Sunday, January 28, 2007
CD Review: Tribe of Gypsies - Dweller on the Threshold
Dweller on the Threshold is Tribe of Gypsies long-awaited follow-up to 2000's Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Since that release, band leader/guitarist/producer Roy Z has been busy with other projects. He produced, wrote and played on Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson's solo albums, and those of Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford, to name just a couple of projects. Apparently Roy's busy schedule was too much for some of the Gypsies, as there have been a bunch of lineup changes.
Gone is vocalist Gregory Analla (though he makes a guest appearance on one track here), replaced by Chas West. Gone is drummer David Ingraham (though he makes guest appearances on three tracks here), replaced by David Moreno. Also gone is bassist Juan A. Perez, replaced by Christian Byrne. The rest of the band, Roy Z on guitar, Ray Rodriguez on keyboards and Elvis Balladares on percussion is on hand for this outing.
There are 14 songs on this baby, so let's dive right in...
Big Sky Presence starts things off with about 90 seconds of atmospheric keyboards, percussion and guitar that goes into Ride On, a mid-tempo rocker with urgent verses and slamming choruses. West starts off well here with a soaring vocal performance. Roy Z plays a short, multi-tracked solo before the keys, drums and percussion batter the sonic landscape to bits. This song has single written all over it.
Desolate Chile is another mid-tempo tune with a deep groove punctuated by the strong bass and percussion. Roy Z's solo and fills winds their way through the beat, but never completely dominate. West's vocals are strong here as well. Original ToG drummer David Ingraham plays the drums on this track.
Stop Bombing Each Other is a slow, rhythmic song dominated by a strong bass line and deep percussion. Guest Penny Wanzo delivers some nice backup vocals as an urgent counterpoint to West's words of warning about the futility of war.
Halos is a mostly acoustic ballad, and West shows that he is up to the task of singing in a more gentle voice. Roy Z provides some nice understated fills on both acoustic and electric guitars.
Zoot Suit Mardi Gras is an upbeat party song that has a groove reminiscent of "Lowrider" by War. Tetsuya Nakamura is featured here on the harmonica as the bass, drums and percussion provide the pump. Nicol Mecfrova does the singing on this track, and she sort of sounds like the singer for the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Ingraham plays the drums on this track.
Go Your Way is a rambling mid-tempo rocker that features former ToG vocalist Gregory Analla on backing vocals and guitar. West is also strong here, showing a growling fierceness in his voice. The rhythm section provides a strong background for the gliding, multi-tracked Roy Z guitar solo. Ingraham plays drums on this track as well.
After the Summer starts as another acoustic ballad. Like in Halos, West shows the gentle side of his voice, but here it is tinged with more than a bit of sadness. Roy Z takes a nice acoustic solo in the middle before West and the band bring it all back home.
Flying Tigers, Crying Dragons is an instrumental that starts off with some understated guitar over the haunting organ. The bass, drums and percussion quickly kick in as Roy Z takes over with a multi-tracked intro to some fiery licks and solos. Roy finally begins to dominate with his trademark burning guitar, as he makes it cry with slow bends, then turns it up with lightning fast runs. Too bad the song ends so suddenly just over three minutes.
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love is a cover of a Van Halen song that ToG makes all theirs. West takes a subdued approach, similar to that used by Rob Thomas on Santana's "Smooth". There is a distinctly Latin feel to the piano, drums and percussion. The backing vocals, sung in Spanish, punctuate the choruses. Roy Z drives the main riff along with Byrne's pounding bass line. Elvis and guest Sal Rodriguez (on timbales) provide plenty of punch on Latin percussion, especially on the ending riffs.
Never Will Be Mine is another ballad that shows West in a longing vocal mood. The bass line is strong under Roy Z's simple, crying solo and fills.
La Hora is sung completely in Spanish over a churning, heavy riff that goes from grinding to soaring. The atmosphere then changes as Roy Z takes a long, fiery solo over the organ and manic drums and percussion. The whole band is in top form here as Z loses his mind in the fury of his solo that calls up images of Hendrix and Santana.
Hands to Eternity starts as an up-tempo acoustic number with popping percussion and bass over the crying organ before the slamming chorus driven by Roy Z's heavy riff. West's voice soars from mid-range in the verses to a high urgency in the choruses. Roy Z takes care of business with a chaotic solo that showcases all of his considerable talent as he glides, speed picks and wails with overdriven effects before the song settles back into the groove.
En El Mar is a Latin percussion showcase that ends the CD. This track is also sung completely in Spanish.
It's too bad we had to wait so long for this CD, but it was well worth the wait as the songs are strong, and the individual performances are ridiculously tight throughout. Chas West has proven himself a worthy successor to Mr. Analla. The rhythm section of Byrne and Moreno picks up where Perez and Ingraham left off. Elvis is his usual quirky self, while Rodriguez provides plenty of fire and atmosphere. Roy Z is simply amazing when he lets it rip, but he also has the discipline to know when to let the song guide him and hold back when necessary. I've been waiting since 1998's Revolucion 13 for these guys to become HUGE. Maybe Dweller on the Threshold will finally make that happen.
Tribe of Gypsies Web Site