Friday, 1 August 2008

Sir John Mandeville/Operation Error/Sons of Albion @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. July 31st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

Sir John Mandeville, a three-piece power trio, are an unusual rock outfit in that they appear to have what is in effect a lead drummer as well as a lead guitarist. Sticksman and sometimes vocalist John Harrison is a formidable driving force in this band and I must admit it is a very long time since I saw a group include a drum solo at a gig - one of such a length anyway. Practically an essential part of most rock bands’ acts in the late 60s/early 70s, the long drum solo seemed to fall out of favour with the development of progressive rock - a genre which tended to incorporate the fancy beats and rhythms into the music rather than allow the drummer an escape from his general 4/4 beat discipline for a while in the form of extended soloing. Harrison, along with Peet Walsh on Guitar and vocals and Alex Morley on bass, have rooted their sound and appearance solidly into the 70s and recapture the era well. Their music includes some jazzy influences in places and their overall sound is one of a band who enjoys a good jam. The busy percussion also reminded me of The Who’s erratic, but effective style here and there and it is a pity there weren’t more people in the place to see them. Different; in this day and age at least.

I was expecting crowd numbers to increase significantly before Operation Error came on, but still the Sugarmill remained starkly empty save for a few bodies here and there. Having reviewed Operation Error only very recently, it is enough to say that they put on their usual fine show and I was glad to catch them again so soon.

With barely fifteen people in attendance, I thought it a little ironic that the son of a vocalist who could fill the gigantic Earl’s Court many times over should be fronting a band that could attract so little attention - well, on this night in Stoke-on-Trent anyway. Logan Plant, son of Robert, is one quarter of a band of considerable ability and power and appears very at home within it. As far as I can ascertain, they are unsigned as yet, although I’ve heard that they have been broadcast on American radio, and it is clear that the vocalist is determined that he and his colleagues make it off their own back. Playing to empty halls is a dispiriting event for any band, but the Sons of Albion took it in their stride and played a belter of a set. The rest of the group, guitarist Nuno Miguel, bassist Richard Fugoni and drummer Francisco De Sousa are top notch instrumentalists and play with immense fire and power. De Sousa’s fantastically solid drumming had me riveted throughout and the band is as tight as two coats of paint, as Ronnie Wood once said of Rod Stewart’s thriftiness, but a favourite analogy of mine nonetheless. The Sons of Albion are very heavy without being heavy metal and the influences of all the best rock bands of the late 60s onwards are there in the mix, along with some neat ideas regarding arrangement and composition that give them a sound pretty much all of their own. By the same token, Logan’s vocals have the expected influences, especially in the powerful ‘Seven Seals’, but generally he has a rawness and grit that is distinctly all his. They should go far.

1 comment:

PANDORA said...

i just played SONS OF ALBION "take a look" in my radio show on RADIO CAROLINE.... WOW.... stupendous, wonderful, marvelous!!!
pan D'ora