Album Reviews
Band: Jeff Brown

Title: 23 Years

Label: Mausoleum Records

For someone who's been in 'the business' for 35+ years,  playing with such luminaries such as Ian Gillan, Bernie Marsden and 'The Quo's' John Coghlan, then maybes it makes sense that Jeff Brown may just fancy doing something of his own for a change.  Hence his debut album  '23 Years', then!  Those expecting to hear a lightweight melodic record from a man 'of his age' are going to be quite surprised at how this bloke can really rock, hard and heavy at times too, though, admittedly things start out on that lighter side with 'Crazy World', lyrically edging on the Chinn/Chapman style from the 70's when everything they touched turned to Gold, (Mud, Suzi Quatro), not quite innocent, but not exactly naive either, so to take that another step forward, '23 Years' ups the ante as a fine, sensitive lighter-in-the-air affair that is in the same mould as Snowy White's 'Bird Of Paradise'.

 

Well, bonjour, mon petite pois, what 'ave we 'eer, then!! The French spoken intro to 'Casino Royale'  from Muriel Carrez will tickle the ribs before it bursts into life with a snazzy heavy riff that continues on through the track, powerful vocals from Brown and some hard pounding on the skins via Jurgen Reinert that don't give up for more than a few seconds, and he continues his annihilation of the poor kit on the raucous rocker 'Contagious',  where there's a canny little input on keys from Gary Moberley that brings an extra bit of a kick to the song, no matter how short in time it lasts! Thankfully, the Uriah Heep-ed uber-rockfester  'Fallen Angels' lasts longer, and has Brown growling like a man possessed, those keys as barmy as a box of frogs at times, as is the song as a whole, but ain't it fun, as is the anthemic melodic chugger 'Once in Every Lifetime', a definite kick-back to the 70's again.

 

Now then, once you've come down from bouncing along to the last track there, Brown and Co. will send you off into buckets of tears with the spine-tingling ballad 'When The Love Is Gone', Brown expressing something we've all been through sometime in our life, (oh, the memories!), which will bring any audience to silence when performed live, that I have no worries about, believe me, so maybes it was a good idea to follow up with another snorter of a heavyweight that is 'Calling Me, Calling You', (to snap you out of feeling sorry for yourself!), the highlight being the soaring solos on the guitars that for a moment seem as if they're going to eventually takes matters into their own hands and flee the song forever!  We're back to that 70's rocking vibe on the catchy as hell 'Stay with Me', the chorus sure to get any listener hoisting their arm in the air as they chant along to it in unison, in fact, close your eyes and you'll probably see in your minds eye Kiss in all their glory as the whole riffage, hook, you name it,  reminds you of that era, and by the sounds of it, Brown and the band are enjoying it just as much!

 

Taking a more cynically social outlook for a change, the acoustic led slow-burner  'Slipping Away' certainly gets the old grey matter and  it's cogs moving, and it's only when the guitar solo from Steve Mann kicks in that your dragged away from Brown's sad, sad lyrics that  stand-out like a dying beacon in the bleakness that surrounds this song, which doesn't mean it's a bad song, it's just one of those that hits the mark for a totally different reason compared to the others. Staying with the slow-burning mode, the last song here,  'Life Goes On', at 10.04 minutes long, is, for me,  Brown's 'Music' (John Miles 1976 hit), the singular piano intro introduces the song, slowly being built up to a crescendo of guitars, drumming and touches of harmonies as it suddenly takes on a life of it' own and you just can't stop the hairs on the back of your neck from rising due to the power within the tune, before it tails off towards the end on an ethereal combination of solo and keyboard. Wonderful to say the least. 

 

If, like me you think that's the end, then prepare to be flummoxed, as the album is advertised as an 11 tracker, so as the final track ended properly, (I think!), silence, then after 35 seconds, in kicks the keys, and it's uptempo mood all over again, but the system is still showing track 11??!! What the Hell?! Is this a continuation of 'Life..' or another song completely? If so, then I don't know the title, but at a guess.  I'd say 'Watching You'  by how many times the term is used, and also the fact that the whole thing doesn't  fit in with the slow mood of the 'previous' track.  Still, if that is the case, then this 'hidden' track is another catchy little bugger that, apart from surprising the bejeebers out of you if you hang around long enough, doesn't feel out of place with the rest of the album, power/pop at most to say the least, with a sing-along chorus to boot, then eventually, that IS it!

 

It was once said, back in April 1967, that  'Silence Is Golden', but luckily Jeff Brown ignored that statement with  'Brute Force And Ignorance',  decided to release this  'Blockbuster' on Mausoleum Records, and it will surprise many out there that this album could  'Set Fire To The Night' if they give it a listen. I rest my case!

Review by: Rob Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1. Crazy World  
2. 23 Years 
3. Casino Royale 
4. Contagious
5. Fallen Angels 
6. Once In Every Lifetime 
7. When The Love has Gone 
8. Calling Me, Calling You 
9. Stay With Me 
10.  Slipping Away 
11. Life Goes On
... Possible 'Hidden Track'!

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