Now then, listen up, this is something special! Imagine a band remarkably like Dire Straits, playing quality blues-rock but with Ian Gillan on lead vocals, with hints of Graham Parker and Chris Rea thrown in for good measure! Swiss-based foursome the Ellis Manos Band will release their second album Ambedo on 25th June 2021 on Jazzhaus Records.
In Switzerland, the Ellis Mano Band are not unlike the Wrecking Crew or the Funk Brothers. They are top-flight studio musicians and elites in the Swiss music scene. Although they spent years making music with other artists, the band members never got much time to make music of their own until now. The band describe their trademark well-produced sound as “a sort of rock n’ soul, rooted deep down in the blues.” Influenced by Led Zeppelin, J.J. Cale, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jimi Hendrix and more recently John Mayer, the band have put their own unique stamp on the blues.
Every track on the new album is rich with perfectly chosen detail including Chris Ellis’s rough voice, Edis Mano’s vintage sounding guitar playing, and the tight rhythm section of drummer Nico Looser and bassist Severin Graf. The album also features Hammond B3 organ, and horns that reflect the blazing summer heat during which they were recorded. The harmonious backing vocals are reminiscent of something you would hear from Muscle Shoals Studios.
“We chose the album title Ambedo because it reflects the state of the process of recording an album,” says guitarist Edis. Ambedo refers to the tendency both to reflect and to absorb. Musicians like us do it all the time, especially when we compose new songs and create a new album.” The album was recorded at Edis’ Studio E10 with a lot of vintage gear and instruments and produced with a contemporary sound. All songs were recorded live with just a few later overdubs, including backing vocals and horns. Each track is saturated in a deep respect and understanding of American roots music, from the early blues of the American South through to the revolutionary blues and rock revolution of 1960s Britain.
I can happily echo those comments and add that, within the broader church of Rock there’s an awful lot of folk going to really, really love this album!
The album is nothing short of brilliant! Ambedo presents a rich tapestry of emotions, all stemming from four supremely talented session musicians having a great time composing, arranging and performing their own tracks, simply being a real tight-knot band again. Apparently, according to the “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, Ambedo describes a kind of melancholy trance that you sometimes drift into while absently listening to and watching raindrops slide down your windowpane…..
The ten tracks kick off with The Horrible Truth. Nothing like the description of Ambedo itself, it sweeps in like a storm, whipped up by a sweet, sweet guitar tone from Edis, a pounding beat from the rhythm section before a stellar solo tops the lot. The guitar is so, so good that Chris Ellis’ impassioned vocals almost…almost….pass me by. But this guy can sing! Sweet Sin follows straight on, and you realise that the mix on this album is absolutely top draw – they sounds like they’re stood in front of you and a very small audience. The timbre of the guitar is again so sonorous, it has to be a classic Fender Strat or similar instrument to produce that depth and colour of tone. Meanwhile, the similarity between Ellis’ vocals and later period Gillan is quite uncanny, his voice is rich, emotional, a great range of mood and power, truly special.
Ambedo Mind unleashes a smooooth, soulful horn section, and Chris’ voice rises effortlessly to the challenge of reproducing the 60’s R&B Greats. Underneath is a wonderful looping bassline, for someone who doesnt like soul, this is very impressive! The Fight For Peace is another slow, blues-soaked track with another great, great sound-mix, it really is atmospheric, an echoing ambience only adding to a superlative ‘Bonamassa-esque’ solo. Complete with Hammond organ and the chorus of female backing singers, this song focusses on the futility of war and both guitar and vocals go for the power jugular.
Johnnie & Susie is pure Springsteen, a classic road movie story of the kind beloved by The Boss. An up-tempo rocker, it features a wall of meaty chords and rhythm… and vocals to die for! It’s followed by Long Road, a poignant ballad of regret that’s been given a monumental country/waltz arrangement. Heart-stopping vocals sear through your soul, while the arrangement as a whole is soaked in regret. The Question comes in with a loud, hard n’ fast riff, I first thought “Radar Love”! More vocals redolent of Ian Gillan, beautiful Hammond work (by none other than Lachy Doley, the Hammond legend himself). Close your eyes, this track genuinely feels like early Purple going through their not-so-heavy, more bluesy paces, it’s wonderful stuff!
Breakfast is pure, slow, British blues. There’s a nod to Peter Green’s early Fleetwood Mac here, with drummer Nico Looser and bassist Severin Graf carefully putting a slow beat down with due respect and restraint. Edis Mano’s sweet blues solos and licks perfectly marry with Chris Ellis’s pleading vocals. Keep It Simple is more of a pacey country-rock number, it has a real Chris Rea feel to it, albeit with more tortured Gillan-esque vocals over the top. But it’s still closely tied to their blues rock roots. The first single, released in April, it refers to the one subject on the planet that certainly is not simple at all – love.
And so to the album’s closer, Heart ‘n’ Mind. It’s gentle, pastoral, and a power ballad all at once – again in a classic “The River-era” Springsteen vocal and arrangement. A really meaty, deep, emotionally loaded, atmospheric conclusion to a great album that has a touch of everything!