Saturday, February 20, 2010

Power Soak

MOUNTAIN OF POWER – “Volume Two” CD ’10 (Grooveyard, Swe) – “My mind rolls back the years, long time ago.” These were the words sung by Steve Walsh on Kansas’ plundering “Lonely Street” from 1975’s “Song For America” and they come to mind when thinking about this 2nd disc from MOUNTAIN OF POWER. Wanna know why? Wow, I thought you’d never ask! See, back in the mists of time…let’s say the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s…I used to get together with the ol’ posse…Andre’, Doug & Dan…after a hard day of work in the record store. That day would typically have included eating a couple large pizzas, drinking 3 large Cokes and maybe 6 beers and trying to chat up the tight-jeaned, halter-top-wearing female metal fans who would wander in. Having been suitably exhausted by such a trying day, I’d ring up the other 3 musketeers and we’d go out cruising in the ’79 Malibu. Our search was simple: good-looking women and better-sounding music. We rarely found the former. Or should I say, we found them but they ignored us. Of course, when you consider the fact that we looked like a motley collection of a male version of Tracey Chapman, Dave Holland, the keyboardist from Quarterflash and some bit actor from an Italian western, it was no wonder. We did, on the other hand, occasionally find the latter. It came in haunts with names like The Seagull Inn, The Sandbar or Mack & Myers and took the form of bands like Deceiver, Rockit and Attack. These groups would man the boards with set-lists that included the heavy rock fare of the day, songs like “Hell Bent For Leather,” “Three Mile Smile” and “Highway To Hell.” What upped the ante was that every so often, once or twice a set, they’d reach back into what seemed like Ray’s own magic juke box and pull out a more obscure gem that would flatten our asses. Just knowing it was possible to witness the brilliant performance of an underground classic like Saxon’s “Dallas 1 P.M.” or Montrose’s “I Don’t Want It” was enough to keep our rapt attention. On the drive home, then, we’d relish those moments and then wonder what it would be like to find a cover band who did full sets of such wondrous non-mainstream crushdom. It’s now 2010 and MOUNTAIN OF POWER has risen to complete our Marshall-driven fantasy.

It’s not really fair to say that MOUNTAIN OF POWER has just shown up in 2010 as their eponymous disc hit the streets 4 years ago. Still, with this 2nd installment, the mountain is rising to epic proportions. MOP has it’s foundation in Janne Stark (guitar & bass) and TrumPeter Svensson (drums). Savvy rawkers will recognize Stark’s name from his tenures in brilliant bands like Overdrive & Locomotive Breath where his scalding guitar work has presided over albums like “Swords & Axes” and “Change Of Track.” Svensson also has served in Loco Breath, besides killing the skins in ‘80’s doom kings Mercy, Faith and a host of other drum summits. Along with James Collins (drums on 3 tracks here), the MOUNTAIN also brings to the table the talents of a host of guitarists & singers that read like a who’s-who of the heavy rawk elite. Crooners who lay down the business involve names like: Paul Shortino, Jarrod England, Martin J. Andersen and David Fremberg, among others. Some of the axe slingers who join Stark in solo frenzy include luminaries such as: Craig Erickson, Joe Romagnola, Ty Tabor & Clas Yngstrom. You’re getting the idea already, right? To quote David Byrne, this ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.

See folks, if just the axe-ripping, lung-busting line-up isn’t enough to send you scurrying for your wallet, wait until you take a gander at the list of bludgeon riffola these cats are rolling out as ambrosia for your kick-ass ears. Sure, some will be more apparent than others, especially to those who haven’t plied the deep underground. Sammy Hagar’s “Urban Guerilla” and the medleys of UFO’s “Reasons Love” / “This Kids” and Pat Travers’ “Makin’ Magic / Makes No Difference” probably bent the FM airwaves a time or 2 back in those late ‘70’s. The real joy for me, however, comes in the lesser-known stuff, handled with such wonderful care here by Stark and Co. “Checkin’ It Out / Sister Madness” by Ozz, Trigger’s “Deadly Weapon” and Uli Jon Roth’s “Indian Dawn.” Are you kidding me, this is fucking awesome! Add to that the phenomenal 11+ minute version of Blackfoot’s Southern opus “I Stand Alone” (the true father of “Highway Song”) that ends this disc and you have a hard rock collector like me in an orgasmic state that could barely be equaled by finding Jill Hennessy in my bed. (Easy, Jennifer, as Aldo Nova would say “Just a fantasy!”). Now of course, the musicianship is top-drawer, the vocals are brilliant throughout and the lead guitar work is something that would beat the word devastating like a red-headed stepchild. Still, the thing that makes this record such a positive joy to listen to time and time again is the way the songs are treated with such immense respect. Through every chord, every note you know that these guys feel the tunes and relate to them and their history with every fiber of their being. Listen to Yngstrom’s lyrical little slide at the beginning of the ZZ’s “Bedroom Thing.” Check out the way Stark & Erickson (among others) speak conversationally with their leads at the end of “I Stand Alone.” This is the pinnacle of obscure hard rock, written by the masters and played by the masters who have not only followed them but understood fully and taken the baton with the utmost reverence…and the desire to kick ass. Funny, but my only regret is that MOUNTAIN OF POWER didn’t lay down the business a lot earlier than they did. Instead of making all those mixed tapes for the car those nights I could’ve just brought “Volume Two” along for the ride. Then I’d’ve had more chance to chat up that blonde from the liquor store. Mountain Climbing
NOTE: Make sure you don’t pass up MOP’s debut release either, featuring some massive takes on cuts by bands you know like Budgie & Mountain not to mention some you may not (but should) like Marcus and Goddo!

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