JOHN WAITE – Rough & Tumble (2011)
John Waite is one of THE legends of rock.
He’s had success – proper, big chart success – with bands and as a solo artist, and he’s still performing and recording with as much passion and talent as ever.
Technically no more than average, but in terms of tone, timbre, melancholy and recognizability he belongs to the Premier League of rock vocalists.
“Rough & Tumble” is Waite’s first studio album of original material since 2007’s ‘Downtown: Journey of a Heart’ and long-time fans will not be disappointed.
The CD features some of the best melodic moments of his career but -to Waite’s creative credit- it is not a safe retread of a proven formula.
Originally planned only as an EP project, due to the successful tour and live album from last year, Waite and his label agreed to release a full album.
With 10 new tracks (and 2 bonus) “Rough & Tumble” sees Waite collaborating for the most part with Matchbox 20’s Kyle Cook and the result is a high quality melodic rock record with a contemporary classic rock feel.
It was recorded between Nashville and California and this should give you a pretty good indicator of its style.
“Rough & Tumble” starts off with one nice firecracker of a song, the title track. I love the naked, rough, rocking sound. A guitar, a bass, a set of drums and some occasional keyboards. John’s vocals are forefront as they’ve always been. I’ve always liked the way that his vocals are recorded with barely any reverb. It sounds like he’s in the same room as you.
The following “Shadows Of Love” is a song from the same genre as Bad English, which in practical terms means that it has radio potential. A melodic rock / AOR number that takes us back to 80’s Waite.
Things take an interesting turn with “Evil”. It’s less rocky but uses a palette of crunch, funk and muted bass lines to conjure up quite an eclectic sound. This is a great track with a a sultry, groovy vibe, not usual in Waite’s catalog, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
John goes for the gold on “If You Ever Get Lonely”, a beautiful and sensitive californian ballad. One of the best songs of Waite’s career, it is as ‘hit single’ as a song gets. A highlight.
“Skyward” is cut from the same cloth but has a strong swing to it that manages to differentiate it from the former track. A mellow rock number with acoustics and a great vocal performance stamped all over it, in the same vein as the stuff Waite produced on albums like ‘Temple Bar’.
The pace is brought back up with “Sweet Rhode Island Red”, an old Ike & Tina Turner song which Waite tackles with conviction and you get to see how great of a rock and roll voice he possess on a number like this. His version features dirty finger-picking phat guitars and some shuffle-style snare drumming making this an outstanding full throttle bluesy shuffle rocker. Waite sings his heart out, as usual.
“Love’s Going Out Of Style” is a mid-pace semi-soft track with a cool Nashville sounding chorus. Great bluesy solo from Kyle.
“Better Off Gone” is a cool classic rock sounding number with a very melodic nature and some inspired guitar tones. The song is another of the stronger tracks on ‘Rough & Tumble’, with Waite’s trademark tone all over it. Has a cool car driving mode, made for a top down ride, full on sunshine and sunglasses on.
Next up is “Further The Sky”, a cover of a country song from the unknown Gabe Dixon Band. But on Waite’s hands, it’s directed to a bluesy ballad and reminiscent vocally to the good old Paul Rodgers. Great guitar playing from Shayne Fontayne. I have to praise the earthy, stripped production giving you the feeling of the band being in the same room as yourself.
“Peace Of Mind” takes a complete U turn into strange waters which fuse spoken words passages with sung verses and choruses, odd lyrically yet it works and is a nice contrast to the rest of the album.
As bonus, Waite has included a new version of his track “Mr. Wonderful”, which originally appeared on his ‘Ignition’ album in 1982. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with old classics, but this time I won’t complain at all. It has a spirit of spontaneity, Luis Maldonado does a great work on guitar giving it a dirty, bluesy live-feel and Waite sounds organic and passionate.
The second bonus track, “Hanging Tree”, is a previously unreleased track recorded for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Me And Will’. A great soft acoustic ballad with John singing as soulful as only he can do.
I really think “Rough & Tumble” is an album that I can put alongside my precious ‘Rover’s Return’ and the eponymous ‘Bad English’ album.
It’s a stripped pure melodic classic rock recording made with love and honesty. Strong from start to finish, easy to get into and digest, the melodies are beautiful, with superb vocals and its all wrapped up with a fantastic rootsy yet modern production which is a delight on the ears.
John Waite is back and better than ever.
Buy “Rough & Tumble” and be reminded what great rock music is supposed to sound like.
1. Rough & Tumble
2. Shadows of Love
4. If You Ever Get Lonely
6. Sweet Rhode Island Red
7. Love’s Goin’ Out of Style
8. Better Off Gone
9. Further The Sky
10. Peace of Mind
11. Mr. Wonderful (Bonus Track)
12. Hanging Tree (Bonus Track)
John Waite – Vocals
Luis Maldonado – Electric and Acoustic Guitar
Shane Fontayne – Electric, Acoustic and Baritone Guitar
Kyle Cook – Guitars, Programming and Harmony Vocals
David Santos – Bass Guitar
Mike Webb – Hammond B3 Organ
Billy Wilkes – Drums and Percussion
Fred Eltringham – Drums and Percussion
Rodger Carter – Drums and Percussion
Bobby Keys – Saxophone
Jennifer Paige – Background Vocals
IF YOU LIKE IT, BUY IT !