Artist: Marc Ford & The Neptune Blues Club
Album: The Vulture
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 10/14/2016
Having been impressed by Ford’s 2014 solo album, Holy Ghost, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to hear this, thinking he’d mine those grooves again. I was wrong, but found instead that the former Black Crowes guitarist/singer was back to his rock ‘n’ roll approach for this effort. Had I looked more closely, the band name, Neptune Blues Club, was more than a direct hint. What does link the two albums together, though, is Ford’s gift for songwriting. He can produce great melodies, hooks and, as we know, he can rock hard too. This setting gives him ample spaces for those slippery, engaging guitar runs. It’s as if the solo album was a brief detour and Ford is back to remind us that rock ‘n’ roll is still very vital in the hands of a master.
Produced by John Vanderslice (Spoon, the Mountain Goats, Strand of Oaks) and recorded on analog tape on mostly first takes, the album bristles with energy. Ford says, “I wanted to really utilize a studio the way it was when I started out. There’s tape running, there are no computers. There are just incredible microphones, pre-amps, amplifiers and a guy who really knows what he’s doing to operate all of it.”
His rhythm section, bassist John Bazz (the Blasters) and drummer Anthony Arvizu were aboard for Ford’s 2008 effort, Marc Ford & the Neptune Blues Club. Keyboardist Mike Malone comes with some heavy blues credentials. While most of the album reflects blues rock, one can’t help but hear the echoes of John Lennon in the Beatles-like (note the title) “All You Need to Do Is Love.” The album’s strongest sequence comes squarely in the middle with these three songs: the churning boogie, sing along chorus in “This Ride,” followed by the menacing title track, which has a Crazy Horse vibe complete with distorted guitar solo and then blues rave-up “Arkansas Gas Card,” featuring more scorching guitar with healthy doses of harp and B3 too. I especially like his line, “Like a Louisiana politician, got that sweet, sidewinder smile.” The band shows they can slow it down into an R&B groove too, with “Deep Water” and funk taking hold in “The Ghetto Is Everywhere.” Ford closes tenderly with an acoustic ballad, “Girl of Mine.” This album gets better with repeated listens, one that is a sure keeper for road trips. Crank it up.