If you haven't yet had the opportunity to experience the modern blues rock sound of British band Nine Below Zero then this two for one re-issue from Angel Air Records is as good a place to start as any. There's been a renewed interest in these seasoned veterans of late as they recently commemorated their 30th anniversary with a solid album of new material last year entitled It's Never Too Late. Now Angel Air have wisely decided to get a couple of their independent releases from 2000 and 2002 back out to the masses by polishing them up with a proper remastering and as bonus each one features a couple of additional tracks as well.
Formed around founding member vocalist / guitarist Dennis Greaves and vocalist / harmonica player Mark Feltham along with a couple of Rory Gallagher's ex-band mates bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Brendan O'Neil this lineup has been firing on all cylinders and tearing up stages everywhere with their high octane rock and blues assault since 1990. Chronologically these two discs are reversed so I'll begin with disc two which contains their Refrigerator album from 2000 which was co-produced by Kenny Jones of The Small Faces and The Who fame. Tracks like Money Or The Man" and "Cinnamon Groove" have a muscular almost ZZ Top style vibe running through them due in large part to Greaves' raw, bluesy licks and some inspired harmonica playing from Billy Boy Miskimmin who took over for Feltham beginning in the mid 90's. Other tracks worthy of mention here are the up tempo, groove laden rockers "We Rock The House", "Tell Me Why Can't I Just Be Like You" and "Electric". Overall this is really enjoyable record from beginning to end and if you like modern rock n' blues in the style of what The Fabulous Thunderbirds used to be so damn good at, then you'll have no problem sinking your teeth into these songs.
Chilled marked the return of Feltham and the group surprisingly opted to go for a more laid back, acoustic feel on this record so in essence this album is unlike any other in their back catalogue. Not only is it great to have Feltham back in the fold once again sharing the lead vox with Greaves and blowing serious harp, but the vibe is remarkably loose all round on this sizzling collection of originals and covers. Right from the opening number "I Should Have Left It Up To You" which features an absolutely moving string arrangement that perfectly complements the slow burning guitar soloing from Greaves and Feltham's harmonica accents, you know this is going to be a special record indeed. The band follows this up with a sweet version of "Why Don't You Try Me Tonight" in which Feltham and Greaves effortlessly share the lead vocal duties as guest guitarist Robbie McIntosh fires off some tasty sounding slide work. From there it's off into a sublime, instrumental run through of the old Lieber/ Spector song "Spanish Harlem", which turns out to be a real showcase for Feltham to blow some of his trademark harmonica. There are simply no throw away tracks to be found on Chilled as the band deftly injects some of the strongest self penned songs of their career with "Why Can't We Be What We Want To Be", "Ballad Of Dombovar" and "One Foot In Heaven, One Foot In Hell" and seamlessly blends them with spot on, soulful versions of "Bring It On Home To Me" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). The bonus live songs "Down By The River" and "Soft Touch" are just icing on the cake to what is already a flawless and perfectly executed album from start to finish.
Over the past thirty years Nine Below Zero have transcended every conceivable musical trend, whether it was punk, 80's electro pop or the grunge rock sound of the early 90's they've never been concerned with any of the latest flavors of the week. While some of the aggressive elements of the band's earlier sound have tapered off somewhat this is quite simply a band that has just gotten better with age. You can't go wrong with any of their albums from their back catalogue (not to mention their latest album) but when you factor in that both of these splendid albums have not only been remastered, but also have a few additional tracks tacked on, and that you can now get them both together in one package for an incredibly reasonable price, well it's pretty much a no brainer don't you think?
Disc One: Chilled
1) I Should Have Left It Up To You
2) Why Don't You Try Me Tonight
3) Spanish Harlem
4) Why Can't We Be What We Want To Be
5) Egg On My Face
6) You Don't Love Me
7) Loaded Gun
8) Ballad Of Dombovar
9) White Boys Lost In The Blues
10) Bring It On Home To Me
11) How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you)
12) One Foot In Heaven, One Foot In Hell
14) Down By The River (Bonus Track)
15) Soft Touch (Bonus Track)
Disc Two: Refrigerator
1) Money Or The Man
2) We Rock The House
3) Wild Kicking Horse
4) Go Girl
5) Cinnamon Man
6) Tell Me Why Can't I Just Be Like You
7) Bad Behavior
8) 24 Miles Of America
9) Alternative Swing
11) We Rock The House Again
12) She's All The Rage (Bonus Track)
13) Line Of Least Resistance (Bonus Track)