After the waves of the "band and fan wars" hit me, I promised not to comment/review neither Wishbone Ash nor Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash releases anymore. Well, Gringos Locos is different, especially when some fans asked for it after I reviewed Ben Granfelt Band's album Kaleidoskope. Here goes...
Something like a 17 or 18 year hiatus and the boys are back! Original Member Ben Granfelt does only two cameos, but the rest of the original members are there. All of them older and wiser (hopefully ;-).
The music seems a bit more mature. Although there's a couple of heavier tracks, the most part of the music is more restrospective/cooler and we're offered a couple of ballads too. Since I'm a bit older too, I like the direction. Back in the old days, Muddy was the main composer and also wrote a lot of the lyrics, at first. Richard Johnson also worked on the lyrics and further on in Gringos Locos' career was more and more prominent in writing music too. On this album, Richard Johnson wrote 6 songs, including part of the lyrics on one track. Muddy wrote four songs, including one with Ian Harris' lyrics.
Here's my comments, track-by-track. Remember that they are just my opinions. I do not possess any more "musical wisdom" than any other average bloke, so feel free to disagree. After you've bought the album, of course.
This Richard Johnson song was also a pre-release single. It's a good choice for it and also for being an album opener. Nice riff and the melody is radio friendly.
The lyrics is another thing. They tell a story about people with the attitude: "Me, me, me! Me first." I've met a couple of these ****s... A disease of modern times. Although Richard sings like he's telling about himself, there's a sort of contempt in the way he sings. Maybe the next song written by Richard is more about himself... See "Plane to Eden".
Muddy's first track. A really groovy one and definitely my favourite. Lots of multi tracked guitars and the intro riff would have fitted on a Wishbone Ash album too.
Muddy seem to have written the lyrics with his tongue firmly in the cheek.
"... Water in a still pond soon gets bitter and muddy..."
A funny way to include his nick name into the lyrics.
"... Can't stay in one place too long. Got the white line fewer...
Muddy's surely aware of the dual meaning of "white lines".
Richard Johnson longing for good old times. He's mentioning quite a few nice memories from "boy scouts", "the Fab Four" to "Easy Living". Current entertainment, like "format radio" and "reality TV shows" are mentioned as reasons for wishing to take a "Plane to Eden". Beautiful chorus and a nice piano solo. The song ends with the words "no more" leaving you to think what it refers to.
One more thing: Please reserve a ticket to Eden for me too...
Muddy wrote a rap song! Well, at least the chorus isn't ripped from an oldie... Again, the lyrics are written with the tongue firmly in the cheek, albeit with a serious undertone. The duality of both the music and lyrics makes me think that the spoken verse is the story of people living beneath the House on the Hill and the chorus is telling about the lucky people living in the House. Just my interpretation...
BTW. Nice acoustic outro.
Ben does his first cameo on this track. He plays lead guitar.
This track starts with a heavy guitar intro. The same riff can be heard in the beginning on choruses but then you have Richard's strong voice overpowering it. Not that I'm complaining. Richard's voice has matured well.
Verses are restrained but once the chorus starts all volume pots are on eleven. Some nice keyboard (by Richard) at the end. The song is a story of men that are ... erm, men.
Ben's second cameo. Again, he's on lead guitar.
Another heavy one, again by Richard, starting with a nice build up. Seems like a song of a wannabe, although he doesn't agree about it in the song. Maybe he's made a couple of wrong choices in his career. Richard co-worked with Bryn Jones on this song. Bryn's been co-working with Ben too. "It's a small world."
Richard is singing so hard, that his lungs may pop out any second. An energetic solo by Muddy and a group of additional musicians singing in the choir.
One of Muddy's songs that includes some orchestration. A ballad where, again, Muddy plays with words (first/worst). Don't get me wrong, it's not just a joke, but a beatiful song with a catchy chorus. It also includes a nice "clean" guitar solo.
The outro has a synth sound that at first races up the scale, then at the very end runs down again. Nice touch.
Richard is softening now. This is a thought provoking song of the "Mystery Men" of this world. Excellent solo by Muddy. Some dual guitar part here and there too.
Definitely not trying to put down this song, but I can imagine a more "poppier" artist making a cover of this song. A very melodic song.
An energetic cover of an old Edgar Winter Group song by bassist/guitarist Dan Hartman. This one's (luckily) true to the rockier original version, not to the version recorded for Power Rangers film.
A proof that Richard's voice can carry a well known song. Also, that Muddy is able to play guitar like the "originals".
Richard at his softest and Muddy adding some very tasty lap steel fills. The guest on keyboards (Okke Komulainen) adds some nice licks too. This is a bluesy ballad of a guy thinking of someone who's been "gone so long".
A grand finale by Muddy with lyrics by Ian Harris, Andy Powell's old friend. This one includes orchestration and Richard's voice has a Vocoder-like addition in the verses (and on his backing vocals in the chorus).
The lyrics point out that humans are actually specks of dust in the universe. Reminds me of the times when I was studying to be an engineer: Our Physics teacher showed us a film about the universe and its endlessness. He warned us before showing the educational film that it may be too overwhelming if one's never been introduced to astronomy. Thankfully my dear recently departed dad had introduced me to astronomy while I was still quite young. He had bought a small telescope which he fastened to the railing of our balcony. So I had already seen Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons etc. Taught me that "In universe, man has the mandate of a piss-ant". The quote is a free translation (by yours truly) of a Finnish writer's reflections on humanity and the universe. Out of respect: The writer's name is Veikko Huovinen. Sorry! Rambling, but had to get that out of my system.
Final word #1: The backwards message at the end. I'll translate it to all interested, provided you send me a picture of you holding the CD.
Final word #2: Please, not an almost twenty year hiatus again. ;-)
If this seems familiar, I originally published this review at the Wishbone Ash forums, in the Former Members Forum.
Written by: Rainer Frilund - Last update: Aug, 2009