AUGUST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Nightfall. Imagine Marshal Jed Cooper and Captn Jack Sparrow racing to Rockfield late at night in the Batmobile – and you have the essence of ‘Scorpio,’ the opening track of this benchmark new album from Troy Redfern. The swagger and grit of a spaghetti western, menacing rhythms reminiscent of the Batman theme, presented by the poncho-clad warrior – and yes, the promo pics have more than a hint of Johnny Depp about them. Welcome to ‘The Fire Cosmic’ folks.
One cannot overstate the liberating magic of full-blooded live performance from start to finish on this fine album. After 16-months of lockdown, a world without gigs – where the best many of us got was pre-recorded streams of rehearsal sets or bedroom acoustic sets – here we get a real taste of what we’ve really been missing. Not just the depth of a full-band sound, not just great production; no, something more primal than that – the raw energy of three guys playing live in the same place, at the same time. The album feels alive, you can feel the chemistry between the players. In the week when the suits decreed we are now officially free, what we’re all really after is the ability to do ‘real’ again. Right place, right time, ‘The Fire Cosmic’ is an album release for a moment in history. An album that creatively defied the imposed limitations of lockdown and yet has served up something natural, something empowering – and totally authentic. No post-production invention and no bedroom-busking – the much-needed middle ground of real.
Anyway, back to the album. Following ‘Scorpio’ we have ‘Waiting For Your Love,’ which could be the soundtrack to a bar scene from a modern-day western movie. For me, a step up from the retro vibe of the RHR albums – here’s Troy living more dangerously and with more ambition – but with a sense of irreverence and a swagger that Jack Sparrow would have been proud of.
‘One Way Ticket’ offers a gear-change, direct attack here from a song that will appeal more to mainstream rock audiences – and one of those perfect songs for a summer festival, the crowd moving in unison as the sun slowly sets. And the rallying chorus lines with change of pace for guitar solo reminded me (for a moment) of Queen’s ‘I Want It All’ – a stretch perhaps, but if you can imagine it played on a Western setting with a few rock ponchos thrown in… then maybe.
Troy really spits out the chorus lines on a song where the bass section really shines, with the drumming firmly anchoring the track.
‘Love & War’ is an album song all about the guitar, which is richly expressive throughout. One of those songs that doesn’t have to try hard to impress, it just works. Again, it’s about the authentic and the real.
‘On Fire’ does exactly what it says on the tin – it feels like an audio inferno, a song intense with menace, roughness, and natural power that evokes the movement and destructive force of furious flames.
In writing this review, I was fortunate to listen to a test pressing on vinyl and – far from wanting to be a critic – I have just written how the music made me feel as I listened. In some ways, the music wrote the review. As side 1 ends, I’m left with a clear sense this is a well-curated album. There is an art to the order of songs on a LP and side 1 works really well; the album already feels like a journey that gets more exciting the further you travel.
Side 2 opens more gently with ‘Lay That Love Down’ – more a saunter than a full-tempo charge, but with a groove that Black Crows fans will probably like. Generally (and with the exception of one track) side 2 has a different mood and pace; whist side 1 is urban, spitting fire with a nod to superheroes soundtracks of childhood, side 2 takes you to the rugged Wild West shanty town, the bottle of bourbon standing on the bar and the cowboy stories.
‘Ghosts’ conjures up visions of the wide-open plains, a western story about escaping a doomed relationship and heading off into the sunset horizon. ‘Saving Grace’ continues the more relaxed vibe of side 2. An acoustic number that really showcases the vocal, the harmonies and acoustic guitar in unison in a dreamy, nostalgic soundscape. There’s almost a spiritual, healing quality to this song – one that reminds us that, sometimes, less is more.
Like the flow of a live show, the penultimate track ‘Sanctify’ begins to build the album up towards the big finale. The only banger on side 2, it is nonetheless signature Redfern with a heavy blues boogie. In some ways, this song is a culmination of all the textures on this album, gathered in one song but put on steroids.
‘Stone’ closes the album and it’s one of those songs that – another time – calls for a gospel choir. In some ways, it feels like an encore or epilogue after ‘Sanctify’ but the best song has been saved until last. An inspiring anthem with almost spiritual qualities that evoke rebirth, this is a song so fitting for our re-emergence from lockdown. The rousing ‘free in this life’ chorus lines capture the power of the human spirit to endure as the almost-symphonic wall of sound brings the curtain down on this album with emotionally-charged, widescreen drama. The song has a similar poignancy to Queen’s closer ‘In The Lap Of The Gods …. revisited’ from ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ – ‘Stone’ a song evoking a sense of spiritual resurrection and hope.
Reflecting on the beautiful control in the piano notes that close this fine album, one wonders whether the final moment for this fine album came from the legendary BoRhap piano. Either way, Rockfield has produced one of the defining albums of 2021 – and Troy Redfern is about to unleash his career-defining album that elevates him to a whole new level.
‘The Fire Cosmic’ is released on 6 August 2021
Pre-order at – www.troyredfern.com/shop