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Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like your rock Santana side up, then hit play..., February 25, 2012
This review is from: The Russian Wilds (Audio CD)
Dear reader, do names like Leslie West, Rod Argent, Ken Hensley and Carlos Santana mean anything to you? Or what about Deep Purple, Mountain, Uriah Heep and Steely Dan? If after reading those names you felt an involuntary surge of stomach acid come up your throat, then do as Bob Seger once said, and turn the page.

Okay, now that those whippersnappers have moved on to their current issue of Under The Radar, let's talk about Howlin Rain's new long player The Russian Wilds. This drunken, stoned and southern California-drenched record will appeal to those of us who enjoy their songs long. Light on filler and heavy on the jam. This is 70's soul rock in the tradition of Grand Funk Railroad and Rare Earth. This is 70's hard rock in the loving likeness of albums like Machine Head, The Magician's Birthday and Abraxas.

Howlin Rain is fronted by Ethan Miller who fronted the fuzzed out psych rock band Comets On Fire. Fans of Comets On Fire will more than likely scratch their heads in bewilderment as soon as `Self Made Man', The Russian Wild's opening track, starts up. With it's hammond b-3 inflected opening, then into something resembling Wolfmother fronted by Leslie West, this is light years away from Comets' 2004 debut Cathedral. Midway through we get into something resembling Carlos Santana jamming with Steely Dan, complete with guitar solo, organ and latin percussion. Welcome to throwback territory. `Phantom In The Valley' is very reminiscent of the Eagles staple `Hotel California' if Graham Bonnet took vocal duties and Joe Walsh's 12-string was replaced with a hammond b-3 and a leslie speaker. `Can't Satisfy Me Now' is a hard rock soul hybrid that brings to mind Head East, Argent and a pre-'Red Rocker' Sammy Hagar wailing away at the mic. `Dark Side' has a Can't Buy A Thrill vibe with prominent electric piano and organ. Once again the Sammy Hagar-ish vocals take over the track with screams not commited to tape since the late eighties. Not sure if the Hagar vocal inflections are intended or not, but the similarities are uncanny. No 70s nugget is left unturned, as there's even a nod of the oversized hat to Looking Glass' one hit wonder `Brandy' in the track `Beneath Wild Wings'. Far out, man.

The most surprising aspect of this record is the production duties were handled by none other than studio guru Rick Rubin. Rubin brings a very natural, organic sound to the record. You feel like you're listening to a lost gem found in the bargain bin at the local record store, rather than a bunch of hipsters wearing mom and dad's musty 70's duds that have been packed away in the attic for 30 years. Rubin gives The Russian Wilds a hazy basement sound and a munchie-driven hunger to pick up a Les Paul and a bag of chips at the same time.

If you are a child of the 70s, grew up on a steady diet of AOR radio and like your music equal parts rockin', soulful and with a bit of machismo thrown in, then give The Russian Wilds a spin. Now pass those chips, man.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 28, 2012 2:19:31 PM PST
Very well-written review. I have the album and you do a good job summing it all up. I'm intrigued by this band, and this album has that 70s vibe that may put off some people while attracting others. It is all over the map, influence-wise, and that's probably why I can only enjoy it in small, um, doses.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 29, 2012 5:48:39 AM PST
J. Hubner says:
Thanks. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. They certainly wear their influences like a badge of honor, but at times that can be too much. Like we're not hearing anything very....original. I suppose if this album serves as a gateway to the original artists then they've at least accomplished something.

Posted on Dec 31, 2012 12:51:39 PM PST
Tom Gannon says:
Actually, the record was produced by Tim Green and the band themselves. Rick Rubin was "executive producer". And I think some of your comparisons are off the mark (uncanny similarities to Sammy Hagar? I'm not hearing that at all...) as well as being factually inaccurate (for instance, Don Felder- who wrote the music-plays the 12 string on Hotel California, not Joe Walsh. Of course, they do cover a James Gang song here, LOL). The All Music Guide review seems to nail the influences a little better (I definitely hear some early Little Feat). I find this record to be far from derivative- it's more reminiscent of a more adventurous time in music, it's one of the most interesting records I came across this year.
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J. Hubner
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Location: Warsaw, IN

Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,485