Thursday, August 6, 2009

Magic Kingdom Misfits

VAGABOND – “Land Of Misfit Toys” CD ’07 (Private, US) – I do dumb things on family vacations. Ok, let me explain. It’s not like I wander down to the hotel bar, find a blonde vixen who needs somebody to buy her a drink and then accompany her back to her suite for a night of wild sex while my family plays Trivial Pursuit 3 floors down. First off, I’m not sure which blonde vixen at a hotel bar would even give this 51 year old the time of day. Secondly, I…um…go to record stores…by myself. I know, I know. It’s pathetic. But let me explain….or at least try.

Whenever I go out of town, I make it my business to find a local record store, comb the…wait for it… “Local” section and emerge with an interesting looking obscure release from the area. I even do this on family trips, I’ll admit, justifying it with the rationalization that “it’s only for an hour or so.” So far, the wife & kids put up with this habit & I’m not in divorce court…that’s a plus I s’pose, so here’s the latest chapter in my escapades….

It’s about 2 weeks ago and we’re in Kissimmee, Florida. After a 2 day, 922 mile drive from B-More, we’re staked out at our hotel and it’s 7:00 on Monday night. Tomorrow is The Magic Kingdom and everyone is mellowing out, ready to catch some early zzz’s for a big day ahead. Myself, I’m on the laptop and discover a place called Park Avenue CD’s. A couple keystrokes into trusty (!!!) Mapquest tells me it’s in Orlando, 20+ miles away. So, with the resoluteness of Job, I grab the keys, jump in the rented Honda Odyssey and trundle onto I-4 North. The directions I have scrawled on the folded-back inside of a Motrin box have me exit from the interstate onto state toll road 408 and then take another exit onto Bumby Street. I’m supposed to follow that until I get to Corrine Drive. And, that’s where I make my mistake. After a few blocks, I figure Mapquest is wrong. It can’t possibly be this far. I’m now 30 minutes on from the hotel, it’s dark and I’m back into a residential area. I must have gone right past it in the little shopping district I went thru a while back. So, I turn around, head back. Up & down, no such thing as Corrine Drive. It’s now after 8:00…I’m tired, it’s dark as shit and I know I’ve got another half hour to get back to the place if I start now. I’ve got part of a cold and I’m going to be walking around Disney tomorrow with 5 kids in the 95 degree heat. So, I do the sensible thing. I turn around again and continue even further away down Bumby Street, into the residential area again and just keep going…and going…and going. And, just when even I am thinking I have lost my mind, a sign materializes on a street corner… “Corrine Drive.”

To make a long story short, 2 minutes later I’m inside a cool little place called Park Avenue CD’s. I grab some music anticipating the drive home from Florida (Kiss, AC/DC, Black Crowes) and begin thumbing through that sometimes-treasure-trove, “Local Artists.” I’m through the B’s, then the M’s, then the S’s. A small defeatist sigh begins to spread across my grim countenance. I’m not seeing anything that’s piquing my interest. A folk thing here, a roots-rock disc there…but nothing that grabs me…now I’m past the T’s and I’m about to resign this to fuck-it territory when I stop…VAGABOND – “Land Of Misfit Toys.” I stop. Man, this looks interesting…weird, cartoonish cover art…some bizarre song titles like “Autumn Lady,” “Echo,” “Right Lane Ends.” Hmm…eleven bucks, what the hell. Did I tell you that it was 9:00 by then, that I got on 408 the wrong way when I left, got lost in downtown Orlando and didn’t get back to the hotel till after 10:00 PM? Did I tell you that I don’t care? Because this CD kicks ass?!

The first good sign was that my wife wasn’t even pissed when I got back. She & the kids had watched a movie & turned in, so I laid back shoved this baby in and hit “play.” The first thing that hit me was a song called “Lucifer’s Lincoln,” opening by pummeling me with heavy, down-tuned riffage, mid-range vocals with a dash of effex and a solo at the end that was snarling enough to clean my clock! Ok, VAGABOND, you’ve got my attention! And, it keeps going. Next was “Shoot The Glass,” with an interestingly mellow feel in the verse and a guitar solo by Ryan-Christopher that reminds me for all the world of Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction. When the 3rd track, “Autumn Lady” hits, I’m really feeling something special creeping in here. Opening with an eerie guitar intro laced with plaintive picking, the heavy riffs then pile in out of nowhere, vocalist Joe mirroring the pillaging with the statement “Here’s where the walls start caving in!” Ryan-Christopher lays some very cool circular guitar figures atop the main riff here as well as adding a ripping lead fill and main solo that sounds like a honking hybrid of Schenker & Billy Duffy. Keeping with that Cult theme, Joe’s vox have a bit of Astbury vibe as well.

And, I begin to smile because I’m starting to realize that my adventure in the Magic Kingdom land has paid off with a killer find. “Guns & VCR’s” is a pile-driving mid-paced number that reminds me of the first Living Colour album, right down to some avant-garde Reid-ish soloing from Christopher and “Echo” shimmers like a gothic Floyd, complete with a mellow & gorgeous Strat-toned solo. “A-01” delivers an early Alice In Chains feel, “Right Land Ends” might have the heaviest, most bad-assed groove-riff on the album and “Chainsaw Logic” is another piledriver. Still, VAGABOND may save the very best for last with “No Purchase Necessary.” Featuring a chorus catchy enough that it should’ve been an FM hit everywhere, it also sports a verse comprised of an echo-filled axe line, overlain with Bowie-ish vox. Add to that the fact that the guitar solo here is fucking God. Ryan-Christopher saves the best for last as he completely rips your face off with a lead that is, yes short but sweet and deadly as a new stiletto.

Let me tell you, when I pulled my headphones off some 30+ minutes after hitting that play button, I was a mighty happy camper, as I have been the…oh…umpteen times I’ve listened to “Land Of Misfit Toys” since that night. Orlando’s VAGABOND made an album in 2007 that, if the world was a fair place, would have put them on top of the heap, stomping all over bands like Shinedown and introducing the talent of a dangerous young guitarist/songwriter by the name of Ryan-Christopher. The great thing is, these guys are not just some obscurity trapped like an insect in the amber of the past. They’re still going and need your support, so you know what to do. This CD is only $ 5 from the band, so how can you lose?! Like A Kid On Christmas Morning

NOTE: Coming soon on the Realm will be an interview with guitarist Ryan-Christopher.

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