Record Of The Week # 60

March 5, 2019

Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires

One downer of moving into your seventh decade is that you get circulars from your GP or the NHS exhorting you to have precautionary tests for various afflictions. This is a part of a plan to prevent something worse befalling you. If it were me then I’d insist that every male over 55 gets a copy of this album. It would add years to their life.

What a wondrous joy this is from start to finish. I’m late in getting to tell you about this triumph. It first saw the light of day in November 2017 and it’s just taken me a while to get to it. Better late than never. There has been much speculation about the origins of the sound. In fairness not all of it unkind. Plagiarising your heroes and giving the people what they want to hear is hardly a crime.

This Michigan four piece comprises three brothers – vocals, guitar and bass. The brothers were 19 years (twins) and 16 years old when they recorded. If that’s a surprise then their absorption of their dad’s record collection is no less impressive. Much has been written about being derivative of Led Zeppelin. It is; I don’t care. They’ve taken all that music and wrung out the very best of it in terms of attack, tune, dynamism and pure electric fizz.

On “Safari Song” you will have an involuntary raising of your arm when Josh Kiszka goes into a Robert Plant howl. (Otherwise it may suggest you’re clinically dead). This album opener starts with a delicious riff and booming drums (Daniel Wagner) that are so John Bonham. Some lift off. Next on “Edge of Darkness” a jagged solo electric guitar strikes a pose with some crashing percussion before the vocals arrive: this time more Geddy Lee (Rush) than Zep. It’s here that the boys, on a self penned song, show that they can write a tune and deliver 70s rock pastiches extraordinaire.

To demonstrate that the team has grown up with some amazing influences the first of two shocks arrive. Sam Cooke’s Civil Rights ballad “A Change Is Gonna Come” comes into view. The band find some lower gears and step backwards while Josh’s muscular tones compel with a heartfelt performance. “Highway Tune’ couldn’t be more corny with a reference to a ‘mama’. Did these boys have tie-dyed baby growers with flares? The next album may move onto ‘chicks’… However driving along to this tour de force could help you lose five miles through heavy traffic as you get caught up beating the hell out of your steering wheel.

The second shock arrives with a Fairport Convention cover. Yes I did write that. “Meet On The Ledge”. Not much of the folk vibe of the original survives but the chorus comes at you in a way that makes it unavoidably repeatable at the top of your voice, even in polite company. This also allows axe man supremo – Jacob Kiszka to bend a few strings in splendid fashion.

So great playing, clear and sympathetic production, wondrous hooks, great electric guitar and vocals that repeatedly astonish. 

Live longer and buy this album.

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