Review by Paul H Birch
Word on the street is that Voodoo Highway is a band to watch out for. Similarities to Deep Purple have been voiced. A double-edged sword since that kind of tag can leave you out on a bench in the Yngwie Malmstreen wannabe league. And “Voodoo”? How many flaming bands are there rocking down the proverbial highway with a walking dead moniker attached to them these days?
From the evidence of Showdown, Voodoo Highway’s musical prowess and their song structures embrace the Purple’s sound rather than rip off their riffs. Guitarist Matteo Bizzarri might peel off a few Blackmore-inspired solos but he’s more a feel player than one opting to dazzle with technical wizardry. Vocalist Federico Di Marco invariably goes for Gillan lyrical foreplay (modernised Darkness-style) while often opting for a two person dialogue approach evoking the Coverdale/Hughes period, but ultimately his voice has a shriller sound, drawing comparison to US bands like Angel and Riot formed in those days before American bubblegum rock turned all AOR poodle-hair rocky. Rhythm section Filippo Cavallini and Vincenzo Zairo keep it in the family with a bottom-end reminiscent to the original Rainbow’s but without doubt what you notice throughout Showdown is the keyboard dexterity of Alessandro Duò.
Barely a minute into ‘This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll, Wankers!’, an organ solos effortlessly with the fluid warmth of the late Jon Lord. Duò plays an assortment of keyboards on Showdown without being obtrusive but always with enthusiasm, vitality and often creative invention. Presumably classically trained, he also offers the deadly twist of a Vincent Crane and melodic craft of Manfred Mann all in a single song like ‘Cold White Love’ while still sounding contemporary.
Voodoo Highway deliver strong hook lines and neat pop harmonies on numbers like ‘Could You Love Me’, place one bovver boot inside pomp rock territory on the over-the-top anthem of ‘Church Of Clay’ then reach for epic grandeur with the heavy prog found within ‘Mountain High’ to show their diversity, whereas classy hard rock is never far away on tracks like ‘Midnight Hour’ and the aforementioned ‘Cold White Love’.
All this stated, my favourite songs are possibly the bonus ones that first appeared on their debut album Broken Uncle’s Inn, namely the title track where they hark back to Spooky Tooth and early Uriah Heep, and ‘Till it Bleeds’ where they actually do sound like Deep Purple albeit playing a rollicking version of the old Easybeats’ ‘Good Times’ hit single.
If you hadn’t guessed by the individuals’ names Voodoo Highway hail from Italy and play rock and roll animated with an espresso buzz.
8 out of 10
- This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll, Wankers!
- Fly To The Rising Sun
- Midnight Hour
- Could You Love Me
- Wastin’ Miles
- Church Of Clay
- Mountain High
- Cold White Love
- A Spark From The Sacred Fire
- Prince Of Moonlight
- Till It Bleeds (Bonus Track)
- Broken Uncle’s Inn (Bonus Track)