Nikki Sudden & Rowland S Howard – ‘Johnny Smiled Slowly’ (Bang! Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Dom Daley   
Monday, 01 January 2018 04:20

Nikki Sudden artworkAnyone for a live album featuring the sadly departed Nikki Sudden and Rowland S Howard playing nothing but Jacobite's numbers?  Yeah! Or is that a Hell yeah?  Imagine The Jacobites played by The Birthday Party and you might be in the same mindset as this recording – and, if that's something that tickles your fancy, then jump right in.

 

Recorded in '87 this “bootleggin' the bootleggers” set begins with a Neil Young And Crazy Horse sounding guitar wail as 'Where The River Ends' kicks in.  Then the unforgettable and strained tones of Sudden begin to sing the lyrics and the drama unfolds.

 

It’s the hairs on my arms that stand to attention as Sudden introduces 'Fortune And Fame', and then the guitar attack is so aggressive it sounds like the mixing desk is creaking under the strain of trying to hold the lead guitar that crackles and howls in tandem with Sudden’s voice - stirring stuff.

 

'Death Is Hanging Over Me' is where the acoustic guitar strums a brittle chord whilst the electric is like a slide guitar magnet as the two positive ends meet and bounce off each other, never making contact yet strangely drawn together.  Those goosebumps are back as the words fall from the speakers and the prophetic lyrics unfold – a big deal indeed.  'When The Rain Comes Down' is set to attack, from the solid drum beat to the throb of the bass as they are again drowned out by the lead guitar as every corner of sound is covered with electricity.  'Back To The Coast' closes out side one with a purposeful energy: it’s a solid end and just enough time is afforded before we dive back in for side two.

 

'Johnny Smiled Slowly' kicks off side two on a slow yet solid footing, as its seven-plus minutes of splendour unfolds before us. 'Big Store' leaves no fanfare on the introduction except for the apt interjection of it being “HUGE”. Ha, ha - those rock ‘n’ roll wags.  They're right though - it is huge.

 

To take this essential live recording home, 'Such A Little Girl' is bestowed with that honour: taking nine minutes to complete, it’s a heaving brooding mass of rock ‘n’ roll and a majestic way to end this album.  I'm sure Sudden completists will be all over this, but it's more than just a recording made live for said completists: it's an essential piece of noise and beauty; it’s both violent and abrasive, as well as beautiful and warm, and a lot of that is down to the guitar playing of Howard as much as it is Sudden’s songs and style.

 

Rest in Piece Nikki Sudden - such a huge talent gone before he should have, with so much to offer, but at the very least you left a trail of brilliant songs and stunning performances. Thanks! 

 

‘Johnny Smiled Slowly’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

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