Back in the 90s, Tumbleweed had considerable success with their Aussie brand of heavy stoner rock, notching up several impressive columns of album sales, numerous recycling bins full of empty tinnies and a number of ashtrays overflowing with dead joints. A couple of years back they got together again and released Sounds From The Other Side, picking up more-or-less exactly where they left off over a decade previously. Opening song ‘Mandlebrot’ is a festival of driving, full-throttle riffing. It is infectious and makes you want to crack open a beer and reach for your torn and faded Deep Purple t-shirt. ‘Sweet Little Runaway’ sounds a lot like heavied up Doors with a couple of changes of rhythm just to keep things fresh. ‘Like A Nightowl’ boogies along an endless highway; ‘Dirty Little Secret’ is almost Sabbathy. You are probably getting the drift: Tumbleweed evoke all your favourite 70s heavy rock bands, but bring to this metallic history an energy and spirit that makes it somehow fresh even while you’re going ‘Ooh, that sounds like Blue Cheer!’. The single from Sounds From The Other Side was ‘Mountain’. We are in classic Deep Purple territory (sans keyboards of course). It’s rock, its heavy, it’s an avalanche of guitar thundering down upon your head for seven minutes. It’s terrific. The clip isn’t bad either; they are cool dudes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa2LhQuRav4&feature=youtu.be Standout songs in the second half include ‘Wildfire’ – a bit more melody but no less riffage – and the wonderfully tacky ‘Queen Of Voodoo’. The back cover portrait doesn’t capture her allure conclusively, though clearly she’s done for the poor old 78rpm DJ. ‘Good And Evil’ evokes Ozzy and Tony or perhaps it’s a nod to Spinal Tap’s ‘Heavy Duty’; who cares, it’s ear-pummelling fun. ‘Bird of Prey’ borrows the riff from ELP’s ‘Knife Edge’ just like ‘Drop In The Ocean’ owes a considerable debt to Bowie’s “Heroes” yet somehow the album manages to musically join the 10s with those metal-forging 70s in a satisfying manner. In a further time-travelling tongue-in-cheek nod – this time to the 60s – album closer ‘ESP’ is the only song with overt psychedelic guitar flourishes, swirling and surging to a satisfying finale. Overall, there is enough rock solid riff-mongering here to last a long drive through a medium-sized desert, whether in the wilds of the Northern Territory, the Mojave or deepest North Wales. There’s also sufficient variation to maintain interest and make the album worthy of regular return trips. Looking for a post-Tumbleweed spin, I decided I’d spent enough time in the present. Time to rock back a few decades to an era when there was hair to go with the head-banging. And maybe time to explore a new Vinyl Connection idea. Now & Then – looking at something reasonably recent and choosing something substantially older as a follow-up. Given all the bands evoked by Tumbleweed, I’d expected to effortlessly choose a 70s album and be inspired to produced the second half of the post in no time at all; something from before to compliment the now Sounds From The Other Side. I listened to Deep Purple – Fireball. Excellent, especially the opening title track, but not consistently high enough revs. I gave Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 a spin. Brilliant in a pantomime evil sort of way. But more ominous than energetic. I pulled out Aztecs – More Arse Than Class. Great hearing some heavy Aussie boogie and Thorpie’s great voice, but not the segue I was hoping for. So back to the turntable and Tumbleweed’s ‘Mountain’ again. Then I got it. As the fast revving guitar groove of ‘Highway Star’ burst out of the speakers I yelped with delight and span that volume control even higher. There may even have been some spontaneous frugging on the rug as the familiar riff and Oooh so silly verses shook the windows.
Nobody gonna take my head
I got speed inside my brain
Nobody gonna steal my head
Now that I’m on the road again
Oooh I’m in heaven again I’ve got everything
Like a moving ground throttle control and everything
After recovering my composure during ‘Maybe I’m A Leo’, the under-rated ‘Pictures of Home’ (which shares a very similar fast strummed guitar rhythm with the opening song) got me moving again. ‘Never Before’ has both rock and ballad elements; it also has moments when the Beatles ‘Day Tripper’ is momentarily evoked, even though lyrically the Deep Purple song shares more with ‘Help’ in its plea for a rescue from miserableness. Great conclusion to an LP side. But it ain’t over. When you flip the record this is what you get:
Smoke On The Water
…surely one of the great sides in heavy rock. I’m not going to say much about SOTW; you know the story (it’s in the lyric) and you can play the riff. But here are a couple of factoids from songfacts.com
- Richie Blackmore on that chord progression – “The riff is done in fourths and fifths — a medieval modal scale,” he explained on MySpace Music. “It makes it appear more dark and foreboding. Not like today’s pop music thirds.”
- Roger Glover had some doubts about the title: he knew it was great but was reluctant to use it because it sounded like a drug song.
Back in my tweens, ‘Lazy’ was a favourite bluesy piece; Jon Lord’s organ is just so fruity. On listening again, I really dug Blackmore’s opening solo; fast, inventive, with only a nod to the blues. And yet again, a killer riff. Finally we have the soaring roaring ‘Space Truckin’’. Another classic riff with utterly daft lyrics that really just makes you grin with the high-octane energy of it all. No wonder they played the song in concert for so long.
We had a lot of luck on Venus
We always have a ball on Mars
Meeting all the groovy people
We’ve rocked the Milky Way so far
Tumbleweed – Sounds From The Other Side [Shock Records, 2013]
Deep Purple – Machine Head [EMI 1972]