John Sloman 2016
Doomsday blues as a soundtrack of our lives from former poster boy of classic hard rock.
Long gone are the times when he was delivering romance and drama at the frontline of LONE STAR, URIAH HEEP and Gary Moore’s band; every new John Sloman record since his Todd Rundgren-produced solo debut “Disappearances Can Be Deceptive…” – those that the singer’s been releasing after a real decade-long evanescence from the spotlight – is gloomier than its predecessor. It can be a sign of the times, of course, something that Sloman’s very attuned to – not for nothing John took part at the “OccupyLSX” event in London a few years ago. That’s where the route to “Don’t Try This At Home” began which resulted in, quite possibly, the most accomplished album of his entire career.
There’s no tension build-up here, the singer’s cutting to the chase with “Fall From Grace” and immersing himself into its relentless riff to wash away the elements of sin and then reach out, through the guitar and organ rage, for the angels’ choir of myriad Sloman voices that “Wild Light” dissolves in equally angry twang and operatic bliss. Yet, for what it’s worth, a parched prayer of “Under The Delta” is set to heavy folk so thick no hope would get in, although this 9-minute epic is riveting to such an extent that escaping from it seems unthinkable, while the continuation of water theme in “Rivers To Cross” reveals John’s refusal to feel remorse or regret and bemoan these days as opposed to the days of his youth – because Shangri-La has yet to be found. “Don’t write me off!” he’s yelling once the deceptive pathos of the piece’s intro has broken into effusive metal with boogie seeping through at the end, and the artist’s relevance is felt all the sharper the deeper he digs into the ancient idiom.
Down with a playful, if strangely solemn, piano which shapes voluntary isolation, the madness of “Last Man On Planet Earth” emerges outlined in a halo of exquisitely exotic vignettes that resolve in a rock oratorio, and orchestral intent is what keeps “Spider And The Fly” afloat, its theatrical bombast undercut by the sincerity of John’s seething emotion, up to declamatory descent into the abyss, and the waves of slider roll. The universe may move in mysterious ways, yet the veteran’s not averse to changes, and Sloman’s advocating revolution in “Smash The Looking Glass” – in order to live another day and get beyond the vaudevillian chaos. That’s where the singer’s advice of the title track slowly springs to spiritual life amidst harmonious reflections… only to embrace anxiety instead of peace and bid farewell.
It’s a difficult opus, but an enchanting one, as befits a masterpiece by a mature artist.