Thursday 25 February 2021

Ricky Warwick - When Life Was Hard and Fast (2021)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Feb 2021
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I remember Ricky Warwick as the lead singer of the Almighty, but it won't surprise anyone who listens to a verse of the title track to this album that he ended up singing for Thin Lizzy too. That's not quite what this is, but it's impossible not to hear some Phil Lynott in his voice, even if it's hard to tell that that's Joe Elliott of Def Leppard behind him. There are a few guests here, including Luke Morley from Thunder, Dizzy Reed of Guns n' Roses and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. They're dotted here and there, but the album's pretty consistent regardless.

And, like Lemmy, would have said, he plays rock 'n' roll. If we hadn't noticed a rocked up old time feel on You Don't Love with Me, it becomes obvious on Gunslinger, the only cover here. It's a Mink DeVille song, dating back to 1977, and beyond the fantastic sound that is the combination of Gary Sullivan's drums and Robbie Crane's bass, it's the rock 'n' roll that stands out and what's particularly important to note is that it doesn't sound remotely out of place following the three originals that came before it. After this, it isn't surprising to discover that on his prior covers album, he took on Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and the Bobby Fuller Four.

So this is rock 'n' roll heavied up to have a hard rock edge, with some punk attitude, some sleazy blues and some country emotion to spice up the gumbo. It's an interesting mix, even if what's interesting is sometimes surprising. I'd Rather Be Hit starts out a little similar to Ants Invasion, for instance, and I really wasn't expecting that. Oddly, it works though, just as the blitzkrieg approach on Never Corner a Rat works and the acoustic ballad that follows it, Time Don't Seem to Matter, on which his daughter Pepper joins him at the mike.

Six tracks in of eleven, that's appropriately the heart of this album, even if its calm singer/songwriter vibe renders it something of an interlude between halves. He covered Johnny Cash too on that covers album. Oddly, he didn't cover Thin Lizzy, because the next song, Fighting Heart, is the most overt Thin Lizzy song here amongst quite a few with a discernable Lizzy influence. Then again, Warwick was born in Northern Ireland and grew up listening to Phil Lynott. It would be more surprising if there wasn't any Lynott in his voice.

I think the first half is generally stronger than the second, but the second has Still Alive and that's an obvious highlight for me, up there with Gunslinger and Never Corner a Rat. It features Warwick's firm voice and attitude, with the return of that gorgeous combo drum/bass sound and wicked slide guitar from Keith Nelson, formerly of Buckcherry, who also produced the album. It's as emphatic as the demo of Clown of Misery, recorded over the phone, isn't (though it's interesting).

It's another overt rock 'n' roll song that wraps up the album though, the appropriately if illiterately titled Your My Rock 'n' Roll. This is the sort of song you expect to hear blaring out of the stage when you walk into the right sort of small bar. It's a simple but energetic stomper that stems as much from Joan Jett as Jerry Lee and it'll have you down the front before you grab a pint from the bar. And that has to be about the best way to end this rock 'n' roll album that I can think of.

This is Warwick's fifth solo album and, if I'm counting right, he's recorded twelve more with Black Star Riders, Circus Diablo and the Almighty. As such, it's not surprising to find that this is mature but it's good to find that it's still energetic and alive.

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