It is fair to say that Ian Prowse has given British rock some impressive and successful times through previous bands Pele and Amsterdam, but it is hard to remember a time as rousingly enjoyable as his new solo album Companeros. The release is a collection which embraces a mighty handful of songs written by comrades he has met and/or admired, and tracks which have “never entered the national psyche, but should have.” The press release does not give enough info to say if all the eleven songs are covers or mixed with originals, but one thing it does get right is in declaring Companeros ‘stuffed full of rock and roll infused with Celtic soul and song wise it’s his most listenable set of tunes yet.”
That actually underplays the impact and virulent contagion unleashed by the crowd funded album to be honest. The successor to the Prowse’s acclaimed debut solo album Who Loves Ya Baby of 2014, the Tony Kiley produced Companeros hits the ground running and never looks back until the final note of its last emotion inciting song.
It all starts with Town And Country Blues, a superb version of a definitely shamefully neglected song from a similarly undervalued band. The track from Jim Jiminee has lit our personal fire ever since the band’s debut album Welcome To Hawaii hit the sweet spot in 1988, so there was an instant smile when it burst from the speakers upon Companeros and even more so with Prowse offering a contagious and lusty version. With horns and that Celtic essence colouring the track from its first breath and the distinctive voice of Prowse superbly shadowed by captivating female tones, the distinctive take on the outstanding song just has bums bouncing in seats, bodies to the dance-floor, and a greedy appetite ready to devour the rest of the release.
English folk singer/ songwriter Alun Parry has his song My Name Is Dessie Warren embraced by Prowse next, acoustic and sultry electric guitar hugging the vocals from the start with a restrained but pungent bass line and jabbing beats emerging as the song catches the imagination with increasing energy and expression. Once more ears are left seriously satisfied though maybe not as much as they are by new single Mississippi Beat, a magnetic encounter featuring a duet between Prowse and acclaimed Irish singer Pauline Scanlon, who is one half of folk duo Lumiere. The song, written and recorded by songwriter Jez Wing and his band Cousin Jac, wraps the senses in melodic beauty and emotive temptation; the siren-esque tones of Scanlon the perfect contrast and company to the plainer but no less expressive tone of Prowse and the piano courting both with its own intimate elegance.
What Am I To You steps up next, its summery stroll pure infection from its first rhythmic shuffle and twinkling melody whilst the voice of Prowse delivers further mellow catchiness to the song’s swing before You Can’t Win Them All Mum has its turn to seduce ears with a smouldering air and potent lyrical reflection and intimacy. Originally by The Lost Soul Band, the song like its predecessor just lights the imagination and with its great sax flames, sparks a new hungry wave of appetite, though both tracks get slightly overshadowed by the pair of Derry Gaol and St. Patrick’s Brave Brigade. Not for the first or last time there is a whisper of Elvis Costello to a song on the release; the first of this pair openly hinting whilst merging it with an equally enjoyable whiff of Thin Lizzy in its magnetic slice of rock ‘n’ roll and a whiff of a Horslips like spice in the enterprise of the guitar and keys. It’s just as enticing successor is a swarthy and potent version of the powerful Damien Dempsey song, its sultry climate a mesmeric lure into the honesty of word and voice stirring up thoughts and emotion from within.
Diversity across Companeros is never in short supply as proven again by Johnny & Marie and its fifties rock ‘n’ roll infused revelry. Written by fellow Liverpudlian and city legend Phil Jones, frontman of eighties new wave band Afraid Of Mice, the song was originally released that same decade by Jones as part of the duo Up And Running. Given the creative stamp of Prowse’s enterprise and carrying the swagger of an artist you just know has a lusty affection for the material, as well as again being backed and warmly spiced by female vocals, the track has hips swaying and feet flirting with the dance-floor with consummate ease.
An indie/funk rock flirtation is uncaged by the following Conscience, the track another irresistible physical beckoning enslaving the listener before Spare Change and its Graham Parker like r ‘n’ b/punk rock stomp turns the heat up even higher with its slim but undiluted rock ‘n’ roll intoxication. It is hard to pick a best song from such a rewarding bunch on the album but certainly the penultimate track upon Companeros is up there shouting loud every time.
The album is finished off by a glorious nine minute live cut of the Amsterdam track Name & Number; the version a sure fire cert to again have bodies and energies aflame with its Celtic festivity and instrumentation aligned to one organic creative grin. It is a superb end to a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting release. In these times of turbulence we all need something to light the soul; Ian Prowse and Companeros has that tonic in brilliant abundance.
Companeros is available now!
Pete RingMaster 21/09/2015
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