Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#942 in the Series) is Rival Sons, Great Western Valkrie
Great Western Valkyrie, the latest and certainly the greatest album from Los Angeles rockers Rival Sons just might be the best pure Rock record since Guns ‘n’ Roses scorched the Sunset Strip earth with Appetite for Destruction in 1984. No need to adjust your ears, you heard correctly. This album is that damned good, and then some.
The slow burn to album perfection started for Rival Sons in 2011 with the release of the consistent but not overly dramatic Pressure and Time, a record that did not quite reach the unwashed masses in large numbers, but did get the band on the musical radar for many earning Breakthrough Artist of the Year honors from Classic Rock magazine. The stone kept-a-rolling with their subsequent release Head Down, where the beginnings of a dynamic sonic-shift was starting to take shape from a group that was not going to be content with riding on the coat tails of their influences, and was ready to reach for their own personal brass ring.
And now, on their latest release with a touch of White Stripes and Black Keys added to the spanning the Rock and Roll globe template of influences, the band seems to have found its musical sweet spot, a sonic blast of 70’s Arena Rock anthems, 60’s vintage Jim Morrison Stoner Blues, Led Zeppelin worthy monster riffs, Black Sabbath power chords, and Pink Floyd Progressive Rock all thrown together in a musical blender of a mosh pit that is so uniquely cool that a new genre might have to be created just to make sense of it all
From the opening track “Electric Man” with the semi-demonic Ronnie James Dio worthy unearthly wail courtesy of dynamic front-man Jay Buchanan, your ears will stand at attention, your senses will heighten, and you will be immediately transmitted through some sort of magical, musical way-back machine to that first time you heard Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, or Aerosmith.
But make no mistake, despite the all too appropriate and accurate comparisons to the Classic Rock dinosaurs that roamed the earth in the days of future past, Rival Sons are not your typical riff stealing, covers playing, knock-off derivative of a Rock and Roll band. These guys are the real deal. There is an element of danger around every corner here that is perfectly displayed on the song “Open My Eyes,” an opus of a tune that crackles with the misty mountain hop energy of Led Zeppelin IV. The drumming on this track is intense and bombastic, more Keith Moon than John Bonham, and is so good you get the feeling that drummer Mike Miley might just spontaneously combust in a pile of ashes right there on his drum chair before your very ears. It has happened before.
With a tidy, no filler listing of 10 songs weighing in at 47:40, this is a one sitting, all the way through sort of listen. Besides, given that there are no B sides on the record, you would spend infinitely more time figuring out which of the tasty morsels to select than it would take to listen to the whole thing. The pacing of the songs is spot-on, and the production value is stellar with no one instrument over-powering another.
And then there is the voice. With a range that should make the members of Queen think twice about choosing Adam Lambert to replace Freddie Mercury, front-man Jay Buchanan has the eccentric swagger of Jim Morrison, the growling sex appeal of Janis Joplin, the pained vulnerability of Jeff Buckley, the off-the-rails, dangerous vibe of Eric Burdon, and the back of the stadium pipes of the late Ronnie James Dio, all rolled into one. In other words, he is a Rock Star of the highest order.
The staying power of this band going forward will largely be judged on their ability to emulate, not imitate the influences of their musical forefathers, and on this front all systems are go. On “Secret,” we are treated to a Lizard King worthy journey that brings together the sprawling open-ended organ drenched sounds of “L.A. Woman” era Doors combined with Black Sabbath power riffs creating a vibe that is only enhanced more with the almost other worldly sounding “Rich and the Poor” that could have been a companion piece to “The End” on The Doors eponymous album.
A personal favorite is “Good Luck” a track to be recommended for any first time listener, and would be a perfect “she had me at hello” sort of introduction to band. The song combines a bit of the melodic side of the group reminiscent of Steven Tyler and Aerosmith with the same sort energy and raw vitality that flowed through the veins of Michael Hutchence and INXS back in the day.
The closing, multi-layered, almost operatic number, “Destination on Course” brings to mind Syd Barrett vintage Pink Floyd, and when the singer takes a pregnant pause and sings the words “destination on course,” you are not sure if you are listening to the front man for Rival Sons or the bastard son of Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey. This is serious, “other level” type stuff.
Ultimately, the historical prism by which this album will be judged will be left up to the individual listener. The Rolling Stones used a blueprint developed by Howling Wolf, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and many other blues greats to create Exile on Main Street. Rival Sons have simply picked up the torch, and are playing it forward.
If Great Western Valkyrie is any indication of what is to come, it will be a fascinating ride indeed.
(See Walt’s Website, The Falcon’s Nest
- Electric Man
- Good Luck
- Play the Fool
- Good Things
- Open My Eyes
- Rich and the Poor
- Belle Starr
- Where I’ve Been
- Destination On Course