The thing about this record is that it succeeds in all areas. The production is better. The songs are better. And the instrumentation (although not lacking in the past) has reached another level. Clearly, Joe is enjoying what he's doing and along the way has flicked a switch to gear up.
The difference is evident from the beginning. First off, the addition of drummer Mickey Curry brings a more human touch to things, replacing the computer percussion of the past. The other thing is that off the top, Joe has become more adept in the producer's chair.
The opening cut (and my favorite), "The African Queen", has a guitar line that sits in another channel beside the main guitar line, slightly lower in volume, just darting in and out (the same with other songs on the record). The result is a much fuller sound that makes it really interesting to the ear. The other instruments are captured better as well. The bass lines are full and robust. The lead guitar is snarly and in your face. With a confident strut, this song is a great opener for the record,
The great thing about Joe's records is that you're never stuck in one style throughout à la AC/DC. "Walk of Fame" has a bouncy gait that will have you nodding your head immediately, courtesy of a tasty riff and some energetic vocals. "Once Upon a Time at the Border" goes in a different direction with a more subdued ambience and some interesting chords providing several different colors to the song to great effect. This one is one of my other favorites. "Strangely in Love" is a campfire song that winds down the record in fine style.
"Hit and Run" (written by his regular muse, the late John Elwood Cook) provides another great cruising song with a simple but hooky chorus. This one reminds me slightly of "Modern Love" by Blue Coupe (of which Joe is a member). Along the same lines, albeit slightly darker, is "Bottom for the Bottomless" with a relentless rhythm. One of the most interesting tracks is "She's a Legend". The lyrics for this one and "Bottom..." are courtesy of John Shirley, the author that has also contributed to songs by Blue Oyster Cult. That familiar spooky vibe is present and Curry's solid drumming helps propel things along nicely.
Some of Joe's best stuff are usually the cool instrumentals that he includes on each record. With Strange Legends, we get "Racing Thru the Desert", which sounds like an updated version of The Ventures. This guitar-led racer would not be out of place on a spaghetti western or a Tarantino movie. Great fun this one.
The record ends off with "Winter" which gives off two different moods. The somber lyrics and dark chords really reflect the title, yet the rock-steady rhythm gives it another look that really adds to the song. It works despite the two seeming to be at odds with each other.
Fans of Joe will no doubt be hailing this as his strongest work yet and newcomers would find no better place than this to get familiar with his massive talent.
Purchase this record here
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