Review: Billy Walton Band – Crank It Up!

Posted on: Thursday, Apr 26, 2012

billy walton cover.jpg

Billy Walton Band – Crank It Up!

(Mystic Records: MYS CD 208)

From Asbury Park, New Jersey, the Billy Walton Band have been regular visitors to the UK since 2007, and initially toured on the back of their excellent “Neon City” debut album, which blended a hard rock style with some classic home area soul influences from the great Southside Johnny, with whom Billy Walton currently holds down the much-coveted guitar ‘seat’.

This, the band’s third album, following “Live At The Stone Pony”, is again on the rocky side in places, but still with a few lovely soul-tinged tunes . . . . you don’t ‘sit in’ or play with such legends as Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen and Gary US Bonds and not pick up some good habits!

On “Crank It Up!”, apart from Billy Walton on lead guitar and vocals, the band comprises: William Paris (bass), Rich ‘The Taz’ Taskowitz (saxophone) and Johnny D’Angelo (drums) – and what a fine outfit they are. The opening “Deal With The Devil” rides on a nice opening acoustic groove, before giving way to Walton’s gritty vocal and slide guitar and the band kicking in.

The following title cut, “Crank It Up!” is a tough rocker that features Taskowitz’s saxophone, together with some blistering Walton guitar, and at times recalls another of the Jersey Shore’s heroes, Jon Bon Jovi, whom to me, Walton is a lot like vocally at times.

The riffy “Lifeline” has a Stonesy vibe to it with Billy Walton’s choppy guitar work; and next up is the delightful, soulful “The Night The Deal Went Down”, calling up hot summer nights on the Jersey boardwalk, and more great work here from Rich Taskowitz. The soul feel continues on the lovely “Til Tomorrow”, again with a ‘home town’ edge to it and delivered with a fine vocal performance from Walton.

The pace is taken down on “Night Turns Blue”, a ballad of the highest order with some sweet guitar licks and a soaring solo; the funky blues of  “One In A Million” is another highlight, with the saxophone featuring again to fine effect, with Walton’s searing playing. Walton takes us home again on “Summertime Girl”, another tune crafted on the Jersey boardwalk and surely influenced by “The Boss” himself!

The band put the hammer down on the rocking “Hot Blues”, driven by the very good rhythm section of long-time bass player William Paris and in-demand drummer Johnny D’Angelo; with proceedings rounded off with the breakneck rocker, “Black Jack Dealer” . . . with some great piano and also more sterling work from Rich Taskowitz.

Walton is a fine singer and guitarist, with a very capable band, and it’s easy to see how UK audiences have taken to him and the band, and his prowess live has been admirably  captured here in the studio on “Crank It Up!” Definitely an outfit worth checking out, be it live or recorded.

GRAHAME RHODES

www.billywaltonband.com

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