Little Caesar - 'Redemption' (Grind That Axe) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Sunday, 04 July 2010 05:30

littlecaesar176pxYou know what? Only the other week I was saying how much I missed Little Caesar. And little did I know that just around the corner I'd be listening to a new album two decades after the release of their eponymous debut.

Despite some chart success with a cover of one of Aretha Franklin's hits 'Chain Of Fools' and the band's own 'In Your Arms' the band only lasted for two albums. Some cite their image as a contributing factor. And maybe the sight of five tattooed biker guys was somewhat incongruous with the music that they played. Indeed when I first saw a picture of the band I certainly wasn't expecting solid commercial rootsy rock and roll. Ron Young turned out to a sheep in wolf's clothing but I don't mean that to sound as bad as it does. I'm sure that Ron could adequately take of himself as in a previous life he'd worked as a nightclub bouncer and he also famously squared up to Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Terminator 2'. What I mean is that Ron had the most amazing voice - strong, versatile and melodic - probably the opposite of the tuneless growl that you'd expect to come of him. So once you heard the voice the tattoos were forgotten - at least for me.

If the same was only true of the music industry. As can be read in the sleeve notes to this album the powers that be had some sort of issue with the way the band looked which limited airplay. Indeed Wikipedia gets it wrong to this day describing them as "American hair metal". OK. Let that stand and, excepting their nationality for a moment, let's put AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and The Faces in that category too. Because that's the musical company that were talking about here.

And so to 'Redemption'. As I'd expect it's a solid and confident album that sounds like they've never been away. The band play what I call basic down and dirty rock and roll. The rock and roll of The Georgia Satellites, Dan Baird, Jason & The Scorchers and The Four Horsemen - who, incidentally, Ron went on to sing for.

'Same Old Story'  starts off the album with a blistering tale of working man blues which stomps and shuffles into 'Supersonic' in which Ron Young summons up the spirit of Bon Scott before making his own mark with a soulful and highly melodic chorus. He makes it look easy. Effortless in that same deceptive way that Paul Rodgers sings. They both make you think that anyone could sing like them. And it's just not true.

'Loving You Is Killing Me' has some wicked guitar interplay that The Stones and The Crowes excel at. It just makes you want to strap on a guitar, get up and play along. And with just the barest layering of backing vocals the band sound as if they're backed by a full gospel vocal section.

'Witness Stand' draws heavily on The Stones and tips a hat to Bob Dylan but is a classic in its own right. Title track 'Redemption' is 'the ballad' but maintains the continuity with a strong bluesy rock and roll edge eschewing the pop leanings of earlier ballads like 'Ridin' On' and 'Ballad Of Johnny'.

Meanwhile 'Sick And Tired' has a brilliant and contagious AC/DC-like riff. The band are tight and driving. There's no stopping them as the bouncy clap-along of following track 'Real Rock Drive' proves.

As well as the aforementioned 'Chain Of Fools' from their debut album Little Caesar also covered 'I Wish It Would Rain' - a 1967 hit for The Temptations. Forever eclectic in their love of music this time around the band end 'Redemption' with covers of Rod Stewart's 'Every Picture Tells A Story', The Stones' 'Happy' and a rocked-up version of Joni Mitchell's 'Woodstock'.

So Little Caesar are back and they're wearing their hearts and their influences on their sleeves with an admirable sense of honesty. It's just the band in a room and a set of old mics. And I must say this album sounds solid, warm and full - a step away from their earlier commercial sheen but a step in the right direction all the same. I always thought that Little Caesar deserved a widespread audience and now that they're playing together again maybe all that will be put right this time around.