Venerated skin-hitter reaches for the skies to fine-tune celestial rumble and come down with a shine.
His previous album having seen the light of day only in the Land of the Rising Sun, so it’s been a long wait for the fans of former MAHAVISHNU prodigy to deliver a follow-up to 1988’s “Divine Emotion” – and looks like the veteran was quite cautious to do so now. This album is a revised version of 2012 “Thunder” that got expanded from its limited run to span all the facets of Narada’s talent and become his best work to date. Having Frank Martin on the ivories back in the fold alongside young guitar-slinger Matthew Charles Heulitt allowed Walden to stitch past and present to move forward and soar blissfully as he does in the watercolored “40 Days” which paints a dramatically serene, “Moonlight Sonata”-echoing, spot in the overall groovy atmosphere going from the titular opener to its reprise in “Angel Funk” and beyond.
Although contemporary shape of “Dreams Of Vinyl” brings it all to the literal level, Nikita Germaine’s singing and namechecking Michael’s heroes such as Aretha whom he also produced, “Thunder” is a rock record in its hot heart. The record takes its jive to the dancefloor in the organ-oiled shuffle of “Down Low” and the handclaps-helped “Throw Your Hands Up” but its beef-jerky riffs might have stem from Narada’s stint with Tommy Bolin in the ’70s, as could the slow uplift of “We Belong Together” that updates Hendrix’s “Little Wing”: feel the rising curve, then, before the slide-kissed “Dragonfly” flutters into your soul! More seriously heavy is the FX-laden “Shake The House” yet even there drums, Walden’s weapon of choice, aren’t accentuated, and serve the rhythm rather than ram it home to throw his mastery of composition into sharp relief – very sharp in the translucent instrumental “Miracle Of Fatima” and the urgently loose case of “Shirley Mae” – while the bluesy “Movin’ On” grounds the band back to their roots. A robust, rumbling ramble can’t get better than this: another “Grammy” might be beckoning.