Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#720 in the Series) is Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Moon Ritual
A couple of weeks ago, on one of the few sunny days we’ve had so far this year, I was sitting out in the back garden enjoying a beer and browsing online. I came across a phrase I’d never heard before: Cosmic California. Hmmm, I thought, wonder what the hell that can be about. I sipped my beer. I read on………
Like most people who listen to a lot of music, I sometimes get a little jaded. I look at the shelves of CD and vinyl and I think that I can’t be bothered listening to any of it, heard it all too many times. What I really want, need, is something new, some new sound or artist to come along and blow it all out of the water and make me fall in love with music all over again. It rarely happens.
“Big Moon Ritual” managed it though. Strangely.
It’s the new album by Chris Robinson Brotherhood, formed by the ex-Black Crowes singer a year or so ago, whilst his former band is “on a break.” The new band features four other members (on this album at least), including Adam MacDougall (also ex- Crowes) and a certain Mr. Neal Casal.
Oh and the reason I said “strangely” is because there really is nothing new here at all, it’s a lot of old ground that’s being covered but it’s being done in such a fresh, spirited and downright wonderful fashion that it has proved completely irresistible.
And yes, some bright spark has decided to brand it Cosmic California. I can hear where they’re coming from mind you..…………..
It’s a phrase that I’ve now read in a couple of this album’s reviews and as far as I can tell there’s two main reasons for it. Firstly, when Robinson put the band together he wanted them to tour first, give them time to gel and become a tight group before heading into the studio. Also, he didn’t want to stray too far from home and as a consequence they played over 100 shows in a year, the vast majority of which were in California.
The second reason is, naturally, the music itself. What we have here is an unashamedly retro blend of influences, many of which seem to conjure up, yes, the spirit of California back in the early 70′s. I’m thinking of the mellow vibe of Laurel Canyon, The Grateful Dead‘s elongated spacey jams, Topanga at sunset in mirrored shades, hanging out at the Troubadour, catching Little Feat or latter Byrds at Fillmore West…………it’s very evocative stuff.
You know those stories of Gram, Keef and entourage heading out into the Mojave desert to drop LSD, sit atop a big rock at night and watch the shooting stars? Well, this would be the ideal soundtrack to such adventures!
There’s a lot of music here, though only seven tracks, each one is given ample time to spread itself out. Nothing is less than 7 minutes in duration. So it’s long, languid and so laid-back.
I must mention Neal Casal again. He’s a busy chap is our Neal, and a very talented one. Not content with releasing 10 ( I think!) solo albums over the years as well as three with his own band Hazy Malaze, he was also a key member of one of the best live bands in recent times, Ryan Adams‘ The Cardinals. He’s also a great photographer. Now he’s teamed up with CRB and he plays an absolute blinder here. Every so often, just as a song is rolling merrily along, he seems to decide that it could do with being kicked up a notch or two. He steps on a pedal and leans back, firing off some incredible snaking riffs that that elevate the entire proceedings.
Most of the credit though has to go to Chris Robinson who’s never sung better than on this album. He can cut loose when he needs to but for the most part takes it all gentle and reflective. This whole album has a similar air to it, moody and atmospheric. Like he tells us on “Beware, Oh Take Care”: ”I’m still driftin’ from cloud to cloud / never lookin’ to come down………”
That’s a line that could sum up the entire album.
– Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland
- Tulsa Yesterday
- Star Or Stone
- Tomorrow Blues
- Reflections On A Broken Mirror
- Beware, Oh Take Care
- One Hundred Days Of Rain
- Neal Casal – Guitar, Vocals
- Mark Dutton – Bass, Vocals
- Adam MacDougall – Keyboards, Vocals
- Chris Robinson – Guitar, Vocals
- George Sluppick – Drums
Some other live tunes…