Arc Angels ‘Arc Angels’

 

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#807 in the Series) is Arc Angels

If there is such a thing as a one-hit wonder record, The Arc Angels self-titled debut album, released in 1992, would probably rank at the top of the heap.  The Parker Lee of rock bands, comprised of the Stevie Ray Vaughan rhythm section Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton along with Austin guitar legends Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II, the band that was named after their practice facilities at the Austin Rehearsal Center, was ready and seemingly able to take the Stevie Ray torch and become the preeminent power blues band in the world, or so it seemed.

Charlie Sexton, guitar prodigy extraordinaire, returned to his home-town as a twelve year old and was essentially raised in the iconic clubs in Austin including Armadillo World Headquarters, The Split Rail, and of course Stevie Ray’s home-base, Antone’s.  Doyle Bramhall II, literally another son of the Austin community, his father was Doyle Bramhall, a mainstay on the Austin Music scene and member of Texas Storm with Jimmie Vaughan, was also a favorite guitar player of Eric Clapton who covered two of his songs on his Riding With the King album.   Combine these two incendiary natural guitar forces with one of the most powerful rhythm sections in all of rock in Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, and the result was nothing short of a cataclysmic solar event of Halley’s Comet proportions.

Released in 1992, less than two years after Stevie Ray’s death in a helicopter crash, the opening track of Arc Angels,” Living in a Dream”, announces the band as a force to be reckoned with, is the only song on the record that the two guitar slingers wrote together, and comes about as close to recreating the Stevie Ray sound as anyone has come before or since, with the possible exception of anything that Kenny Wayne Shepherd has done. Produced by Little Steven with Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan along for the ride, the album deserved a better fate, peaking at meager 127 on the charts.

Track by track, every song on the album is strong, professionally produced, and artfully mixed. The guitars don’t over power the vocals, and the vocals, despite that neither of the leads are exceptional singers, are solid and passionate, with “Sweet Nadine” as a sterling example.

Guitar honks might be a bit disappointed that Little Steven did not insert any real extended guitar journeys by either of the ax players into the production, but with the dual egos involved in the project the decision making process as to which artist would step forward was potentially very problematic. After all, when arguably the best guitar players in the universe calls you up personally and says that he has a copy of your album Jellycream in his car, and asks you to play guitar with him calling you one of the most influential artists he has heard in a decade, as “God” aka Eric Clapton famously did referring to Doyle Bramhall II, a resulting swelled head is a very likely result.

Despite some substance abuse issues that were already starting to set in and the disparate personalities involved in the project, a combination of which ultimately derailed the band, Arc Angels is as concise an album as you will find. “Paradise Café” is almost a perfect song, showcasing Tommy, Chris, Doyle, Charlie, and, Ian locked in a groove with Little Steven leading the band. The song meanders from Faces to Lynyrd Skynyrd territory, and really should be in heavy rotation on today’s Classic Rock radio stations. The ballad type “Angel Eyes” is the only “could do without” effort, but is really saved by the McLagan organ interlude in the middle if the song.  Spanish Moon is a bluesy, from the gut number that is probably the bands quintessential song and grade-school primer to understand what the band is all about. It will make you say to yourself “damn, they don’t make music like that anymore,” and you would be right, because they don’t.

Arc Angels by the Arc Angels is the rock music equivalent of To Kill a Mockingbird, a deeply influential “one and done” work of art that played forward a legacy, enhanced the artistic landscape, and opened the door just a little wider for Joe Bonamassa, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and the rest of the young guns to bust through.

Walt Falconer, Houston, Texas, USA

Track listing

  1. “Living In A Dream” (Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton) – 4:54
  2. “Paradise Cafe” (Charlie Sexton, Tonio K) – 5:14
  3. “Sent By Angels” (Doyle Bramhall II) – 5:44
  4. “Sweet Nadine” (Charlie Sexton, Tonio K) – 4:31
  5. “Good Time” (Doyle Bramhall II, S. Piazza) – 4:47
  6. “See What Tomorrow Brings” (Doyle Bramhall II) – 6:27
  7. “Always Believed In You” (Charlie Sexton, Tonio K) – 4:55
  8. “The Famous Jane” (Charlie Sexton, Tonio K) – 4:31
  9. “Spanish Moon” (Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton, Chris Layton) – 5:48
  10. “Carry Me On” (Doyle Bramhall II) – 4:09
  11. “Shape I’m In” (Doyle Bramhall II, Charlie Sexton, Marc Benno) – 4:07
  12. “Too Many Ways To Fall” (Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, Charlie Sexton, Tonio K) – 5:52

Personnel

  • Doyle Bramhall II – guitar, vocals
  • Charlie Sexton – guitar, vocals
  • Chris Layton – drums
  • Tommy Shannon – bass
  • Ian McLagan – keyboards

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Posted by Larry Carta

1 Comment

  1. Bill Mac (09 Nov 2012, 11:34)
    Reply

    Everyone should own this album !!! I t’s amazingly good!



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