Marcus Lazarus is a guitar player/singer/songwriter based near London, UK though this album was recorded at Alessandro Cristofori’s studio in Tuscany, Italy.
Marcus wrote all bar one of the songs and handles guitar and vocals with Lee Herbert on drums, Johnny Heywood on bass/BV’s and Alessandro on keys; Jez Arden-White adds second guitar/BV’s on seven tracks, Guido Pietrella replaces Johnny on bass on three tracks, Daria Tanasenko plays sitar and Laura Mowforth is also on backing vocals. Marcus appears to have released one previous album in 2017 and an EP in 2013; the material here ranges across rock, soul, Americana and blues.
The album opens with the sole cover, Curtis Stiger’s “This Life” with its memorable chorus of “this life is short, baby that’s a fact, better live it right ‘cos you ain’t coming back. Got to raise some hell before they put you down, got to live this life”. Opening with mandolin and an Americana feel, we then move into full rock mode with plenty of powerful guitar chords over which Marcus’ gruff vocals work very well. More rock follows with “Driving All The Way To L.A.” which has some good dual guitar riffs and lyrics about young runaways who aspire to the rock and roll lifestyle but inevitably spiral into a Bonnie and Clyde scenario. The rhythm guitar that opens “What Can’t Speak Can’t Lie” recalls Cream’s “Badge” and with jangling acoustic and melodic country-infused guitar (plus some background sitar) this one ends up in Americana territory, an attractive tune well delivered. No sign of blues so far but “Black Hand Over The Sun” is an acoustic blues that recounts a tale of a slave insurrection which ends up in tragedy.
“Knock Me Out” is an out-and-out rocker with good piano from Alessandro and another great riff from Marcus. “Bullshit Blues” expresses exasperation with the current political scene (set in the UK but arguably as relevant in other countries!) in a funky rock setting and the fast-paced “What You Got (Is What I Need)” tips its hat to Motown with synth horns. “Caught In The Middle” drops the pace for a song with a positive message, Marcus sounding like John Lennon, presumably a deliberate move with slight distortion on the vocal and plenty of good harmonies from the backing vocalists. The slow blues “Keep My Flame Alight” gives Marcus the chance to show us his blues guitar chops, the longest cut on the album at just over six minutes.
The final three tracks are all at the rockier end of the spectrum: Marcus was apparently not satisfied with “Trying To Write A Love Song”, a track intended for his debut EP, now reformatted into a heavy piece of blues-rock; “Fab Gear Groove” is clearly a tribute to The Beatles as Marcus uses many titles from the Fabs’ catalogue collected over a rapid-fire funk riff, the chorus from “Hey Jude” being used to deliver the title; “Turn Up The Heat” has a disco feel with spacey keys and lasts 3.30. There is then a gap of one minute’s silence before a reprise of “Black Hand Over The Sun”, almost identical apart from some piano added; not sure what the second version adds to the album.
There is very little blues here so purists will not find much to their taste but those who like rather more rock in their diet should enjoy this disc.