First, a confession. I have to tell you that this review relates to an album that came out at the end of last year but missed the cut in the sad demise of the CRS magazine “Rock Society”. When I originally reviewed this album, I thought it was so good that I went straight out and bought their only previous full-length CD – 2016’s Seize The Ocean – not cheap either. It’s a tough life being a reviewer! But with your listening enjoyment in mind, this review is better late than never!
The reason for my financial madness is a four-piece rock band from Littleton, Colorado that formed in 2014. 21 Taras is (I believe) a reference to a set of Tibetan buddhist prayers to the female bodhisattva / deity or “tara”, who has 21 forms, each of which embodies a strength or virtue, which combine to form a mantra for well-being. There you go, a little education as well!
The band play fairly hard rock with a fair sprinkling of more delicate stuff, and a lot of variety in between, with hints of “Akron Rock” aka REM, but with lots of nods towards the 70’s whilst still sounding very fresh. The album as a whole showcases a wide variety of tastes, and that’s whats so appealing for me, their musical upbringing looking to have been very interesting! Lead singer Julian Falco has a rich voice with hints of Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, even Neil Young and Ian Anderson at times, he’s able to command songs when telling stories, just once or twice sounding on the upper limit of his range.
The opening track “Change is Gonna Come” is a driven by a great riff, guitar licks and excellent vocals, had me thinking of Aqualung-era Jethro Tull, another little band that could be both as gentle and as rocky as they come. But before you settle down for some serious rock, this is followed by “Getting’ Hungry”, a jazzy music-hall song that sounds straight out of a 20’s American night-club…plus kazoo! (it works, honest!). “Fatal Farm” returns to out-and-out slabs of Zeppelin-esque riffs, it’s great stuff. “Time traveller” and Sleep Softly are softer, more bluesy, nicely crafted tunes, with bursts of horns in the former, the layered vocals of the latter reminding me of 10cc or the Beach Boys. Samey, this is not!
Track 6, “The Ego and the Universe” starts as a high speed blues-rock workout, that bleeds out into an extended Floyd-style psychedelia, has to have been recorded live, with a really tight band sound supporting it. “Heavy Road” is exactly what it sounds like, another great slab of classic early 70’s-style riff-driven pounding that builds and builds. “I’ve been better, I be worse” starts as gentler laid-back blues with lovely guitar and piano work, before another series of tempo changes kick in, from a quirky bridge section, more gentle electric piano before a beautiful guitar solo, finishing with quality choral singing topped by a superb vocal finale. The final track “From a Distance” again starts gently, with lovely clean vocal and guitar melodies, growing into a powerful ballad that peaks then fades satisfyingly. These guys really know how craft and build songs. This is the last ‘proper’ song, and a fitting way to close a record, although there’s another 11 ‘snippets’ plus a short soliloquy, making a total of 21 tracks……
A really great, and very surprising record from a band I’d never heard of until doing this review – I look forward to hearing a lot more about them, and hope to see them touring the UK soon please!