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The Lizards

Against All Odds

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say it, I love The Lizards! These guys just keep getting better with each successive album. They also seem to stretch the envelope of what is Lizards music as they continue on. Indeed there are sections (including a full two song combination) that really feel like progressive rock. Don't get me wrong, they still manage to pull together their classic blend of vintage sounding hard edged blues rock. It's just that they don't seem content to stay in one place. This diversity makes the album that much more powerful because it avoids falling into the trap of feeling like a series of the same song over and over again. The band (Mike Di Meo – vocals and keyboards, Patrick Klein – guitars and background vocals, Randy Pratt – bass guitar and harmonica, and Robby Rondinelli – drums) are joined on several tracks here by the voice of rock, Glenn Hughes. Their music has a lot in common with his solo work, so the marriage is one made in heaven. Another notable guest is Lorenza Ponce (who was part of Star People along with Pratt). She creates string arrangements on one of the tracks here. If you've been a fan of The Lizards before, this disc is a “must have” as it's the new and improved model. If you've never checked them out in the past – what the heck are you waiting for? This one will almost certainly make my list of top discs of 2007.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I'm Not Good
This jam is based on a killer bluesy riff and features a great retro texture. Picture Bad Company meets Cactus, Blackfoot and Whitesnake and you are close to the right combination. As always The Lizards lay it down with style and class. The guitar solo on this one, laced with Eastern tones, is just plain awesome. They pull it out into noisy space for a time, rather like Zeppelin's “Whole Lotta Love.”
Can't Fool Myself
More thundering in its approach, this is retro textured nonetheless. The frantic riff that takes it later in the intro is almost prog rock. They drop it back to a verse segment that reminds me of something from Foreigner's 4 album. The chorus section, though, is much meatier and tastier than that. While I don't think this track is on the same par as “I'm Not Good,” it's still pretty cool. The bass work on the later verses is quite strong, too. There is also a bit of a bass solo – as a bassist myself, that's a plus. The rather Latin feel to the jam that follows this (I am reminded of Santana) is also a bonus. At close to nine and a half minutes this track is the longest on the disc. It moves into territory close to progressive fusion at some points.
Everything Was Not Enough
The songwriting is rife with Beatles' riffs. It's slow and pensive like Yesterday, but lush and poetic like Crazy Lane. While I like all their past albums, each of them may have been guilty of carrying a certain sameness from start to finish. What I like best about this album is the fact that every song is innovative from the last and this one is no exception. The many bridges along with the wrap-up at the end are extraordinarily gripping. This is where Yogi's voice really shines, expressing eagerness and empathy. Drifting through my open mind, there seems to be much more beyond the words he has to say.
On A Wire
This groove is another tasty slab of retro bluesy rock. The vocal arrangement on this one is definitely one of the better ones on the disc. This feels like a classic rock song that you must have heard before, but it's brand new. There is a bit of a funky texture to this one. It also turns towards spacey metallic texture in the middle of the track.
Planck Time
This instrumental is a great little jam complete with harmonica. This feels to me like an updated version of some of the better of old (pre “Love Stinks”) J Geils Band. The guitar solo on this one soars and there is a tasty retro keyboard solo that even turns a bit proggy.
Ariel
A twisted keyboard segment, feeling a bit like Alice Cooper goes progressive rock, leads off here. Guitar screams and cries over the top of this dark motif. As it carries on the guitar solo starts to resemble something by Joe Satriani. This doesn't stay around for long, though, instead dropping away and leaving the keys to change to more pretty and melodic modes. These serves as the backdrop for the verse. This is a very different song for The Lizards – but killer. It feels like an evocative, slightly dark and very mysterious progressive rock ballad. It segues straight into the next piece.
My Dark Angel
Growing up out of the modes begun in the previous number, this feels very much like a neo-prog sort of jam. It has some great dark and mysterious tones. They pull it up with a very organic building process and the texture begins to resemble a prog rock Dio – if you can wrap your head around that. This thing is exceptionally catchy. It will have you tapping your toes (or perhaps banging your head) and singing along in no time. They add layers of sound as it carries on, bringing in new dimensions and new energies. This feels a bit like Led Zeppelin's “Kashmir” at times. It has that definite building approach that Zeppelin had down so well, but this pulls in elements from bands like Kansas, Emerson Lake and Palmer and others to the plate. I like this one a lot – particularly when coupled with the track that preceded it – as a one two punch. If I had to pick a favorite on the disc, and it would be tough, this would probably get that nod.
Bad Luck is Come To Town
Here we jump back into more typical Lizards territory with this gritty and oh so catchy jam. I liken this one to a more modern take on the kind of music Ronnie Montrose used to do – in the early days. There's some Zeppelin, Grand Funk and Whitesnake in this mix, too. I' keep hearing GFR's “Shinin' On” in the chorus. It's another smoker, but pales a bit in comparison to what we've just experienced. There is a fiery soaring guitar solo on this one.
Take the Fall
Keyboards lead this off and it starts up as a mellow ballad approach. This ballad gets the string arrangement approach. While often times that can be rather schmaltzy, here they avoid that trap, most likely largely due to the skill of Lorenza Ponce in creating the orchestration. This track doesn't do that much for me, but as the obligatory ballad it works pretty well. They power it out in typical fashion, much like every other hard rock arena ballad. This is a good track, just a bit too generic for my tastes.
Revelation Number 9
Back in the funky, bluesy hard rocking territory, this one reminds me a bit of vintage Deep Purple on the intro. They kick into a more traditional hard rocking blues arrangement for the verse. This is another where I hear Dio a bit for some reason. This is another example of how these guys create music that feels like it could have been all over the radio in the 1970's. They turn this later into a great expansive jam that has elements of space rock and the feel of fusion. This mellower segment is a very tasty groove. They turn in a Black Sabbath like jam from there, and eventually transition out into a killer Emerson Lake and Palmer like keyboard dominated movement. The Deep Purpleish segment returns and brings us back into the song proper.
Up The Stairs
This is extremely funky, feeling a bit like Parliament Funkadelic at times. It's a killer number and another great change of pace. This has some of the tastiest guitar work of the whole disc and is another highlight of a disc that has no shortage of them.
Eleven
Here we move back into progressive rock styled turf for the introduction. This turns into a groove that could easily fit onto some neo-prog disc. I love the slightly stuttering bass line on this. It's not often that you hear a ballad that has a funky rhythmic texture to it. It doesn't move far, but as evocative and powerful as this is, who cares? They power it out towards metallic territory later, though, but still manage to maintain all the drama of the rest of the cut in the process.
The Arrival of Lyla
As this pounds in my thoughts tend to run to Cheap Trick meets Joe Satriani. It's like a classy power pop in many ways. There are moments here that lean towards prog rock, too, but overall this is a catchy, rocker that's fun.
 
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