ALBUM REVIEW: The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground
It’s been a crazy 2020 without live music and one of the bands that had big plans for touring before Covid struck were the latest incarnation of The Dead Daisies. Those plans currently have been pushed back into 2021 and so what better way to start the year than with a new record? A new album from this collective is always big news around these parts, and this one, their fifth since 2013 has the added anticipation of featuring a rather familiar name taking double duties on bass and vocals – Glenn Hughes.
So how does it sound? Well in short it sounds mighty fine, but then again I’d be hard pushed to find anything these guys have released that didn’t strike a chord! The Dead Daisies 2021 though is probably an even more muscular and heavy beast than we’re heard previously and some of the riffs etched in these grooves are crushing! This is an album made to be played loud (and heard live of course) and it’s also one that is beautifully balanced with the heaviness I’ve already mentioned tempered by a little funk and soul as well as some wonderful lighter moments.
We all of course know about Glenn’s voice, and so when you first hear the opening and as it happens, title track ‘Holy Ground (Shake the Memory)’ you can’t possibly not be moved. It’s a crunching introduction and huge sounding opener that ominously suggests that this might be one of the best yet in an already rather special catalogue. It’s also a song were you can really hear and feel all of the contributions of the band.
The thought that rushes through your mind is as you dig in deeper is not “can they better that” but rather “if they get anywhere close this will be a helluva record!” So when the next track ‘Like No Other (Bassline)’ hits, it comes as an immediate answer. It’s a song built on a huge groove that crashes in nicely on the back of bass then drums. It’s also a song that gives Glenn a lot of space too, which is a great counterpoint the wonderful drive that Doug’s guitar gives the track. I love the breakdown in this one with a searing Doug guitar followed by a funky bass from Glenn. It’s certainly a magical one-two punch to start.
‘Come Alive’ has a mid-period Aerosmith ferocity and again is bursting with energy as it’s driven by a bass line and Glenn’s demi-rapped verses add to the intrigue. That’s followed by ‘Bustle and Flow’ the second single and the track that’s been in the back of my head since it’s September release, again it has that Aerosmith swing and huge fat sound that reminds you of Extreme in their pomp. And just when you’re expecting a little relief from the full on rockers ‘My Fate’ hits you with a huge Soundgarden-like opening before dropping back and adding the first lighter moment on the record. That light though is balanced perfectly by the crushing riff. It’s a song that grows in stature with each listen and one I’d particularly love to hear played live.
The mid point comes in the form of one of my favourites: ‘Chosen and Justified’ which has a kind of Bad Co feel to it and the sort of cocky swagger that few can pull off, but The Daisies is a band that know they’ve created something special here and whilst it might be a more ‘traditional rocker’ than say those opening four tracks Doug’s tone as he sets up the chorus is glorious.
The remarkable thing about the second half of the record is that it’s just as strong. ‘Saving Grace’ initially sounds like reset as we build that huge groove again and Hughes threatens to split the sky with his voice. It’s impossible not to be moved. That leads into the killer trifecta that follows – first we get ‘Unspoken’ the first single released in 2020 and which most of you will be familiar with. It’s a great track and like most on the album another guitar driven rocker but this one with less of a ‘foot to the floor’ thrust or huge rolling groove and more of a laid back ‘blue sky’ sound made for Rock radio and hot summer nights with the top down.
Next up comes ’30 Days in the Hole’ the statutory Daisies cover song, and this time around it’s of one of my heroes bands – Steve Marriott’s Humble Pie. Of course I’m apprehensive and as Marriott himself loved a great cover and always brought something new to the songs he chose so do The Daisies. It’s a great cover, a little smoother than the original and a little less full on but it has those wonderful little touches that make it much more than just an exercise in transposing an already classic song.
The other half of the sandwich is ‘Righteous Days’ which was originally released back in October 2019 and the first song to feature Glenn Hughes at the first sessions at Sunset Sound Studios in L.A. takes you back to where this version of the band began. As you’ll already know it’s a killer song and when you reach it so late in the track-listing you realise that it’s one of many killer songs collected here.
The final word though on the standard release goes to the epic 7 minute plus ‘Far Away’ a gentle soulful ballad that builds into a sweet chorus and is beautifully orchestrated. Half way through the guitar and bass and drums kick things up a beat and the violins get more frenetic before Doug solos and we fall back to the Glenn’s softly enfolding verses and refrain before we push the ‘set your controls for the heart of the sun button’. It’s a rather satisfying conclusion to what has been a great album that quite frankly will take your breath away. Part of that comes from the no nonsense rockers that keep that foot to the floor before easing off for the two beautifully placed and rather impressive lighter moments. As track listings go it’s pretty much perfect.
I guess the question that flashes through most people’s minds when they hear about a new Daisies album or a change in line-up is ‘is it better than the last one?’ Rather than answer that I leave you with Doug’s words when I recently interviewed Doug and Glenn (interview coming next year in the lead up to the release). He told me that “Each time we sit down to write a new album we push ourselves to make a better record than we have before.”
As someone who has been there since the start of the band all I can do is marvel at the catalogue so far. I’ve seen them live with Jon and John at the front and now I can’t wait to see them live fronted by the voice of Rock himself – Glenn Hughes a man whose voice inexplicably seems to grow richer as the decades pass. What a way to start the year! I honestly can’t wait for you to hear this one!
Holy Ground (Shake The Memory)
Like No Other (Bassline)
Bustle And Flow
Chosen And Justified
30 Days In The Hole