|Magic Eight Ball - 'Sorry We're Late But We're Worth The Wait' (Self Released)|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Friday, 08 November 2013 03:00|
I have said it before and I will say it again, London based singer/songwriter Baz Francis is a man with a Power Pop plan. If you are a regular reader of Uber Rock you may well have stumbled across his name or the name of his band, Magic Eight Ball. With either his band or as a solo artist Baz now has a couple of fine EPs to his name and a bunch of successful tours under his belt supporting the likes of Enuff Z'Nuff, Johnny Monaco and most recently with Donnie Vie as part of his Magical History Tour. Baz wraps up 2013 with the release of Magic Eight Ball's long awaited debut album, 'Sorry We're Late But We're Worth The Wait'.
Magic Eight Ball's past releases have shown much promise, in my reviews of their EPs I referenced the likes of Jellyfish, Redd Kross and Enuff Z'Nuff. Those are big names to live up to in my book and I have been looking forward to finding out what Baz has up his multi-coloured sleeve to take things to the next level.
My first taste of new material I got only days before receiving this album, the new single 'Russian Ballet' with its accompanying black & white video shot in St Petersberg, Russia. An anthemic sound all round, distorted open chords ring out from the off and it is an unexpected joy to hear, sounding like 'Everything Must Go' era Manics, which is not what I was expecting at all and it's all the better for it. An aural explosion of raw guitars and melody sets the scene and, yes, it seems Baz has taken things up to the next level indeed.
The album's opener 'Something Better Has Come Along' happily has much the same vibe as that single, a definite Manics feel, an upbeat catchy rocker that gives a euphoric feeling from the off. The guitars are big and upfront and the vocals even bigger with Baz coming on like James Dean Bradfield which is something I had never noticed on previous releases, but now seems blatantly obvious. A stadium-sized anthem that sounds like a mash up of The Manics and Stereophonics from back in a time when music from both bands still mattered.
Half of the 10 tracks that make up this album have been previously available on EPs, albeit in different form, but these re-recorded versions breathe new life into Baz's melodies and take the songs to a new place entirely.
Following a Queen inspired intro 'Sunday Mornings' is the first previously released song to rear its Power Pop shaped head, again it has that Brit Rock vibe and veers towards the summery pop feel of Dodgy with a classy '70s glam rock chorus. 'Baby, Is It So?', full of lush backing harmonies and quirky pop goodness, builds and builds with a glorious vocal performance. 'Never Need New Genes' still sounds like a Redd Kross B-side to me, which, let's face it, still makes it superior to most bands A-sides.
As the name suggests 'Big Star' is pure pop genius, all ringing power chords, catchy vocals and a chorus to die for. Originally an acoustic, more laid back song in its previous form on the 'Mother Nature's Candy' EP, here the acoustics take a back seat as electric guitars ring out to the more pacey beat and some sweet backing vocals wrap up the goodness.
Future single 'Monkey Bars' is a pretty little ditty that builds on a Jellyfish style melody, just Baz and his picked guitar chords with its sweeping and epic multi-layered harmony vocals.
Just Listen to 'Love Makes You Do Some Funny Things' and tell me that ain't a classic '70s pop melody going on right there; it's all flares, round rimmed glasses and flowers in the hair, love it. Again, more upbeat than the original recording and beefed up with more guitars, Baz has got it spot on here, it's over as soon as it begins and its short length leaves the listener wanting more.
It is no secret that Enuff Z'Nuff legend Donnie Vie is Baz's favourite songwriter, hell he can even count him as a friend these days, and Vie's knack of penning a catchy tune is mirrored here as Baz has the ability to do the same as his hero. Donnie even pops up on this here album with vocal duties on the co-penned 'Before It Was Murder (You Got Me Talking)'. With some great backing harmonies, his voice adds that classy touch to a song that, ironically is probably the least catchy track on the album and that says a lot for the quality of the songwriting here.
There's a tremendous sense of familiarity to these songs that keeps me wanting to return and hit that play button to get my fix of ear candy. With a great production job courtesy of Dave Draper I can tell a great deal of time and effort has gone into making this album just right and Baz and Dave have succeeded in steering the Magic Eight Ball in the right direction.
Thanks to Baz's songwriting suss reviewing this debut album by Magic Eight Ball has been a breeze, it pretty much writes itself as all the good ones do. I don't have to struggle to pick out the good from the bad as it's all good going on here.
Magic Eight Ball have delivered not only a fine slab of Power Pop, but also one of the finest debut albums you will hear this year. Worth the wait? You better believe it.