Rock Ain't Near Dead - if this is what death sounds like, bring it on....
Bernie Tormé is releasing his first solo record in fifteen years, his first studio work since 2008 on September 29th, and Flowers & Dirt proves to be an album well worth the wait. Definitely in my top ten for 2014 at this point. Maybe even an absolute all-time rock guitar classic - yes, I believe it is.
Tormé went the crowd funding route to get this package put together on PledgeMusic - his fans showed the love to the extent of 418% of his goal, and he's put together a fantastic package. It's almost an hour and a half of stunning straight up rock, and no matter where you drop the needle, you're going to be smiling from ear to damned ear. This is glorious rock, children, and Bernie's laying down one fine sermon after another. And God love him, he didn't cheap out on the artwork and packaging, it's top notch. I love a guy that gives a shit, and the Irish guitarist has delivered the goods in spades.
Many will remember Bernie Tormé from his eighties outings with Ozzie Osbourne (he was Randy Rhoads' first replacement) or his fine four albums with Ian Gillan, but he's also been on the solo trail since 1977, and he's as currently as good a rock 'n' roll songwriter as anyone - this is his best set of tunes yet. This might be the best record from any guitarist ever associated with Osbourne. That's right, I dig it more than anything I've heard from Jake, or Zakk, who've both done fine work, but this is a classic cut above.
To be honest, I was expecting a feast of mid-level blues rock, but this record is chock full of great riffs, melodic songs, and it's one of those rarest of miracles - a power trio that never gets boring. I haven't mentioned his soloing yet, but again, you could make a compilation of every solo on the album and you'd be amazed at his ability to create exciting moments that never become tiresome or repetitive. Nope, they sizzle - every one of them. Makes you wish he'd made an album with Osbourne.
You could throw on the first nine songs on this album, tell someone this was a greatest hits package, and they'd nod in knowing agreement - a cat's nine lives told by exceptionally solid rock 'n' roll before our host slows down for a blues, and when he does on Good Man Down, it's as good a blues rock as you'll hear in 2014. Wait until you hear the solo on this one - maybe the best blues rock since Moore left town.
I've been on and on lately about the sound of records, and Tormé has nailed it with Flowers & Dirt - and again, he's done it very simply and very sparsely. There's not a tremendous amount of what you'd call production values, but the guitar tones are transcendently great, the vocals are punchy and clear, the rhythm section is a joy, and thirteen songs in and I'm still hearing new twists and turns. Love, love loving this album....
I'm not going to journey into individual tracks here, because as I've said, you could put the needle down anywhere, and think you were hearing the best song on the album. One thing I was unprepared for was how great Bernie's singing - he's not got a huge range, he doesn't scream or do falsetto, but he sings each song pretty damned perfectly - he's convincing, he's always compelling, and he's written twenty tunes that stick to the ribs - that's more than a lot of bands have in their entire catalogues. That being said, the eastern tinged Spirit Road might me my favorite track, and it's an acoustic tour de force - a mighty, mighty piece of guitar work.
|Tormé with Ritchie and Ian Gillan|
Bernie Tormé has given us one of the best rock records in recent memory, and it is incumbent upon us to return that love, so as to keep this thing called rock on the road. Rock Ain't Near Dead....