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Album Review : DOWN ‘N’ OUTZ – THIS IS HOW WE ROLL

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After 5 years in the making, the third and latest studio album from Down ‘n’ Outz finally gets released on the world on October 11th. The 12 track album , 13 if you get the digital version, is released via UMC and will be available on CD, LP, digital formats with a limited edition 12” Picture Disc LP.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu83oNAiBEA&w=560&h=315]
The band itself is headed up by Def Leppard frontman and 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Elliott. Making up the rest of the band are Quireboys members Guy Griffin (Guitar), Paul Guerin (Guitar) and Keith Weir (Keyboards) with the rhythm section of Share Ross from Vixen on bass and Phil Martini of Wayward Sons on drums.
The project was born in 2009 when Mott The Hoople reformed and their long time friend and fan Joe Elliott was asked to get involved. They supported Mott at one of the bands five Hammersmith Apollo shows that year and after much fan interest they decided to put together an album.
Their critically acclaimed debut “My Generation” was released in 2011 and was followed by a live DVD “Live at Hammersmith Apollo”, recorded at those initial shows. Their second studio album, “The Further Adventures Of” was released in 2014 and this was followed up with a live album and DVD “The Further Live Adventures Of”.
The album has been preceded by the title track and lead single “This Is How We Roll” which has seen it get regular airtime on Planet Rock Radio.
Talking about the album guitarist Guy Griffin says “(“This Is How We Roll”) is absolutely fantastic, probably one of the best records I’ve worked on. It doesn’t sound like Leppard or the first two Down n Outz records.
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It’s kind of all the stuff Joe grew up with, a lot of piano type stuff, a bit Elton John, one track a bit 10cc, a couple of good rockers… a real mix of stuff. Joe’s voice sounds amazing and it’s great fun to do.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZSgCG_OjzM&w=560&h=315]
Now I am going to admit to being late to the party where Down ‘N’ Outz are concerned which disappoints me and surprises me at the same time. I have been a massive fan of both Def Leppard and the Quireboys since the 1980’s but for some reason the side project for those bands members has slipped past me.
Yes I knew about the band and I have heard the odd track but I have never heard a whole album. I really wasn’t sure what to expect in all honesty. Would I be able to get my head around this not being a Def Leppard album was my first concern as I have never heard Joe sing on anything else really.
Would it sound like a Def Leppard album as the frontman wrote all the tracks bar one. How much of an influence would the Quireboys members have on the sound of the album, would that bar room bluesy feel that they have with their main band shine through.
Well all I can say is after a few listens it was clearly apparent that this is not a Def Leppard album and the influences of the other members shine though in the writing and playing to give the album a truly classic feel.
It is genuinely and clearly inspired by the bands of yesteryear that have made these musicians who they are today and between them they have created and released an album of exquisite 70’s and 80’s influenced rock that takes you back to those halcyon days but is equally relevant and credible today.
Opening track “Another Man’s War” is an absolutely blistering start to the album. An up tempo rocker with a big and bold piano led intro, that gives it a bar room feel, it hit me straight away how great Joe Elliott sounds when his vocals kick in. The track is built for arena rock with the powerful drumming of Phil Martini perfect to be built into a dazzling light display.
Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin play out some searing guitar parts throughout the track and it has some moments that are destined to be played out in every house on the air guitar!
“This Is How We Roll” is an infectious track that keeps the tempo going with some more scintillating guitar work that just screams out of the speakers at you.
The production on the album is crisp, clear, polished and well balanced but without losing the vibe the band are creating. Joe’s vocals are superb again on the albums title track and it proves beyond doubt that he can still rock with the best at 60 years young and after 42 years in the business.
After that sizzling start it is left to the very poignant “Goodnight Mr. Jones” to drop the pace. The song, about the late great David Bowie is just a sublime piece of music. Full of piano, emotive vocals and warmhearted guitar work that fully does justice to the tracks subject matter it is a really beautiful song. The harmonious vocal parts on the song give the track depth to it’s beauty and I swear that if this was written back in the days when singles were sought after we would be talking about it now as a legendary and almost iconic ballad.
After the elegance and emotion of the last track, “Creatures” really lifts your spirits. It is full of swagger and has a cracking fun groove to it that cannot fail to get your hips shaking and feet tapping.
There are some splendid time and beat changes throughout and more of those wonderful harmonies, inspired by the iconic bands and tracks from the 70’s. A superbly happy track, it takes you on your own little Magic Carpet Ride like the lyrics reference.
This leads us into “Last Man Standing”. A really simple song with it’s beauty in the simplicity. Keith Weir’s piano/keyboards very prominent throughout and there are some sublime soulful vocal parts that give the track a majestic feel to it.
We then get to three tracks that are sandwiched between “Music Box”, a brief musical interlude that is what it says it is and “Music Box Reprise/Griff’s Lament”, an acoustic outro that closes out this segment of the release.
“Boys Don’t Cry” kicks the album back in to rocking mode with it’s heavy pulsating drum beat that creates a massive sound for the song. It is another dazzling track full of more harmonious backing vocals that give it a bit of a Leppard feel. Scorching guitar work aplenty along with some more searing vocals and a sing-a-long chorus make this a real standout track and the drop in pace before the guitar solo that leads to a really big finish shows the craftmanship that all the members have with songwriting.
“Walking to Babylon” has a different feel again, soulful, almost gospely in places, it is another piano based song with Joe’s vocals over some delicate, intricate acoustic guitar that builds and builds into another powerful little number and then we get the epic “Let It Shine”.
A common theme on the album is the vocals and piano together and we get that again here after Keith gets to showcase his talents with a piano only intro. The track then builds with each added instrument to become a really grandiose number that has depth and feel to it. I have listened to this track over and over again and can’t help but think how this song, album and band have given Joe Elliott the chance to show everybody the versatility in his vocals that cannot always be apparent with Def Leppard.
That brings us to the final proper track on the album. “White Punks On Dope”, originally by The Tubes is the only cover on this release and it gets the full Down ‘n’ Outz treatment. It is full of energy and attitude and does the original song complete justice without being a straight copy.
If you have brought the digital version, then you are lucky to get a stripped down version of “Goodnight Mr. Jones” as a bonus track. It is more chilled and a little melancholic compared to the normal album version but is a fitting way to bring that particular version of the album to a close.
The whole album is inspired by iconic 70’s acts and there was no one more iconic from that era than David Bowie.
I will leave the final word to the bands erstwhile and legendary frontman Joe Elliott who says “Boy, has this has been a long time coming?! Recorded in infrequent bursts of activity over a 5-year period whenever our respective motherships allowed, I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved with this album.
I’m blessed to have worked with such a superb bunch of musicians on this collection of songs. To a man, and woman (!), they completely got my vision of what I wanted us to convey on this record & as usual, working with a world class producer/engineer in Ronan McHugh has guaranteed the sound of the record to be top notch! I couldn’t be more proud.
Track listing
Another Man’s War
This Is How We Roll
Goodnight Mr. Jones
Creatures
Last Man Standing
Music Box
Boys Don’t Cry
Walking To Babylon
Let It Shine
Music Box Reprise / Griff’s Lament
White Punks On Dope
The Destruction of Hideous Objects Part 3
Goodnight Mr. Jones (Stripped Down Version) Digital Bonus Track
Official site: http://www.downnoutz.net/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DownNOutz Twitter: https://twitter.com/DownNOutz YOUTUBE: http://bit.ly/
Review by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic
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