Welcome the debut album that is unlike any other
Those old enough to remember the classic U.S comedies of the 1980s will remember that they used to love to tell you that they were “filmed in front of a live studio audience.”
For their debut record, The Magpie Salute resurrected this premise.
All but one of the ten tracks here were tracked live on stage in Woodstock, and it suits the vibe perfectly.
To understand why, you probably need to understand exactly who TMS are. Rich Robinson and Marc Ford were the driving force (along, it must be said, with the brilliant vocals of Rich’s brother Chris) of The Black Crowes. And Magpie Salute sees the pair reunited.
Joining them in this endeavour are former Crowes bassist Sven Pipien, drummer Joe Magistro and guitarist Nico Bereciartua, while the group also boasts a fine cast of vocalists, including Rich Robinson, Ford, lead singer John Hogg (Hookah Brown, Moke), former Crowes singer Charity White and background singers, Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen.
The reason this all matters goes beyond some desire to see The Black Crowes back together, the reason this matters is because the style of their music always caught you by surprise. For every “Hard To Handle”, “Remedy” or “Stop Kicking My Heart Around” there was always the other song. The one that thought jam bands like Gov’t Mule or Grateful Dead were a lot of fuss about nothing and really wanted to let go.
To that end there are a couple of Crowes tunes here. “Wiser Time” (perhaps their most underrated song) is given full reign, with the piano work really setting it apart. Just before that “What Is Home” is like a slowed down Faces to start, before settling for a laid back sun-drenched vibe.
Indeed, laid back and sun-drenched are epithets that suit the record perfectly. You can hear the band working out the arrangements of “Goin’ Down South” – a jam that includes a xylophone, just because it can – and “War Drums” which would much rather make love not war thanks all the same.
Rather like a group of people that have tomorrow off and a hammock to lie in, there is absolutely no urgency here and that’s just fine. “Ain’t No More Cane” is a bluesy, country rock slice of gorgeousness worthy of the Allman Brothers, “Fearless” likes that thought so much it does it again, with a dose of something approaching psychedelics to boot, while “Glad And Sorry” (appreciably the shortest thing here) has some of the most glorious Hammond Organ you will find anywhere.
It closes with something that is a little reggae infused in the shape of “Time Will Tell”, but it is the opener that most interests. “Omission” is the only song here that was recorded in the studio and showcases Hogg’s fine abilities. No doubt the rest of the album could have been like this too, it was just so much more fun to make a record like the one they did.
The next great jam band takes flight, right here.