The music industry continues to attempt categorising artists into marketable products and in doing so, has lost all sense of musical authenticity.
However, on occasion something pops through the misty haze of commercialised, over processed, repetitive guff and screams sheer, unbridled talent. Australian singer and guitarist Glenn Proudfoot is something of a unique gem. For some, the image may not appeal but one listen to this latest album and you’ll hear an artist at the top of their game, cranking out nicely crafted songs with some serious shredding guitar chops to boot that are also tastefully executed. The album was reportedly recorded over two years in both Melbourne and Prague which no doubt assisted in creating a compelling album of ten varied tracks.
Kicking off with the album’s single is track ‘Broken’ and it largely sets the tone of what is to come in a four minute song that is eerily catchy and with some amazing groove. Of course, the rhythm section on this album is a contributing factor to the high quality of the tracks throughout the album. On drums, Proudfoot has recruited Cog drumming luminary Lucius Borich, son of Australian guitar legend Kevin Borich. For the bass spot, it is none other than Australian technical drumming deity Virgil Donati’s bassist Junior Braguinha. This is a dream unit three piece and their tight approach is evident on many of the arrangements on the album. The title track [‘Fire & Rain’] has a more haunting vibe to it but shortly builds to a melodic chorus as Proudfoot’s raspy yet harmonious vocals sit perfectly within the context of the sustained chorus chords, bookended by a brief grooving riff before verse sections work to drive the chorus delivery.
Solos are jaw-droppingly fluid and technically precise yet appropriate to the tracks, avoiding virtuosity showcases. They are not overbearing to song dynamics as heard in the radio friendly third track ‘Falling’ and the gentle ‘Die on my Feet’. The solos there are very reminiscent of Joe Satriani’s Lydian mode approach to solos and borders on containing a fusion style without alienating non musos. The technical mastery is further enhanced by a smooth tone which in some cases has an added wah flavour or use of doubling tracks to add impact to the harmony lines. The hard rock aspects of the song ‘Breath’ uses breakdowns and interludes tactfully whilst inserting some guitar playing that may interest fans of Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale or Richie Kotzen with some snazzy pitch shifting effects for good measure. It is an album highlight with a tight rhythmic groove and yet another ear worm of a chorus.
The second half of the album retains the listener’s interest with some deft use of production and engineering dynamics. In other words, some different sounds are in there which might even appeal to fans of industrial electronica. Regardless, Proudfoot isn’t using a huge array of rack effects or amplifier modelling here, just a guitar signal with a judicious amount of gain into a tight wattage amplifier on an 80’s model Fender Stratocaster. ‘Alive Again’ powers along with a sneaky, fast guitar solo whilst ‘Chains’ again shows the talents of the rhythm section and the arranging skills as it builds to a crescendo with one of the more expressive yet brief solos on the album against a soaring chorus. ‘Feel’ contains bursts of very impressive guitar skills but the second solo is looser and less frantic in approach, working nicely with the wall of sound within the track. Second last track ‘Run’ grooves and broods well with a largely vocal driven delivery. Of course, the solo is furiously fast but there are tones that might even reference Tom Morello to Steve Vai’s use of the whammy pedal.
The final track of ‘With Me’ offers a rock ballad but isn’t overly formulaic. The solo is an initially slower outing that swiftly increases speed, demonstrating a command of the instrument and an ability to play within the demands of the song. It is another of the tracks on the album that should garner radio play, assuming that medium has any clout left these days and is not just flogging the old classic hits playlist.
Honestly, the quality of the musicianship in unison with the strength of the songs on Fire & Rain makes this a rewarding listen for just about any music fan. Whilst this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is enough variety that ensures a broad appeal without sacrificing artistic integrity. Highly recommended and well worth exploring.
2. Fire & Rain
5. Die On My Feet
6. Alive Again
10. With Me