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Bad Wizard – Sky High

Howler Records, 2005

One of the most rock n roll albums of the past decade, in my mind, is Bad Wizard’s “Free and Easy” debut.  That record just blazes with sweeping guitar riffs and leather attitude and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something fantastic.  Given my positive outlook towards that record, you can imagine my obvious response when confronted with a truly cheap Bad Wizard record in a dustbin nearby.  My fist with a pinky and pointer extended was nearly raised to full height as I selected this rocker from its coffin.

The fourth and final record by Bad Wizard is what can be expected by them if one had listened to the band since their debut.  That is to say, Bad Wizard have not changed from their tried and true formula of straight up rock ‘n roll.  To rock fans just looking to take the edge off on a stressful day, the same old stuff is a non-issue.  However, if one is looking for something innovative by a band that specializes in an MC5 and Turbonegro head on collision, then that person is looking in the wrong place.  In fact, they should go check out Stone Temple Pilots and never turn back.  Bad Wizard never was in the market for being too clever.

Aside from the overwhelming cacophony of guitars, drums and all out noise that comprises of nearly every tune on this record, one of the best instruments is Curtis Brown’s voice.  It isn’t pretty nor is it necessarily intelligible, but it definitely has that rock star element that is a bit hard to describe.  You know how sometimes one hears great, inspired musicianship on a fantastic rocker, only to be utterly disappointed when the vocalist pops in and fails to match up with his or her band’s sound?  Well, Brown gets it right.  His raspy, double tracked vocals make for a fitting inclusion amidst all of the tunes without getting annoying or instrusive.

With Brown giving a little bit of direction for the wild guitars, the band cruises through many songs that can stand on their own.  The songs of “Agent”, “Jealous Man” and “13x Times Around the World” are all classic Bad Wizard tracks that are chock full of power chords and grandiose solos.  Granted, most of the other tracks on the record sound similar to these three efforts, but if one had to pull the better ones off of the album these are it.  The one exception to the typical is the inevitable slow song that every rock band tries to stick in amidst the rubble.  However, even their slow song effort comes across as excellent due to its build and emotional (for Bad Wizard) chorus.  When Brown sings “All my love is gone” repeatedly in the chorus of “Black Navigator”, one gets a feeling that the band opted to take the Dinosaur Jr route of softness than the, say, Warrant route.  By guitar dabbling in the background of the chorus, Bad Wizard still keep the song fresh without lulling one to sleep.  It actually is a welcome change of pace halfway through the record.

Look to listen to some tracks from Bad Wizard on Last.fm, Grooveshark, and their MySpace page!

I don’t care that they sound similar on most tracks, or that I never really get an idea of what lyrics Brown is mumbling out half of the time.  Dude, if one can jack a record up real loud on a good set of speakers and make it feel like one is amongst a crowd of headbangers and leather jackets, then it’s a good record.  Unfortunately, with continual predictable output and limited success, Bad Wizard never released another album after this one.  I’ve ranted on before about the loss of some good, unpretentious rock ‘n roll bands from the past decade, but I suppose one just has to enjoy what was no matter how brief or under-appreciated.  Pick this one up if you’re into this kind of thing and you’ll find that you scored a good one.

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