Pat Travers Band's Can Do (out July 9 on Frontiers Records) sees the veteran rocker in fantastic shape, playing well, singing great, and writing some of the best material of his long career. Staying fit and doing the job is becoming the task for classic rockers who first made their mark in the seventies - some do it great, guys like Travers, Glenn Hughes, and many others, while some choose to still cling to bad habits and not minding that they're giving their fans as little for their dough as they can. Travers delivers here in spades - one of the best records of his career.
Travers has always been best known as a stellar six stringer, and while his playing on this record is a refreshing dose of pure tone and passion, it's his singing and songwriting that are blowing me away. His voice is in great shape, and he's written an album that delivers on melody and rock. I don't know what commercial even means anymore, but Travers has produced what back in the day would certainly have been called commercial - I guess that means it's filled with hooks and hits.
You can still hear the funk and Southern Rock influences that always served to remind that Travers was a product of a time when cross genre music making was a good thing, and Can Do never gets caught in the trap of being too same sounding, or relying on past tricks - a track like Waiting On The End Of Time sounds like it got steeped in New Orleans, then dipped in gooey Marshall goodness. Other times, it goes very commercial and pop without ever sounding like it panders. This all sounds incredibly organic. This is a solid return to rock, which may disappoint the blues rock crowd, but I've been waiting to hear this Travers record for a long time.
Can Do is a big sultry rocker, and an auspicious beginning. Hard rocking harmony guitars abound and the riffs are razor sharp. You immediately notice that Travers is in great voice, and is going for the throat with his vocals. The huge hooky chorus is filled with big chords and nicely layered gang vocals. The guitar solo section is straight out of the eighties classic handbook, and I mean that in the best possible way. One of my favorite hard tracks of the year, and a tremendously pleasing introduction.
Cocky guitars ring in Stand Up, and Pat's silky effected guitars bring back great memories - there are fills galore that have me on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what's next, and that never happens enough. This guy sounds like he's got something to prove, and he's proving it. More great singing, and the writing is wonderfully melodic and forceful. This sucker struts.
Things slow down and the mood changes with Diamond Girl, a melodic ballad that moves on staccato rhythm guitars and Travers' vocal melody. This is much more pop oriented than traditional PT music, but he wears it very well. Swirling synths and more grooving guitars. Nice sequencing - this record never gets caught up in any one mode, and the pacing is excellent.
Hard rock returns with power chords and slashing slide guitars that carry the vocals along on I'm With You. Travers mixes things up nicely and most of these songs are anything but one trick ponies - this cut contributes a musical interlude that intrigues, and brings in a snazzy slide solo that sticks in the brain.
Pat Travers albums always featured some very cool guitar effects, and there's some time based wizardry on the intro of Long Time Gone, another of the coolest hard rockers I've heard this season - this is the first cut that really takes me directly back to the Canadian rocker's past, rip snortin' rock 'n' roll at it's best. This harkens back to the days when guys like Travers and Rick Derringer were filling theaters and arenas with happy rockers.
Wanted (That Was Then, This Is Now) is one of the best grown up rock star songs I've ever heard - it reminds me of Ian Hunter's best looks back in time. Rock 'N' Roll growing up with dignity and beauty, Pat Travers is doing what we can all aspire to and admire - he's getting better with age. This is a classic tune that should be heard the world around. The best song Jon Bon Jovi never wrote - this one comes from the heart, and there's a huge difference.
Furious funk rock marries some serious Southern Boogie on Armed and Dangerous. More great guitars, singing, and songwriting - this one marches boldly as the guitars whipsnap around the husky vocals.
Here Comes The Rain is an unexpected cover, and while it should go over great live, I find that it slows this album down momentarily, simply because Travers' writing is more engaging and immediate. Having said that, he nails it, and there's loads of killer guitars and he sings the hell out of the song.
The guitars come out on the instrumental on Keep Calm & Carry On and the rhythm and blues rhythms are elevated to the cosmos by a wall of note bending guitars and synths - Travers sounds more confident and mature than ever as he never hurries, never rushes, he just smoothly delivers a package that keeps moving and growing - the tones are killer and the playing sublime.
Southern boogie is back with Dust & Bone, and I wish the last Aerosmith album had moved me this much - it's impossible to sit still on this one, and then Travers throws in some stratosphere seeking lead lines that thrill the hell out me. Another great vocal, and bassist Rodney O'Quinn keeps this one moving with some percolating low end.
Waiting On The End Of Time sounds like someone mixed up The Rolling Stones with The Atlantic Rhythm Section and brought in Dr John on the vocals. One hell of a cool stew, and it's all Travers - I might be begging comparisons, but be clear that this is his hour to shine. This is another instant classic - again, I wish commercial still meant commercial and this tune could be a great summertime hit. This is top down rock of the highest caliber.
Red Neck Boogie is just that and the jump is jumping - this is as close to a blues tune as Travers gets on this outing, and it's still chock full of high octane rockin'. It's actually a great way to end the album, as after almost a whole record of new world Pat Travers we're reminded that he's the same cat that snorted whiskey and drank cocaine - but he lived to tell the tale, and a few new ones to boot, and that's what mattered.
I hadn't planned on being blown away by a new Pat Travers Band album, but I'll take it as an auspicious way to start the week which will see me married - hell yes, this is a great record, certainly one of Travers' best, and one that will please a lot of guitar rock fans. Top ten on 2013, I'm guessing, and who'd have thunk? Congrats, Pat and band, on a great new record.
The Pat Travers Band is a band, but my access to liner notes is such that I can't say much except that everyone plays their asses off.