Review by Paul H Birch
A swift blast of Chicago boogie blues gives way to a melodious Latin rumba-inflected riff on The Russ Tippins Electric Band’s title track ‘Combustion’ as the band leader sings about his love for music, then when words aren’t enough offers a belting solo workout; that even goes into a brief jazz rock fusion excursion.
While the band is a three piece and they play songs that by definition fall into a blues or blues-rock category, we’re not talking about the bluster of Cream or Hendrix’s Experience here, but a taut combo that can flex its muscles when required but gets more of a buzz out of making the most of a song. Unpretentious, with totally crisp accentuations to his snare and cymbals, it’s drummer Ian Halford who drives them, with bass player John Dawson content to pummel along then casually explode into a cool frenzy of blues funk. Russ Tippins himself is a fluid, melodic guitar player; tasty without egging the overall sound. It’s possibly his voice that’s the most distinctive thing about the band though; very English with clear, precise diction that has both charm and humour, aided and abetted in their delivery by clever storytelling lyrics akin to Richard Stilgoe writing for Steely Dan.
‘Smoke House’ and ‘Too Cool to Sweat’ each have a series of familiar jazz and blues styles running through them, but come across fresh without being overly slick; the first with a fine solo, the latter finding you clicking your fingers subconsciously alongside it.
The chunky funked-up blues riff to ‘Big Bad Bella’ recalls the work of Beck, Bogert & Appice in a song that could be about the beer-swilling cousin of AC/DC’s Rosie – It’s destined to be popular! The send-up humour continues in the Mexicana blues shuffle of ‘Poncho’.
Shifting gears for guest appearances ‘Tear Down the Sky’ is a slow blues featuring the grittier soul of J. Edwards on vocals and Tom Atkinson on organ; it slips in surprisingly well. Next up, ‘After You’ has Tippins hollering out at his rockiest as his guitar squeals back at him in affirmation. ‘Better Times Ahead’ is a reflective laidback rocking blues featuring Aktinson again, but this time on guitar; the six string partnership blending well while Jenna Hooson sings on the more rockabilly ‘Mama Don’t Allow’. Finally, the staunch twelve bar blues-rock of ‘Mr Done it All’ has the band wailing away, before the vocally harmonies of ‘Misty Blue’ with its chilled-out blues funk give way to a Steve Clifford sax solo that fades into the night.
If you’re a fan of the Climax Blues Band, Steely Dan or even the late Tommy Bolin you may well find this has that special something to offer that you’ve been missing for far too long. I, for one, want to see this band live.
8 out of 10
- Smoke House
- Too Cool to Sweat
- Big Bad Bella
- Tear Down the Sky
- After You
- Better Times Coming
- Mama Don’t Allow
- Misty Blue