"Grand Union"

(Metal Blade/Rise Above)

01. Blue Flame
02. Jack The Lad
03. Lonely Road
04. Fool For You
05. Silent Stranger
06. Release Me
07. Wild Honey
08. Gold Label
09. Worried Mind
10. See The Light
11. Four Day Creep
12. Caledonia

RATING: 7.5/10

Funny that all this attention is paid to a blues band by the metal press by virtue of its label home when there are tons of other worthy blues artists out there to which Joe Metal Fan will never be exposed. But that's neither here nor there and has nothing to do with the merit of FIREBIRD's "Grand Union". The fact is that the guitarist/vocalist Bill "Carcass" Steer, drummer Ludwig Witt, and bassist Smok Smoczkiewicz are responsible for another FIREBIRD release that does the British reinterpretation of the American blues tradition proud.

Dubbing something a "blues album" can be viewed in several different respects. While "Grand Union" is a blues album through and through, it is also a high stepper and a blustery rocker, often recalling the work of CREAM and JOHN MAYALL. The stuttering "Jack the Lad", the sizzle of "Wild Honey", and the harmonica shuffle of the Dustin Bennett number "Worried Mind" are just a few of what is an album's worth tasty blues nuggets. The trio plays with power on every track. Steer tears it up time after time and Smoczkiewicz makes his four strings dance. The tempo up-shift on "Blue Flame" is introduced with the latter's reverberating bass, forcing a straightening of the neck hairs, not unlike what Geezer Butler can do when he lets it all hang out. His solo break during the band's monster rendition of JAMES TAYLOR's "Fool For You" has a similar effect, bolstered by Witt's tribal-burst transition. An organ is heard periodically, such as during "See The Light" (featuring some great slide guitar) and the soothing "Release Me", the purpose seemingly more of accentuation than centrality. "Caledonia" closes the album and ends up as a highlight for the way its haunting chorus hangs in the air long after the song has ended.

The threesome does indeed play its collective ass off without overdoing it; they just fill the space efficiently and generate a whole lot of electricity in the process. Add to the cover selection the IDA COX track "Four Day Creep" (rearranged by HUMBLE PIE) and "Grand Union" becomes a gratifying blues experience sewn together with the band's originals and unique treatments of previously recorded tunes. Open up your metal mind and let FIREBIRD step inside.


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