Album Review: Blurred Vision – Redemption

Blurred Vision

photo by Eric Duvet; photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

Album Review of Blurred Vision: Redemption

How does a band follow up a debut album the caliber of Organized Insanity? In the case of Blurred Vision, quite nicely, thank you. The gents don’t miss a beat on their second studio album, Redemption.

When I reviewed Blurred Vision’s London showcase, I leaned into the band’s obvious Pink Floyd influence. Then, later, when I reviewed Organized Insanity, I noted the broader classic rock influences, in addition to Floyd, that fleshed out the group’s sound. But the songs on Redemption package the band’s progressive and classic rock influences into an increasingly original Blurred Vision rock ‘n roll persona. Oh, sure, you can still pick out Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, and other influences, but Redemption is mostly just different flavors of Blurred Vision, variations on a theme. Whether it’s the band maturing or simply my increased familiarity coming into play – Sepp Osley’s voice is unmistakable – it’s easy to identify the trademark Blurred Vision sound after just a few notes.

Blurred Vision

image courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

The opening distorted electronic rhythmic beat of very first track, “One Day,” kicks things off strong, drawing the listener into the song and disc as the music builds into a somewhat haunting, rhythmic mid-speed soft-rocker.

“What Have I Become” follows, led by more aggressive drumming – not loud, but somewhat war dance-inspired – before the song rounds a corner into a singalong-styled openness. And perhaps the “I’m feeling numb” line is what suggests a “Comfortably Numb” comparison to me, not so much in the music itself as in its tempo and mood.

“Redemption” is similarly flavored, though features like the attention grabbing “I want to know” spoken mid-song and the enticing “waiting for the world to rise” lyric give “Redemption” an enticing uniqueness.

“Clever Dawn” ratchets things up a bit, with crunchy guitar and soaring bridges. The increased energy level serves as a nice transition to prepare the listener for the storm to come.

Blurred Vision

photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

That “storm to come” is the first of the two energetic songs that most frequently get stuck in my head, “Magdalena.” It and “P.O.W.” are the songs I find myself singing to myself for days after playing Redemption. “Magdalena” is very nearly a clap-along number that always inspires involuntary dancing – in or out of your chair – and singalongs with “Whoo-hooo! Whoo-hooo! Whoo-hooo!” and “I wanna hear you sing it!” “P.O.W.” has a moderately tempoed, anthemic, high-energy, protest-song vibe. It’s not a singalong song; it’s a shout-along number! I imagine if it were ever released as a single, the natural short-version ending would be around the five-minute mark, but album rock fans will love the minute-plus creepy music interlude before a repeating siren-like guitar line begins the tune’s slowly building rocket-ride back to rockin’ awesomeness until “P.O.W.” clocks out at 8:36. I know Blurred Vision is a progressive classic rock band, but the three minute long instrumental sequence late in this song is probably the proggiest thing I’ve heard from these guys.

Sandwiched between those two tracks, you can hear the Beatles influence in “Mystic Garden,” though with a bit more ethereal, open, airy quality.

“Companion” and “Inside Out – Collision Course” close things out. Slow but steady tempoed “Companion” significantly reduces the temperature in the room after “P.O.W.” There’s an almost dreamlike sheen to its musicality, and it features some nifty, subtle dance-through guitarwork. “Inside Out – Collision Course” follows along the same sonic lines, then transitions via a drum run to a more energetic vibe – the transition between the “Inside Out” and “Collision Course” segments of this disc-closing number.

Blurred Vision, with its consistently high-quality songs and performances, has become one of my favorite bands over the last few years. And its position in a necessary but sparsely-traveled lane of the rock and roll highway, at least among currently active bands – the “peace, love, and rock ‘n roll,” classic, album-oriented rock lane, if you will – makes this band and album an absolute necessity, not just for fans of classic rock but also for people who appreciate great songwriting.

Looking Ahead

Whenever there are again tour dates in the future, you’ll be able to find them on the “Tour Dates” page of the Blurred Vision website.

