Greetings From Detroit EP - The Rockets (self released)
Pssst…Like Rock? I think got something for ya. Like a disappeared postcard that got mailed 35 years ago, this showed up on my porch and promptly blew the doors off. It’s the first Rockets recording since they disbanded in the early ‘80’s.
Monster drummer and songwriter Johnny Bee Badanjek (think Detroit Wheels, Free Ride, Welcome To My Nightmare) has relaunched The Rockets with Jim Edwards - a fantastic singer, and a badass group of Detroit musicians.
If you don’t know, The Rockets came close to hitting the bigtime, regularly opening for such bands as ZZ Top and Blue Oyster Cult in 18,000 seat arenas around the USA. Their version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” was somewhat of an FM hit and it was the first version of that song I ever heard. I was most impressed! Also, at that time, as far as I knew Mitch Ryder was an oldies act. (How much I had to learn!)
You can go a couple of different routes when you do a relaunch such as this. You can get a bunch of youngbloods and count on their energy and enthusiasm, or you can get guys who really know what they are doing and look like they belong. With any luck they’ll be enthusiastic too. Bee went the latter route. Let’s face the fact that ex-guitarist Jim McCarty is basically irreplaceable. The good news is that the combo of Joey Gaydos (ex-Mugsy, Cub Coda, Rob Tyner) - an excellent lead player, and slide-man Greasy Carlisi (ex-Dark Carnival, Motor City Bad Boys) totally cuts it. The new bass player was in The Torpedos – these guys all have pedigrees that make them perfect for this band.
OK, the new EP – I was really psyched to hear it and it took forever to finally arrive at my door. When it did I was not disappointed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than no frills rock and roll. Well, I am happy to report to you that this thing is as down and dirty a rock and roll record as I have heard in a long time. It’s pure Detroit boogie – you don’t get a whole lot of that anymore.
The first song, “Busted” is sort of a good time romp [“knock knock knock comes at the door, knuckle sandwich on the floor, your busted!”], a catchy number with barroom piano, good humor and a catchy chorus. But it’s when the second song, “Detroit Woman,” starts with a crushing hard rock assault that you realize this is serious, that these men are not kidding around.
All the songs are on the long side – the four tunes clock in at well over 20 minutes and that makes room for some great jamming. Nothing excessive, just a band hitting it and sticking with it. While the earlier Rockets records were more based on 50’s rock and roll with a lot of Chuck Berry style guitar, this new one is firmly in the blues-rock-boogie category evoking mid-70’s Johnny Winter [RIP], Free, and even, like, Mahogany Rush.
"Detroit Woman", I thought, might be cliché, but that’s just the chorus about escape from a crazy world. The song’s a cold-war era story that concludes that “power to the people ain’t nothing but a faint echo.” Ouch! Ridin’ The Earth – my favorite of the four, man, this song just cruises – cosmic boogie. I can’t emphasize enough how “70’s” this feels, and there is NOTHING wrong with that! This is weekend music, meant to be heard loud with a good buzz going. “Walking round the world, ridin’ on the earth”- put yourself in the right frame of mind and that is profound. And if it isn’t, the riffs that accompanies those words most certainly are. And Whiskey Head continues what they started with a gut busting riff and more killer lyrics. The Bee moves into Simon Kirke territory and the music reminiscent of Kirke’s early band. Grinding forward until it has you by the throat. [“Hey bartender don’t be cold, I got to have one more for the road! I got that Whiskey Head…”]
One thing all the songs have in common are that they start out hard and then, somewhere along the way, get even harder. Not in a Yardbirds suddenly they are playing twice as fast type of way, but in a just put the hammer down type of way. Another is that the lyrics are really good throughout.
All in all I would say The Bee knocked this one out of the park. The songs, band dynamic and singing are truly ROCKing. And hey, the drumming ain’t half bad either…
(One for each song)