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Issue 1081

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Review

Marcus Malone: Stand Or Fall (Redline Music)

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UK release date 21.04.2014

Marcus Malone: The US blues man who is a stalwart of the UK and European blues scene, who can be relied upon to deliver a satisfying live set and a decent listen on record.

He has done just that with this; his sixth album release. A triple threat as a prolific songwriter, dynamic singer and a capable guitarist, �Stand Or Fall� is an impressive album indeed.

The opener kicks off as the whole album goes on; with sizzling energy and power. Slide guitar is the backbone of the first track, �Living The Blues� where Marcus is in fine, gritty voice. Track two, the title song, is one of many big nods to Paul Rodgers and Free/Bad Company.

Marcus� gravelly vocal growl, soulful feel and natural phrasing is so reminiscent of Mr Rodgers.But, that is not in any way a criticism. How could it be? Paul is one of the greatest singers ever, and one of my all time faves. I recently had the pleasure to interview the man himself. Nice guy too. Marcus has an innate similarity to the Free man in his vocal delivery, so I for one think that a positive.

�Ain�t No Telling� could have been a Rogers and Fraser penned tune, but it is another Malone original. Lots of light and shade and mucho space in the track, topped off with some spine-tingling guitar licks in Stuatr Dixon's inventive solo. �It�s Gonna Take Time,� slows the pace down with a lovely emotional ballad, featuring a very controlled vocal which still has that growly back-of-the-throat thang going� on. A song which is the perfect fit for Marcus� considerable vocal skills, and could have been penned and sung by the likes of Bob Seger, Rod Stewart or Otis Redding. Easily adapted for a soul singer, a rock singer, a blues singer or any kind of singer. A great example of Malone�s artful song-writing skills, this one co-written with Sean Nolan, who also plays guitar on the album. For me, the stand out track of the record because it shows a different side to Marcus as a singer, where the comparisons to Paul Rodgers all fade away.

�Detroit City Blues,� a Malone and Dixon song. Stuart Dixon plays guitar on the record, a seasoned and sought-after session guy who has played with lots of blues folk. Also on guitar are Julian Burdock and Billy Burke. Winston Blissett from Massive Attack on bass, Christopher Nugent the drums, Roger Cotton and Moz Gamble share keyboard duties, harp stars Will Wilde and Alan Glen provide harmonica licks, and backing vox are split three ways between Will�s sister and blues artist in her own right Dani Wilde, Chantelle Duncan-Heath and Eno Williams-Uffort.

Marcus Malone is originally from Detroit, based in the UK since 1997. He re-located from Motor City, Michigan and set up shop in L.A. where he recorded a metal album �Marcus�, re-released by Zoom records in 2001. The band back then was Gene Black on guitar, now with Joe Cocker, Sandy Genero on drums who plays with Pat Travers and Tim Bogart, bassist with Vanilla Fudge.

Marcus then wrote, produced and recorded his debut solo album, �One More Time,� released in 1999. The second album, �Walkin Shoes,� was released three years later. Album number three �Blue Radio,� dropped in 2005, featuring guest spots from Paul Jones and Papa George. �Hurricane� came out in 2007, but we had to wait four years until his fifth album,� Let The Sunshine In.� Then seven long years until this latest album, "Stand Or Fall."

Marcus never stops gigging and travels far and wide. He has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, sharing the stage with the legendary BB King, and headlined at most of the blues festivals in the UK and Europe - a safe box office bet for promoters, with his large and growing fan-base and explosive live set.

I have not heard all of Marcus Malone�s records, so I cannot safely say this is his best yet. I did have the pleasure of spending an evening with him and his band a few years ago, when they headlined a little outdoor pub festival in the middle of nowhere, a mile or so from where I lived at the time. I shot pix of the guys and was a tad surprised at just how good they were, and how this guy is not a household name by now.

Half way through the new album, �Slow Down,� sounds like it's an old blues classic; but it's a new song written by Marcus, Stuart Dixon and Christopher Nugent. �Jealous Kind� takes us back to Chicago in the 50s, with a Muddy, Wolf and John Lee low down and dirty kinda groove to it. Another Malone, Dixon and Nugent song. Stuart Dixon�s blistering guitar solo is quite something on a superb track. �Under Pressure,� is a rockin� beast, with strong nods to the likes of Bad Company, Led Zep and those rock bands that knew how to sit all they did on a solid core of the blues.

"Stand Or Fall," ably produced by Marcus himself, features some of the best guitar playing and vocals you will hear today, across a dozen ORIGINAL songs (two are repeated as different versions), and some very strong and timeless material that fits Marcus like a glove. Here is a singer, songwriter and recording artist that perhaps doesn�t get the exposure and credit he has earned/deserves.

While the young bucks with a fraction of his talent, and no real knowledge of the blues originators, come in all the time and are immediately hailed as the next big thing without paying any dues, most fading into obscurity when the novelty wears off, Marcus quietly goes about his business; the business of delivering classy, timeless music for those of us with good taste and our hearing in tact. Marcus Malone: No hype required.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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