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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bloodrock: U.S.A.

BLOODROCK: U.S.A. (1971)

1) It's A Sad World; 2) Don't Eat The Children; 3) Promises; 4) Crazy 'Bout You Babe; 5) Hangman's Dance; 6) American Burn; 7) Rock & Roll Candy Man; 8) Abracadaver; 9) Magic Man; 10) Erosion.

The last and most colorful — at least, in regard to the sleeve — album by the original Bloodrock, before Rutledge and Pickens left the band to a cruel and miserable fate. No major changes in style, but you can see a slight increase in the number of tracks, which indicates the transition to a more compact, less epic scale of things. Even the longest song here, ʽMagic Manʼ, is not a spooky Gothic phantasmagoria à la ʽD.O.A.ʼ or ʽBreach Of Leaseʼ, but a restrained, collected blues-rocker, the most «phantasmagoric» piece of which might be the opening electric piano solo (si­milar in style to and possibly influenced by Ray Manzarek's solo in ʽRiders On The Stormʼ, though, naturally, nowhere near as brilliantly constructed).

The thing is, with this record Bloodrock seem to be taking their «social duties» more seriously than ever — song after song carries a flash of some apocalyptic vision or a scrap of some prophetic message. With Bloodrock's lack of proper atmospheric skills, these messages never carry the convincing force of a ʽGimmie Shelterʼ or a Dark Side Of The Moon, but at least it helps Rutledge, Pickens, and Co. to preserve the «snappy» attitude of their best efforts so far and deliver the goods with enough energy and feeling to shoo away Mr. Languid Boredom.

Not that I could name any particular highlights. For some weird reason, the most memorable bit on the album for me has always been the maniacal laughter fit at the end of ʽAmerican Burnʼ which I have always associated with the album sleeve (which, when fully spread, depicts a very green Mephistopheles embracing the Capitol with one hand and performing lobotomy with the other) even without realizing that the lyrics of the song are indeed referring to the same cover. Which is a little embarrassing, since the song is riff-based, after all, and should be memorable for its twin guitar/organ melodic line instead. But it isn't.

Still, we could at least namedrop ʽDon't Eat The Childrenʼ, a fairly upbeat and jolly tune to be matched with such a title, especially when it comes to the fussy honky-tonk piano solo; the harsh funk-rocker ʽRock & Roll Candy Manʼ; and the closest thing here to an actual «epic» — ʽHang­man's Danceʼ, which borrows the chords from the coda to Yes's ʽStarship Trooperʼ but puts them to different use, replacing the beauty-focused futuristic gaze of Yes with a grittier, more grounded perspective on current things (not that Bloodrock ever created anything as breathtaking as ʽStar­ship Trooperʼ, but at least they tried).

But in the end, my thumbs up for this album would be explained not by any individual songs, but rather just by the record showing some character. It's all mild and never rocks you to the core, yet most of the songs are infused with a mix of sadness, anger, and irony that you wouldn't expect from a completely «generic» American hard rock album. The lack of a single distinctive «peak» like ʽD.O.A.ʼ may actually help things — the music here does not get by on goofy (gory) gim­mickry, but rather on this sense of sadness that subtly inhabits the melodies and even Rutledge's vocal deliveries, which get progressively less brawny and more tragic. As it is, USA may not be a great album, or it may not even be Bloodrock's best album, but it may be that one Bloodrock album which has finally found itself a general purpose. Ironically, God (or Mephisto) simply would not have that, so USA would also be the last LP from classic era Bloodrock as we know it.

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