Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The new Cherry Valence CD

As much as I’ve always loved seeing The Cherry Valence live, their records didn’t quite capture their raw intensity. Now the band has a new line-up, a new CD and, in many ways, an entirely new sound. Guitarist Cheetie Kumar and bass player Paul Siler have departed to form a fine new band, the Alice Cooper-ish Birds of Avalon. Gone with them is the previous line-up’s pounding rawness. In their place are guitarist Erik Sugg (Dragstrip Syndicate) and bass player Charles Story (The Weather), and with them comes a more relaxed, refined and bluesier sound. And with that new sound comes the best album the band has ever released.

The CD’s opening track, “Sunglasses and Headlights” has all the hallmarks of a ‘70s rock anthem (blistering guitar riffs, driving bass, fist-pumping chorus), as does the closing track, “Caves of Steel.” In between you can hear a variety of ‘70s rock influences, from James Gang to Led Zeppelin to (surprisingly) Steely Dan. Vocalist/drummer Nick Whitley sounds so much like Donald Fagan on “Stayin’ Out All Night” that I actually thought the song was a cover. The band goes acoustic and slightly folksy for “333” and the opening parts of “Trees.” They even throw in a couple of drum solos (thankfully, short ones) for “Low Class Warrior,” the song that sounds the most like Cherry Valence or yore.

Whitley and the band’s other vocalist/drummer, Brian Quast, are both at their best vocally. Sugg complements guitarist Jamie Williams perfectly, and Story provides a solid backbeat. True, this CD is not as raw and unpredictable as what folks may expect from the Cherry Valence, but it’s solid in a way this band has never been before.

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