Elf
Carolina County Ball


4.0
excellent

Review

by Conor USER (11 Reviews)
December 22nd, 2010 | 15 replies | 5,936 views


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The crowning achievement of Elf and an essential listen for Dio fans and rockers in general

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

LepreCon presents: Rock Legends
Legend in Focus: Ronnie James Dio- ELF
Part Two: Ronnie Brings the Funk...


Two years after the release of their eponymous debut, Elf went back into the studio to record their second album. In this time, some changes had taken place with regards to the band’s lineup. David ‘Rock’ Feinstein was replaced as the group’s axeman by Steve Edwards and Craig Gruber was brought in to handle bass guitar duties. This freed up singer Ronald James Padavona (A.K.A. Ronnie James Dio) to concentrate fully on his vocals and lyrics for the next album. Along with the newcomers and fellow veterans Mickey Lee Soule on the keys and Gary Driscoll battering the skins, Ronnie set about making an album superior to their groundbreaking but hardly successful debut, in his bid to forge a name for himself and his band.

The Carolina County Ball lineup was:
Ronnie James Dio- vocals
Mickey Lee Soule- piano
Gary Driscoll- drums
Steve Edwards- guitar
Craig Gruber- bass guitar

Despite being a brilliantly conceived and expertly executed record, not to mention falling very much in line with the 1970s rock music zeitgeist, Elf did not see much commercial success. Even touring in support of rock giants Deep Purple did not seem to be gaining the band much in the way of recognition. However, producer and Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover continued to believe in them and kept them on his Purple label, financing two more albums for the band. They also caught the attentions of guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore, who left Deep Purple in 1974. The Deep Purple influence is even more evident in Carolina County Ball than the debut, resulting in a much more complex effort that brought together elements of hard rock, funk, jazz, blues, southern rock and a dose of boogie-woogie to boot. Those who would only come to know Dio through his work with Black Sabbath and his own eponymous band may find this sound shocking, even comical, but it was with this sound that Dio made his name, and things were about to get a lot more interesting.

The first point of interest is new guitarist Steve Edwards. Edwards had pretty big boots to fill, replacing Dio’s own cousin on the six– string. Feinstein’s axework was integral to the raw rocking sound of the group’s debut. Thankfully, Edwards’ skill is on par with Feinstein’s, dishing out those licks and riffs in a style so similar to Feinstein that his addition to the band’s ranks was to no detriment whatsoever. Edwards shines on tracks such as the hard-rocking L.A. 59- the track after which the album was named in the United States and Japan for some reason- and the ridiculously catchy Annie New Orleans. He could certainly solo like the best of his contemporaries, which included the likes of Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. New bassist Gruber shows off his chops brilliantly here as well, showing himself to be a much more capable bassist than Dio. Joined by the underrated Driscoll, their simple but crucial driving rhythms keep the album afloat. Gruber’s work also adds funky elements more prominently than on the debut, with songs such as the bouncy title track and the surreal closer Blanche being of a deeper and more complex nature than much of the tracks on the debut.

Mickey Lee Soule, however, absolutely tears it up on the piano throughout the record. Rock and roll has produced some fine musicians over the years, but Soule is certainly amongst the most underrated of all time. He practically does the work of a second bassist and a second guitarist simultaneously, with plenty of lead breaks on the keys and even a few full blown piano solos here and there, such as in the mid-paced rocker Rocking Chair Rock N Roll Blues and the especially piano-centric Rainbow. The piano and guitar intertwine most effectively on the super slow Happy, the closest thing the album has to a ballad. As a whole, the album is much more complex instrument-wise, with each member demonstrating a wide range of influences that shine through to make each of the songs more distinguishable from one another, something that their first album was somewhat lacking.