The band has also hosted two annual John Lennon tribute concerts on Lennon’s birthday, October 9th, in support of the War Child UK charity, featuring Blurred Vision’s song for Lennon, “Dear John,” which appeared on Organized Insanity.

Album Review: Blurred Vision – Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision – Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision

photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

The Backstory

I first heard Blurred Vision at a London showcase in October, which I wrote about here as part of my “Five Nights in London” series of live reviews. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the band’s CD, Organized Insanity, so much that I feel compelled to write a review of the album, too…

CD Review of Blurred Vision: Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision - Organized Insanity

album cover designed by Hugh Syme; JPG image courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

Organized Insanity is an album of brand new, shiny, ’70s-and-early-’80s-style classic rock. You’ll most often hear the comparisons to Pink Floyd, and rightfully so. The band first achieved public recognition with its version of a Pink Floyd classic, with Blurred Vision’s variation entitled “Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone!).” So the Pink Floyd influence runs deep. But if you listen closely, you hear an entire generation of rock influence in the band’s music to varying degrees. There’s some Electric Light Orchestra, Moody Blues, The Who, a hint of Boston, a little Beatles, perhaps a hint of The Police, and maybe even some Rush in there.

If you’re searching for deep Pink Floyd influence, look no farther than songs number two and four, “Rollin’ On” and “Long May You Run,” which both share a sonic kinship with “Comfortably Numb.”

Blurred Vision's Sepp Osley

photo © Judy Totton; photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

By contrast, the meandering tunefulness of “Dear John” reminded me of a subtly catchy Beatles-esque tune. This was before I realized the “John” in the song was John Lennon. How appropriate.

“All I Wanted” seems to weave elements of ELO and Moody Blues into a straightforward rock tune.

From beginning to end, in fact, the album is a tremendous, brand new, shiny classic rock album. The two songs that stand out to me most, however, bookend the disc.

Album-opener “No More War,” in addition to its stylish, rhythmic opening, employs a particularly attention-grabbing bridge and artful use of Martin Luther King speech clips. In the end, you’ll catch yourself walking down the street later singing to yourself “no more war no more war no-more war no more war no more war…” (Stylistically, this reminds me a bit of Living Colour’s use of quotes from Malcolm X, JFK, and FDR in “Cult of Personality” – not bad company at all.)

Closing track “Organized Insanity,” meanwhile, combines a catchy, laid-back, pleasant chorus with sonically dissonant, Pink Floyd-reminiscent, protest-style verses. The song is well-placed, as fitting way to end the disc.

Blurred Vision

photo by Geoff Wilbur

About the Band

Canadian power trio Blurred Vision features Iranian-born brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley on guitar and bass and Ben Riley on drums. The brothers gained attention with a viral YouTube hit and a video produced by Babak Payami for “Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone!).” Later, as a band, Blurred Vision recorded Organized Insanity with producer Terry Brown (who you may know best for his work with Rush, but his discography is a bit of a who’s who of great bands), who introduced the brothers to their drummer in order to fill out the trio.

The band is currently assembling its 2016 tour schedule, with the only date confirmed on the website so far its appearance at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent, UK, on July 23rd. Check the band’s website for updates.

Five Nights in London #2: Blurred Vision and The Bedford

Blurred Vision

 229, London
October 28, 2015

and

Joel Bailey, Alice Gullick, Velvet Engine, Sherika Sherard, and The Lemmingtons

 The Bedford, Balham (London)
October 28, 2015

 

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #2

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. My slow, cranky travel computer and slightly dodgy internet reception may make it a little difficult to post each day, but I’ll do my best to post as promptly as possible. Night #2 featured a special treat, an invitation-only industry showcase for Canadian band Blurred Vision at 229. I then headed out to Balham to catch live music at The Bedford, where five acts were featured, each playing two two-song sets.

Blurred Vision

Blurred Vision; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First: Blurred Vision at 229

The evening started early with a showcase event for Blurred Vision from Canada. Featuring Iranian brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley on guitar and bass and drummer Ben Riley, the brothers had a viral YouTube hit with a video produced by Babak Payami and then, as a band, recorded an album with producer Terry Brown, who introduced the brothers to their drummer in order to fill out the trio.

The video I mentioned, in 2010, was for their version of “Another Brick in the Wall” in which they changed the lyrics to “Hey Ayatollah leave those kids alone.”

Of course, I know these things now, but I entered the show without an awareness of the video, and ironically one of my first notes about Blurred Vision’s sound was that I could detect a Pink Floyd influence. The band’s heavy-though-accessible style also mixes influences of melody, song-driven bands with that Pink Floyd vibe, and one particular song drew on a bit of late eighties/early nineties Metallica vibe, though not quite as heavy.

The band’s “Another Brick in the Wall” rendition (with its lyric edits) was a little faster with a bit more edge and roughness; it worked well and gave the song its own Blurred Vision spin.

In summary, the short set was a sufficient introduction to this talented power trio’s “tuneful heavy rock with harmonies.”

Then: 5 acts at The Bedford

The format at The Bedford was interesting. There were 5 acts, each performing 2 songs in a first set and two songs in a second set, not quite performing in the same order each set. In all, it was an evening of twenty songs, a bit of a sampler of a variety of artists. As it turned out, my journey out to the venue landed me there just as the first artist was about to begin his second song, so I caught nearly the entire night. I’ll summarize each of the five artists in the order I first saw them, though I’ll cover both two-song sets in each performer’s paragraph.

Joel Bailey

Joel Bailey; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Joel Bailey was onstage when I arrived. and I immediately noticed the smoothness of his voice. He’s a polished singer/songwriter whose voice and tone would likely already make him a coffeehouse circuit favorite. And I do mean “favorite,” as what I’ve heard of his music is all relatively mellow, and he has a firm presence onstage; he’s good with the onstage banter.

Alice Gullick

Alice Gullick; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Alice Gullick was next up. She has a bit of a quirky voice with a great, edgy tone. An engaging singer, she’s clearly folky, with a hint of an Irish flair (or, at least, what you’d hear at an Irish pub’s more progressive singer/songwriter night back in the States). Alice is at her best when she utilizes her full range, from her highs to her low and the appealing way her voice cracks with emotion at times (as on her song “Fire”). She comes across still a bit nervous onstage (she’s still young), but she’s perhaps the most intriguing singer I caught at The Bedford, as with her insistent edge and slightly pop sensibility, she quite obviously has the tools to tap a broader audience down the road.

Velvet Engine

Velvet Engine; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was Velvet Engine, a duo with a very old-school folky vibe. Indeed, quite well-suited to wherever folk music on the bill, there is also a bit of an insistent vocal edge at times. Of note, and showing a fair bit of creative flair, Velvet Engine’s fourth song of the night was a cover of Ghostpoet’s “Meltdown,” which they adapted quite seemlessly to their own style. Well done, indeed.

Sherika Sherard

Sherika Sherard; photo by Geoff Wilbur

They were followed by Sherika Sherard, whose voice is strong, tuneful, and crisp with a hint of a rasp. Combined with the sometimes harsh vocal style that weaves around the tune as much as she follows it, her music is catchy and original enough that she could have some broad pop appeal already. Of note during her sets, particularly showing off her strengths, was the song “We Don’t Need a Reason.”

The Lemmingtons

The Lemmingtons; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final performers of the night were The Lemmingtons. These musicians have a clear sense of who they are and how to engage a crowd with their onstage shtick, and they do it well. An old-fashioned country music styled group that throws in plenty of wackiness. From traditional, straightforward toe-tapper “Hold On” to a clap-along tune whose title I neglected to note and closing number “Wet Slippery Floor,” The Lemmingtons absolutely know how to engage a crowd.

What’s Next?

Tonight (Thursday) I’ll be at The Troubadour to see Sonya Titus perform. She’ll go on relatively early (about 9:00ish), so if you join me (and if you’ve read my blog you’ll know I think you should because Sonya shouldn’t be missed!), be sure to arrive in time. Still deciding about Friday and Saturday nights.