Ron Wright & Special Guests – Ron Wright (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If you can tell a lot about a person by the company that they keep, the same is equally true of musicians. And, this being the case, the company that Ron Wright keeps on this 18 track album, speaks volumes. After all, any album graced with collaborations and contributions by people who have played for bands such as Toto, Van Morrison and The Doobie Brothers or who have engineered music for such luminaries as Kiss, can easily be seen to be giving it a seal of very high approval.

It is safe to say that Ron Wright is an old-school rocker but that isn’t to say that the album doesn’t hold plenty of surprises or is tainted with predictability or plagiarism. But this is, by and large, music designed to be played with one foot on the monitor, for want of. better phrase. And, like all collaborative process, it quickly becomes more than the sum of its parts as the sonic push and pulls between the various players takes the music on some unexpected journeys and allows it to explore some paths less travelled.

It may kick off with some incendiary tracks, but don’t let that deceive you. Opener Diamond Earring and Star Baby are upgrades on 80’s classic rock sounds, the former giving a nod to NWOBHM vibes, the latter a much more US infused sound. By the time you get to Digital Highway, the rock walls of sound give way to a more rock ‘n’ roll groove, a swing and a swagger, and futuristic spoken word vocals contrast with the banks of heavenly harmonies and sky-searing chorus vocals.

Fast Woman’s Lovin’ leans into the blues roots that all rock music is built on, balladic and groovesome, understated and nuanced and with a wonderful echo of classic seventies songs such as Thin Lizzy’s Still in Love With You…not that they are the originators of such a style but they do make for a useful bridging reference. Lost Lovers is powerful and brooding, Stone Mountain metallic and intricate and Panhandle Blues allows Ron to whip out the acoustic and play for the blues purists.

Lyrics throughout are provided by jazz singer, one-time flower-power icon, wife of Van Morrison and inspiration for Brown-Eyed Girl, Janet Planet.

This is an album that not only explores rock music in its broadest sense but also juggles with its sounds and styles across the years. It willfully hops generic divides to merge with neighbouring styles and through its roll call of collaborators, it must be embracing, adding and developing ideas that might not have naturally been in the Ron Wright musical arsenal too. And then it takes all of these mixes and matches, these collaborations and collisions, these familiar and fresh sounds and uses them to build something unique, adventurous and exploratory.

That has to be a good day at the office, surely?

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