Ellis, Brett: The Warriors Before Me
It may appear that Brett Ellis has a fight on his hands, what with him facing The Warriors Before Me. However this latest guitar opus from the American six-string slinger isn't a battle to the death, instead being a tribute to a collection of guitar stars who paved the way for fret-firers like Ellis to master their art.
The selections Ellis makes for this look over his shoulder are clever, instantly recognisable names, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Robin Trower, Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Frank Marino, Uli Jon Roth, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore, Pat Travers, Johnny Winter, Angus Young and the pairing of Lonesome Dave Peverett and Rob Price, all revisited, but not always through the tracks you'd maybe expect. Instead Ellis digs a little deeper into these catalogues, before expertly walking a fine line between faithful and individual. For all the songs presented here, some fifteen in all, sound exactly as they should and yet to the uninitiated, they could believe that each and every one came from the same songwriter. That in itself is rare, but with Ellis and his band of Rick Nash on bass and Calvin Lakin on drums being specialists in a deep, rich American blues rock style, they take the likes of Gary Moore's "Bad News", or AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" and twist them into a more Ellis like being. Add in some serious fret histrionics that aren't afraid to step quite a distance from the original arrangements and you're left with fresh, fiery takes on some old classics.
Genuinely there isn't a missed step as UFO's "Ain't No Baby" is torn through, ZZ Top's "Neighbor Neighbor" is cranked up, or Rainbow's "Self Portrait" is given a fresh new coat of rich bluesy energy. Ellis is also a top notch singer and again his willingness – and ability – to stay true to the original songs, while adding his own personality is a major element in making this album so engaging. Something that can also be said for the guest vocal contributions from Jason Edwards, Rick Reed, Graham Heath and Allison Smith (it's a real kick to hear Smith's take on Sabbath's "Supernaut"!), who all provide superb, genuine performances.
I'm often quite cynical about covers albums, seeing them as little more than cheap time fillers. However when they are done properly and with the care and attention they deserve, the results can be something special. I'm pleased to say Brett Ellis has given these songs not just the required amount of care and attention but also a hefty injection of energy and attitude. Allowing The Warriors Before Me to become a real unexpected pleasure.
1. EZY RYDER
2. TWICE REMOVED FROM YESTERDAY
3. TRYIN' ANYWAY
4. LIVING AND DYING
5. SELF PORTRAIT
6. GO ALL NIGHT
8. OUTTA LOVE AGAIN
9. BAD NEWS
10. AIN'T NO BABY
11. BAD LUCK SITUATION
12. NEIGHBOR NEIGHBOR
13. ROAD FEVER
14. WHOLE LOTTA ROSIE
15. WE'RE GONNA GROOVE (ZEP JAM)
Added: February 20th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Warriors Before Me at The Grooveyard
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