Revered session guitarist, the Los Angeles born Michael Landau has taken part in a host of sessions that reads like a Who’s Who of musical history; Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, BB King and Ray Charles, Robben Ford, and Steve Lukather amongst countless others, and he also formed a trio called ‘The Raging Honkies’. How can you not dig that band name? He’s also just stepped out from a period of playing mostly instrumental music, and reunited with former bandmate and vocalist David Frazee for his latest album, ‘Rock Bottom’.
The title ‘Rock Bottom’ might suggest imagery of ‘fallen so far down that the only way is up’, and song titles like ‘Gettin’ Old’, ‘One Tear Away’, ‘Poor Dear’, and ‘Speak Now Make Your Peace’ might reinforce this, but the music is anything but morose or down. Instead, it’s very mellow, trippy as hell, and features some loud bursts to shake the listener out of their state of bliss. Opener ‘Squirrels’ is cooler than the breeze coming off the Pacific coast. The mellow vibe is interrupted with a few blistering guitar solos from Landau, as well as Frazee’s sudden anguished vocals, that rise and fall, depending on the mood. A song so cool, it doesn’t walk, it glides. ‘Bad Friend’ is a heady mix of classic Hendrix with a wicked keyboard sound, and the sound of a band in full-on improvisation mode. My left nut says that this can never be played live the same way twice, such is the quality of the staggering display of playing. The last few bars from Landau will blow you away. Incendiary is the word I was looking for. ‘Bad Friend’ is one of the heavier, faster moments on ‘Rock Bottom’. ‘We’re Alright’ is another. Neither touch the three minutes mark, and both feature some scorching lead work from Landau. ‘Poor Dear’ is another jaunty little number, but the vast majority of ‘Rock Bottom’ is time to tune in and drop out. ‘Gettin’ Old’ is a mash of throbbing bass, soulful guitar licks, and a cheeky little organ sound. There is a gorgeous acoustic guitar track buried deep in the mix, but not so far down that it’s effect is lost. ‘We All Feel The Same’ has so much going on in the background that you really need to hear it through a decent pair of cans, but pay attention to all the guitar effects. Some magic at work there, boy!
The musical equivalent of floating on a fluffy cloud eating a bag of marshmallows… with one foot on a wah-wah pedal.
Michael Landau releases ‘Rock Bottom’ on February 23rd through Provogue/Mascot Label Group. More information here.