SEPTEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
It’s a year since Scarlet Rebels unleashed ‘Show Your Colours’ – an album we called as ‘Album of the Month’ in August 2019 – and, with hindsight, it’s proven to be one of the defining rock albums of recent years. Why? – because the music has enduring shelf-life. Week by week and to this day, people are still discovering the album for the first time – songs that appeal to classic rock fans but it’s also music that confidently lives far beyond this retro goldfish bowl and draws people young and old that are not ardent rockers. In simplest terms, ‘Show Your Colours’ has legacy as an album for people that like good music and the art of good song writing.
That was then.
One year on, the world is in an unimaginably different place – and this new Scarlet Rebels release speaks well for these changed times. The world has changed, priorities have changed and the mood has changed. The industry norm for marketing glitz, hype, auto-tune, and manufactured studio perfection is now out of place with a world that has learnt to re-evaluate the simple, authentic and enduring things in life that really matter.
Here is the authentic sound of a band playing songs, live and recorded in just one take. The true music champions since lockdown have been those artists that have adjusted and created within the imposed limitations of today’s rugged, raw, uncertain world. It’s a time of direct, stripped-back truth in music, even with occasional naked imperfections. And at a time when so many music fans are missing live shows, there is no better tonic from album releases than music that captures the directness and excitement of a live set. Scarlet Rebels have released this live album to commemorate the anniversary of ‘Show Your Colours’ but – knowingly or not – they have released an album this is totally on point with the changed times we live in. And this live collection of songs speaks to me far more than the band’s preceding album, which somehow now seems to be from a different era.
The songs on this album have a very special resonance for Great Music Stories. Recorded on 15 July during a single session at Sonic One Studios in Llanelli, Wales (with no overdubs or backing tracks), the audio set was first aired for our modern rock Wellbeing Festival at the start of August – an online festival that probably gave the band it’s biggest festival audience of the summer. When the songs came through, they were so immediate and strong. I used three of them to open the 104-band festival on the evening of Friday 7 August. ‘Let Me In’ resonated immediately as the band set the bar for the sets that were to follow that evening. Given the depth and quality in these Rebels live songs, I then aired the full set again on Sunday evening as the festival drew towards its dramatic conclusion. Again, in the company of fine acts such as BadFlower, Nick Van Eede and Cormac Neeson, the Scarlet Rebels set once again held its own – as the band drew rave reviews from both the social media and the offline audience.
Whilst the video of the set was aired the following week, the magic of these songs, for me, works best as audio – which is why a CD release is so fitting. Whether the soundtrack of a car journey, cranked up loud in the kitchen or enjoyed through a high spec HiFi, it is the quality of these audio recordings that conveys the supreme majesty of live performance; the spontaneity, energy and natural chemistry that you usually get in the concert hall, but is seldom conveyed through a normal studio album.
Each of the songs on this release brings something to the party. ‘Let Me In’ has greater breadth than the original studio version, and live favourite ‘Save Me’ has more bite – but the standout is ‘Heal.’ This was a song we premiered and ran for 8 consecutive weeks last summer, at a time then most radio stations where trailblazing the album’s early, rockier radio singles. Since we first played it, ‘Heal’ has become a torch song to so many of my Friday rock show listeners. And during the hardship of lockdown, many people requested it as a dedication to the frontline workers – and others took comfort from the song at a time when they were separated from elderly relatives or loved ones. Already a special song, on this live album ‘Heal’ somehow gains an extra dimension and, for me, it’s probably the highlight of the album.
This collection of finely recorded live studio tracks also offers insight into a potential new model for young bands. Before the pandemic, everything was about gigging, and when a band got a chance to record an album or EP, the songs were often heavily produced – even remixed – with strong production values. Scarlet Rebels have done something simple – they played a set together in one take and recorded the natural sound. Here is a model for many young bands – get in the practice room, record a set and release it. It’s a way to feed fans with new content and, with gigs off, it’s the next best thing in terms of conveying that live performance sound that we miss so much. Many bands focus heavily on filming sets, but what this Scarlet Rebels CD release reminds us is that it’s actually all about the sound of the music. I recently commissioned market research to understand how people had coped with lockdown and an emphatic result was how people had used time in ‘slow mode’ to discover new music, whether this be on streaming sites, buying CDs online or rediscovering the lost art of enjoying vinyl albums from beginning to end. Taking time to really listen to music – and to enjoy talking about it with friends. Music has helped so many people at a critical time and the fact the Scarlet Rebels have released a live CD album is on the money. At the end of the day, it’s all about the sound of good songs.
Scarlet Rebels are a very special band for us. They followed the footsteps of Massive Wagons (2016), Those Damn Crows (2017) and The Virginmarys (2018) to be voted our ‘Band of the Year’ in December 2019. At the time, some were a little surprised they topped a 170-band shortlist – given the band are, by their nature, modest and even a little shy. This live album in less than 40 minutes underlines why the band’s achievement last December was so obvious – and fitting – and explains why the band has been held in such high esteem by so many. Without the noise, the hype or the fuss – or even a big label – Scarlet Rebels are one of the best live bands in Britain today. The proof in is this album – snap one up and decide for yourself.
Scarlet Rebels: ‘Live At Sonic One’ is released on Friday 16th October 2020. Pre-order the CD exclusively via www.ScarletRebels.com/shop
As album of the month, ‘Let Me In’ and ‘Heal’ will be featured each week during the month on my Friday rock show on Great Music Stories radio.
1 You Take My Breath Away
2 Save Me
4 Let Me In
5 No One Else To Blame
6 Part Of Me
7 Not The One
Scarlet Rebels are:
Wayne Doyle (vocals/guitar)
Chris Jones (lead guitar)
Josh Townshend (guitar)
Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde (bass)
Gary Doyle (drums)
Discover the band online:
Listen again to band audio interviews here: