Q: What do you get if you take a big musical melting pot, throw in a huge chunk of Free and Bad Company, a bit of Led Zeppelin, a smattering of AC/CD riffage, some Deep Purple musical structure and top it all off with a great big dollop of Lynyrd Skynrd southern boogie.
A: Cry of Love’s debut album ‘Brother’.
That is the simplistic view anyway but what you should really have had was a group launching themselves into superstar status. Especially when you consider that in vocalist Kelly Holland they had probably the most gifted ‘new’ vocalist rock had seen for years. The phrasing and tone of Rodgers, the strut of Plant, the power of Gillan but with a huge chunk of uniqueness that gave him his own identity. Also they had a guitarist in the shape of Audley Freed who could combine the restrained sound of Kossoff, the no frills power of Mick Ralphs and the majesty of Blackmore, not to mention an obvious love of Hendrix. Add to this a rhythm section that recreates the Free ‘flat tyres on a muddy road’ sound and blends it with an undercurrent of Skynyrd like boogie and you have what is arguably the greatest debut album the rock world has ever seen.
The album itself is more like a greatest hits package than a debut. There aren’t many albums in the CD age that can genuinely claim to have no filler on them but this is most certainly one of them. Truth of the matter is it totally blew me away when I first heard it way back in 1994. At that time rock music was not exactly coming up with many new bands worth listening to in my opinion and I was making do with the bands of old and beginning my new love affair with the angst ridden female singer/songwriter. So how did Cry of Love come to my attention then you may be wondering, well as usual with me its a not so straightforward. Basically, Paul Rodgers was touring the UK to promote his Muddy Water Blues album and was playing two nights at the Kentish Town Forum in London. On the first of these nights there was a huge power cut and the gig was cancelled, but not until a huge amount of people had arrived and were firmly ensconsed in the pub around the corner. Needless to say, with that great British lets make the best out of a disaster attitude, party mode was soon in full swing. Ad hoc singalongs of Free and Bad Company songs soon rang out much to the amusement of locals and a good time was had by all. During a lull in the singing I got chatting to someone whose name I can’t recall and we began comparing musical opinion. He told me about Cry of Love and their similarlity to Free, the rest is history as they say.
I’m not going to do a track by track breakdown as it is all top quality stuff. But there is plenty of typical hard rocking radio friendly Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd type tracks on there, most notably in the shape of ‘Highway Jones’, ‘Bad Thing’ and ‘Peace Pipe’. There is ‘Hand Me Down’ which is the closest any other band has come to sounding like Free in my opinion and then you have ‘Pretty As You Please’ and ‘Too Cold In The Winter’ which have guitar and solos that remind me of Blackmore circa Fireball era Deep Purple.
Quite why this album never jettisoned Cry of Love into superstardom is beyond me but I would guess the grunge filled airwaves of the time didn’t do any favours to a band who sounded like they were still in the early seventies. Saying that though ‘Bad Thing’ and ‘Peace Pipe’ hit number two and number one respectively on the US rock chart. Criminally Kelly Holland left the band before they recorded the follow up. As a result it was a huge disappointment to most and the band split soon after. Quite where Holland went I don’t know but if anyone can put me on to any of his later recordings (if there are any) I would be most interested to hear them. Guitarist Freed went on to join the Black Crowes.
If you like any of the bands or artists mentioned anywhere in this review you quite simply have to find a way to listen to this album. Whether you beg, borrow, steal or even illegally download it just make sure you don’t go to that great rock n roll party in the sky without having experienced it. It seriously is that good.
© Martin Leedham. Published on RYM December 2010