Monday, March 01, 2010

Blackeyed Susan's Electric Rattlebone CD review

After parting company with Britny Fox, frontman Dean Davidson launched his solo career with this 1991 effort. Electric Rattlebone was an homage to the Americana roots of rock & roll that aimed for a Black Crowes/vintage Rolling Stones kind of appeal. Below are just a few highlights of this unique album.


After the juke joint jam of the album's self-titled intro, the first proper song we get is an E Street Band-like jubilee with horns, parlor piano and plenty of backbeat attitude.

Gone are the throat-straining vocals of the Britny Fox days. Davidson shows off a more realistic vocal style that doesn't sound like he's trying to achieve any sound other than his own natural timbre.

"None of It Matters"

This is by far the most unique track on Electric Rattlebone with Indian influences like that opening sitar riff, the guru chants peppered throughout and some orchestral overtones on the outro.

Fortunately, Davidson never loses sight of catchy pop hooks. Think of it as the Sgt. Pepper's moment of Electric Rattlebone. Also notable is a brief return of Davidson's over-driven Britny-style vocals at around 3:25 and elsewhere in the track.

"Ride With Me"

Here's a song that was, in a sense, ahead of its time. Pedal steel guitar mixed into the power ballad format predates the hair metal-country crossover by what, 10 years at least? "Ride With Me" is the most beautiful ballad on the album, and it wouldn't be out of place on commercial country radio in 2010.

"Best of Friends"

Almost like a companion piece to "Ride With Me," "Best of Friends" opens with a familiar sounding arpeggio that has definite shades of Cinderella. Beautifully moving piano lines, strong backing gospel-style vocals and a dedication to late founding Britny Fox drummer Tony "Stix" Destra makes this the most poignant track on the record.

"Heart of the City"

Davidson's tribute to his beloved Philadelphia. Heavily electrified slide guitar, clinking cowbell and an instantaneous groove that could make the most leaden footed among us move. Again, a touch of the rough-and-tough Britny-sounding vocals are punctuated throughout for added emphasis. A perfect end to an often overlooked album.

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