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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Paul Raymond

Terms and Conditions Apply

Review by Jason Hillenburg

Paul Raymond is one of rock and roll's great unsung talents. After having played an integral musical and songwriting role with highly regarded talents like Chicken Shack, ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan, Savoy Brown, and his continuing association with UFO, too few know his contributions to blues-inflected hard rock that are still breaking new ground today and stand the test of time.

Released by Cherry Hill Records, his new album, Terms and Conditions Apply, marks Raymond's first release since 2009's Virtual Insanity. The interval between these albums has seen Raymond recording and performing with his long-time partners in UFO and, naturally, strands of the distinctive UFO sound find their way onto this album. However, Raymond uses the space a solo effort provides to stretch and introduce musical elements and ideas absent from his day job. The album benefits from superb production that places Raymond's bluesy, nicotine-stained vocals front and center and blankets the instrumentation with a bright, warm sheen.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Born & Raised On Rock and Roll

This is the sort of paean to the transformative powers of rock and roll music that you don't hear anymore and, while I listened the first time, I couldn't help but flash back to Raymond's Savoy Brown tune, "Let It Rock (Rock and Roll on the Radio).” The minimalist guitar pyrotechnics, strong drumming, and Raymond's gritty, confident vocal come together here for a solid opener.

End of Life as We Know It
One of the album's best songs, it's a dark, hard-hitting track that features a superb lyric and stellar backing from Raymond's band. The fleet-footed sweep provided by the drumming and the acoustic guitar buttressing the electric guitars in the mix work to great effect.
Deeper Shade of Blue
The album's undisputed highpoint for me, this is a stunning piece of songwriting with appealing lyrical and musical depth. Strong harmonies, solid acoustic guitar underpinning the song, and a scorching lead guitar break are among other highlights of this number. The bridge and chorus are wonderfully passionate and rousing.
C-List Celebrity
Its familiar and not particularly challenging subject matter doesn't seem to matter that much in light of the song's nasty crunch and Raymond's snarling, splendidly dismissive vocal. Even if this tune doesn't aim for much, the band turns in another tough-as-nails performance.
We Will Be Strong
Here is a wrenching, beautiful piano-driven ballad that soars on the nuanced communicative power of Raymond's vocals. One cannot help but respond to the bruised, battered sincerity of this song, a testament to constancy in the face of a life that offers anything but that. Raymond's lyrical piano playing deserves additional mention.
Terms & Conditions
The title cut is a slinky, claustrophobic number that casts a cynical eye on the machinations of wealth and modern economics. Raymond's vocal does a great job of infusing the lyrics with the right amount of smarmy menace and the musical backing is tight and tasteful.
Whiskey Mac
Here is a guitar-driven instrumental that never quite reaches a satisfying crescendo, but features strong playing.
Bright Lights
This is another solid composition without a satisfying climatic moment. The drumming lays down a great groove and handles the song's rhythmic shifts without missing a beat, but ultimately, this doesn't stick with the listener as well as earlier numbers did.
Reach Out (I'll Be There)
Featuring a guest-star, former UFO lead guitarist and songwriter Michael Schenker, I didn't really expect much from this cover of the Holland/Dozier/Holland standard. Color me shocked. Raymond takes this song and recasts it as a memorable slab of melodic hard rock. Schenker and Raymond shine here.
Love Is Blind
Another song featuring a guest star, this time vocalist Reuben Archer, it's also another piano driven ballad, but the withering sincerity heard in the earlier song, "We Will Be Strong,” isn't present here. This has all the necessary elements to appeal to the public at large, but it seems much more self-conscious than the aforementioned earlier cut.
If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody
Raymond offers up a dramatic, bluesy reading of James Ray's R&B classic, covered by The Beatles, among others. It's a sort of back to the future moment as Raymond touches on a track from his formative years as a music fan and it works well.
Still the Same
One of three bonus tracks available with this release, UFO fans will recognize the music as "Fight Night" from the band's latest album, 7 Deadly. Raymond's tune lacks Phil Mogg's unique lyrical and vocal touch, but this is a fine rock song with solid lyrics and a driving backbeat.
Drifting Apart
Raymond's version of "Forsaken,” a song from UFO's 2009 album The Visitor. Frankly, I prefer this much more than UFO's version - there's more going on lyrically and musically. It all begins with Raymond's nuanced vocals, but the lead guitar work is exceptional and the touches of steel guitar dropped in throughout the song are marvelous.
Partners in Crime
Here is another early version of a song that later appeared as "Villains & Thieves" on UFO's The Visitor. It touches on the same bluesy sound later heard from UFO, but once again, Raymond distinguishes his take on the song with a lower-key approach built around his vocals and lyrics. There's some nasty harmonica riffing present as well.
 
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