utterly addictive, you can’t help but humming along to it. It’s a song that – in style and arrangement – could have been composed by Tom Petty or Gram Parsons, for it possesses that laid-back Americana sound. Alas, it was composed by a native Brit and I tip my imaginary Stetson with even more respect.
‘The Haunting’ has more of a timeless and classic touch to it, but things get more rootsy again with the choppy beat of ‘Narcisister’.
Next is ‘Who’s Having Fun?’ which, ironically, has a more haunted sound to it then the previous number. It’s a song that would be perfect for a modern-day Wild West road movie and – consciously or unconsciously – pays homage to Ry Cooder with its excellent slide work. As brilliant as it is moody!
Brilliance remains with ‘Halfway’ and the emotionally charged ‘I’ll Turn You On’. Although ‘Sing With Me’ sure doesn’t stray from the quality of the aforementioned two tracks, it’s altogether more upbeat with a blues-orientated harmonica sound.
‘The Bermuda Triangle Of My Love’ is a slow-burning love song about – here comes something completely new – disappointment and disillusionment. Ok then, while it may be the same old sob story of love and dreams gone sour, the musical arrangement at least has lots going for it: stripped of unnecessary instrumental overload, the emphasis here is on a duet performance, executed with great feeling by Fiddler and a lady called (presumably) Claire.
The vibe stays mellow with ‘First I Lost My Mind’, a rather folkie sounding ditty. Closing track is ‘Angels and Misfits’ and almost makes for the opposite to opening number ‘Free’, with its slow-mo pace and reserved singing interspersed with humming.
It really is a terrific album, though perhaps slightly unbalanced in so far that the first half has the gear considerably cranked up and gives co-musicians Neil Conti and Laurence Archer plenty of room for their own spiel, while the second half seems to have the foot more and more off the pedal as the tracks go on. Not that it’s doing the album’s overall quality any harm of course!