Review Summary: Rival Sons strive to record the album of the year
Unlike many of their antagonists in the retro/modern blues rock arena, the Californian entourage doesn't need vintage equipment to engage you in the spirit. Away from studio effects, cheap choruses and indifferent about mainstream success, Rival Sons present us an album very influenced by the roots of rock music. The feeling goes back in the 60s and early 70s era, something which is more evident in this release than any of the previous ones. They do not care about sounding 'original'. They are even provocative enough to challenge criticism, but they are miles beyond such obstacles: fans and critics have already got the spell.
The idiosyncratic band introduce us to Great Western Valkyrie
in a similar tone as with its predecessor. The similarities between "Electric Man" and "Keep on Swinging" are massive and apparent on the one hand, but very welcomed on the other. Apart from the powerfull riffs, Buchanan's voice is so engaging that by the second time you listen it you'll get yourself whispering "ohh, I don't know, I don't know...". At a similar tone "Good Luck" follows just to make things clear -if they haven't become already- about the album's content. Yet the melodic part that the keyboards play in this song is one of the characteristics that was missing to take the band into another level: melodic, discreet and catchy. Just as it happens to the bluesy "Good Things", the electrifying "Secret" and the southern style ballad "Where I've Been".
Instrumentally, the album is more cohesive, diverse and attractive than any previous releases. They seek precision over complexity. The eccentric Scott Holiday manages so skillfully to transfer his style into riffs that the end result is captivating. "Destination On Course" is probably his best performance as he plays so proficiently and in combination with Buchanan's soulful vocals the album closes in triumph. Michael Miley's drumming in "Play The Fool" is among his top moments in the album. With a simple bass/snare drum pattern he gives a dynamic vibe to the song while Dave Beste's bass line in "Belle Starr" is his personal highlight.
Even before its release, Great Western Valkyrie
attracted strong criticism in the music world. Can someone argue that "Open My Eyes" has an identical drum intro to Zeppelin's "Kashmir"? By all means. Do the trembling vocals in "Secret" may suggest an inclination towards Plant's distinctive style? Certainly. Despite all that, the style, the aura, the mojo that these guys exert in their songs will grasp your attention. Nevertheless, "Open My Eyes" is a groovy, catchy and powerfull composition only to prepare you for the intoxicating "Rich and The Poor".
Great Western Valkyrie
is probably the band's best effort in their career so far. Rival Sons have lived to the expectations. They've stayed true to their image and with such solid performances audiences cannot ignore their music. How can you accept that rock is dead with albums like this?