|The Almost Three – ‘Three’ (Pott People)|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Friday, 03 March 2017 04:00|
It’s been four long years since Mülheim muthatruckers The Almost Three last parked up at URHQ, but now they’re back in this part of the rock ‘n’ roll Überverse with their third – unsurprisingly, given the title - slice of blues/funk crossover…
Like its predecessor ‘Big Muff’, the basic parts – i.e. the guitars, bass, drums and vocals – were recorded live, although maybe not in the band’s living room, as they would like you to believe. This lends an urgency to the album’s overall vibe, although it’s not hard to tell that considerable work was also undertaken in the studio environment, as there is an extremely polished feel to both the production and massive elements of the performances. For example, it’s not hard to spot the layered vocals and reciprocated rhythmics.
The album kicks off with the appropriately titled ‘Welcome’, with its curling riff and dirty groove prowling out of the speakers and around the room like a libertine in a brothel with a fistful of crisply minted 50 dollar bills in his hip pocket. The funk vibe is introduced, at least predominantly, for the first time on ‘Bad News’, with its groovy bass line and disco drum beats. However, the song retains its hard rock credentials with Martin Ettrich’s punchy guitar riff and seering solo, combined with his Mustaine-esque snarling vocal. It does, however, show up some of the inanities of trying to sing in English, with some pretty stupid phraseology.
‘Fat Blues’, on the other hand, is superb in every department, from its bottom-heavy bass rumble through its cascading blues guitar mien to, most especially, Anja Lerch’s stunning guest vocal: subdued at first, when she really let rips halfway through the song it will send shivers upon the shivers already rippling down your spine! And that main guitar hook is more infectious than the norovirus. ‘Bag Of Sweets’ sees them ease off on the pedal for the first time, but also starts to signal the album’s downfall, in terms of its lack of direction: a genteel, archetypal blues motif, it’s as innocuous and incongruous as a Chris Rea standard, highlighted only by another nice solo from Ettrich, who most definitely knows how to get the emotion from his fretboard, but nevertheless comes across as stilted and formulaic in his interpretation of the mien.
‘Men And Women’, featuring the acclaimed flamenco guitarist Rafael Cortés, is a pleasant Santana-esque workout which doesn’t really stretch either the performers or the listener, although it is interesting to hear to two different instrumental stylists briefly bounce off each other. But again it’s a bit too stylized and staged in its feel. ‘Funk#2015’ lives up to its title: featuring jazz trombonist Joseph ‘Mr Defunkt’ Bowie, it again explores Santana style territory in its mix of classic hard rock guitar work and genre-defying groove, it has an infectious quality which, in the hands of a lesser talent, might well have descended into a George Clinton/Parliament pastiche but just about rises to the challenge of creating something that outsways its niche.
The album, however, is totally let down by its middle section, a triptych of cover versions. First up we have Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’: admittedly not one of my favourite Bowie songs, this interpretation is faithful in musical terms but is totally ruined by Ettrich’s attempts at a punky vocal and the electronica that totally shits all over the closing section. As for 10CC’s ‘I’m Not In Love’? What the fuck sort of stupid drugs are these guys on? It starts well, with a crashing guitar harmonic, but then simultaneously disappears up its own arse and into some sort of weird electro-pop synthetic Electric Six style nightmare such as could only be envisaged by an asteroid-confined Steve Buscemi. And the less said about their ruination of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Whippin Post’ the better: it’s an abomination that should never be mentioned, or listened to, ever again! I listened to it twice, and Mrs A is gonna have to do a helluva redecorating job in the bathroom as a result…
‘Phone Faces’ is a strutting slice of classic blues rock, ironic in its addressing of our addictive fascination with a certain piece of technology yet recalling with intensity the old school approach to life: just plug in your guitar, hit the wah, turn it up loud and go for it mofo! ‘Them Crazy’ is a good solid blues rocker, with a nicely effected vocal from Herr Ettrich which reminds of a heavy ZZ Top in their rediscovered post-MTV daze and certainly would give anything a certain Mr Bonamassa has produced over the past two decades a run for its money. As would ‘That’s Blues’, which sees the introduction of a good old-fashioned harp in its intro before evolving into a solid mid-paced rocker that, while not outstanding or remarkable in any way, delivers in terms of competency and intent. Closer ‘Black And Blue’ is a rambunctious blues rock workout of the sort that Pat McManus could deliver in his sleep, but nevertheless brings the feeling of those live sessions referenced at the top of this review.
Overall, ‘Three’ is a decent album. Take the three cover versions out and add a couple more original songs in, and it could have been an above standard offering from a highly competent group of musicians. If these guys were playing my local pub, I’d definitely stay for an extra pint of cider…
‘Three’ is out now.
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