No Reservations Review by Mark ‘Radar’ Watson

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Mark ‘Radar’ Watson:


At last a follow up to the sensational and highly acclaimed debut album “Room Service”. A smorgasbord of Entrees, Mains and Just Desserts provides a tempting menu that is hotter than raw chili. The Bellhops stamp their status even further as one of Australia’s premier blues big bands, opening with a huge swingin’ groove in “Boogie In The Barnyard” then upping the ante further with a hard hitting raunchy jive in “Hard For Me”. Phew ….. 2 tracks down and I am already won over …. “Have I Got The Blues For You” features a strong 12 bar groove with some sensational rhythm guitar chops happening in the background and great lead guitar riffs by John Russell, who would have to be one of the most overlooked about yet highly sensational guitar players in Australia. Add to that, a cookin’ sax solo and you have your money’s worth already in the first three tracks.

“RM Blues” changes the tide with a neat Delta flavoured gelato of dobro and brass sounds, lashed with a semi zydeco rhythm, then John Russell shows his songwriting prowess again (John also penned tracks 2-9-10-11-12) with a catchy 12 bar boogie. Those who have seen The Bellhops live on stage can bear testament to the dynamic energy and entertainment value and will relish in the fact that the same energy and entertainment value has been transferred to CD with this album. Ian Dittman, having penned track 3, takes us on a songwriting journey over the next 3 tracks, “Taking My Business Elsewhere” being a sultry mood charged slow groove with dynamic hard hitting build ups, and surreal sax and guitar solos. It is described in the liner notes as ‘a sombre yet tantalising melange’ and I think that sums it nicely. “Judgement Day” throws in a great jump groove with great vocals and instrument riffs happening thru-out in all the right places, once again John Russell throwing in a scorcher of lead solo. Ditter tops it off with the appropriately named “Crazy Feet” that will have you jivin’ to the sax lashed groove.

With such talented songwriters as Dittman and Russell, The Bellhops are already halfway there, and with the addition of an assortment of fine musicians (including themselves), they reach the pinnacles of acclaim that many try for years to climb. Back to the John Russell numbers … check out the awesome slide intro to the Creedence Clearwater Revival influenced “Rise & Shine” … this track kicks some serious butt and with it’s hard hitting rocky groove will be a favourite for many. It definitely will be getting plenty of spins on the ol’ Radar music machine. “Trouble Again” takes the listener to the late night Monterey jazz cafes and adds that sultry big band feel for a perfect late night dance. John shows his writing versatility with “Lord, Lord” which is a hi energy country/zydeco/slow blues blend, featuring pastor Harden on second slide guitar plus Jeff Cripps on drums and harmony vocals.
Do you want to know about the remaining three tracks? Of course you don’t, because you haven’t read this far – you have already rushed out and grabbed a copy so you know how hot they are, especially Don Hopkins dropping in that New Orleans piano groove to “Curiosity”, then Omah Gourd’s (try saying this name slowly) vocals in an infectious and comical “The Sheik (of Bondi Beach)”. All good things must end sometime, but then again you could solve that by pressing ‘repeat’ after a cookin’ rendition of the Rufus Thomas classic “Walkin’ The Dog” which has been roasted in traditional Bellhops style. Well actually there is neat little out-take tucked on at the end that you will have to smile to before the repeat will take effect.

This will be the Australian Blues Album of 2002 … simple as that … go buy it

REVIEW and Copyright by Mark ‘radar’ Watson (Mr Blues) on 25th January 2002