The Black Soap From Monkeyburg
Red Rocks Records
Rick Bryant’s big soul bellow was once New Zealand’s answer to Van Morrison – in that you could find inside it hints of jazz, soul, blues; it was loud and proud, it was big and beautiful. And Bryant’s best work – with Mammal, Blerta, The Windy City Strugglers and The Jive Bombers – showcased a man capable of conveying so much emotion; raw but perfectly so.
The sad news story of recent times – a stint in jail, ill health – means that a lot was riding on this new album; a hopeful comeback…
Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Bryant was never a great songwriter and here the co-written originals lack any depth, it’s all lazy, obvious rhymes and very quickly the songs start to sound the same with only a braying man doing his best to not stay down to provide any real colour to the sound. That’s a problem too, Bryant’s voice is gone. It’s sad to hear him like this. Particularly since I get the feeling he gave this his all, vocally.
First couple of listens I wanted to be pulled in by the voice – but there’s just nothing there. There’s only a pained bleat. The playing is of course competent, professional, but there’s nothing exciting, no real movement. It’s been kept rigid perhaps to stay safe for a vocalist at the end of his career. Whatever the reason, there’s just no need to hear this album and no way I can recommend it. And that’s sad.
I consider Bryant a great voice from the past. But time has caught up with him, ravaged his voice. And the songs just don’t stand up.
It’s never fun pointing this sort of information out. But then, it wasn’t a lot of fun hearing this album. Every wonky wail, every aiming-for-soul shout that wobbled and fell off the tracks, every dreary song that passed by…none of that made me happy.
I wish Rick Bryant all the best. A speedy recovery too. But there’s nothing resembling inspiration here. And it’s my job to report that.