Of course, there’s no way to draw attention from the main man himself, and Dio’s distinctive, raspy wails are abundant on this album, as one would expect. Much like the last effort, Dio uses more aspects of his voice here than he would on future releases. Of course, this is because his versatility as a vocalist allowed him to adapt to whatever style of music he sang over, and in this case he was left to fly free as much as possible. This works, as one would expect, very much to the record’s advantage. If you want slow, Dio could pull off a haunting, doomy performance. If you wanted upbeat and perky, Dio was also the man for the job. He truly puts his heart and soul into his performance this time around, and it really shows as each distinctive song has its own distinctive layer of vocals to add to their already complex nature. The lyrics are quirky, even by Dio’s standards, but rather than singing of wizards and dragons, we get gems like hey doo-oo, on a boogie-woogie Friday night and crazy little woman go down, go down, go down, go down, down to where the honey is sweet. If the Elf albums didn’t exist, never in a million years would anyone imagine the voice of metal himself to come out with such material!

In their attempts to make a better record than its predecessor, Elf had great success with Carolina County Ball. The songs here are much more complex and intellectually arousing yet retain their upbeat and catchy feel that made the debut so enjoyable. Elf’s sophomore release is without a doubt their crowning achievement, blending a vast array of influences correctly and cohesively with outstanding performances from all members involved. Though they would release one more album under the Elf moniker, Carolina County Ball is the one they should have been most proud of. It was by all means a spectacular achievement, cramming so much in there and still having an album chock full of tasty cuts that makes it so irresistibly infectious that the listener is bound to tap their feet along to the nine hard-rocking, funky tunes.

To Be Continued in Part Three: Trying to Burn the Sun...



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user ratings (14)
Chart.
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


Finally, a follow on from my first Elf review and the second part of my Ronnie James Dio tribute series

omnipanzer
December 22nd 2010



21418 Comments


I really like your reviews. I am not a fan of Dio by and means but I was listening some previews of
these songs while I read and I like it a lot. I never would have looked for anything with Dio's name
on it until now. POS'd Cheers!

Digging: Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy

LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


Thanks man, Dio was a hero of mine so naturally his death in May gutted me, but I wanted to show my appreciation for him with a series of heartfelt reviews... of course business and laziness means I can't post reviews very often but I do my best. And there's always time to get yourself into some Dio, man!

omnipanzer
December 22nd 2010



21418 Comments


I'm not a hair band fan and I've never been a sabbath fan so I probably won't go beyond Elf but be happy you got that much lol. Don't get me wrong I give credit where credit is due they just never did it for me.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 22nd 2010



5896 Comments


What we got here is failure to communicate....





ok just kiddin'






What we got here is a quality reviewer, have a pos, although i read certain paragraphs in random (again! lol)

I'm not keen on absorbing texts this big and info-dense these days, all the fatigue of the year comes up in xmas...

Digging: Electric Citizen - Sateen

LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


I would never have classified Dio as hair metal at all but if he's just not your thing that's cool.
Thanks Voivod, I know my reviews tend to be long but they are retrospectives for the most part and so they require a bit of history. It's usually just the first two paragraphs in which I deal with history anyway so if you don't have the time or the energy just skip to para 3 or so, that's where the meat of the album itself sits. Thanks again, I'll probably have the last Elf review done for tomorrow but I'm not gonna make any promises anymore when it comes to reviewing!

Nagrarok
December 22nd 2010



8169 Comments


What, first you take ages to write ONE review and now you post two so soon after each other? I am getting confused here.

Still pos'd of course.

LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


Thanks, man. Yep, Christmas holidays from both college and work, nothing much for me to do until my bassist comes back from Romania on the 27th :'/

omnipanzer
December 22nd 2010



21418 Comments


Sorry, I just mean to say I like to stay on the blues-rock side of the tracks lol.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
December 22nd 2010



19908 Comments


Another great review, haven't heard this so I'll definately check it out as I too am a huge Dio fan.

LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


Thanks man, Dio put out some damn fine stuff even in the early years

Nagrarok
December 22nd 2010



8169 Comments


Truly, he was a legend.

LepreCon
December 22nd 2010



3562 Comments


The Christmas edition of the TV Guide here in my country even paid respect to him!

RIP Dio

SatanicOffering
December 24th 2010



32 Comments


Great review, Dio was the only person whom I was truly upset about dying this year. Trying To Burn The Sun in the best Elf album IMO.

LepreCon
December 28th 2011



3562 Comments


Jesus fucking Christ this was the last review I posted, over a year ago????!!!! Fuck...



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