Making a record in your sixties is a lot like running a marathon at that age. It’s possible, but most people will find it more difficult to successfully complete when compared to doing the same thing in their twenties. Jim Keays (Masters Apprentices) is an exception to this rule however, because while his peers are barely making it out of the gate with acoustic records, best-of compilations or paler cabaret-like images of their former selves, here he is defiant and at the finish line with his latest effort, Dirty, Dirty.
The story goes that a few years ago Keays was working with Davey Lane (You Am I) for a Masters Apprentices’ concert. The seeds were subsequently sown when producer, Ted Lethborg told Lane about the idea he’d had to produce an album that harked back to the “garage/freak-beat” roots of The Masters’ debut. Lane suggested his fellow Pictures bandmate, Brett Wolfenden and suddenly the quartet (Lethborg opted to play bass and be part of the action) were making a record. It would take in both garage rock and rock ‘n’ roll songs that included covers of one hit wonders, lost classics and some other weird concoctions from the heady, early days of the scene.
There was always the risk that Keays would sound like a bumbling old man attempting to deal out young man blues. And yet, while his body may not be in the best condition these days (he was diagnosed with treatable but incurable multiple myeloma cancer) his voice remains as powerful and vital as a bloke half his age with just the right amount of smoke and gravel thrown into the mix.
These eleven songs come from the right place. We have four individuals bonding over a mutual love and joy for this classic music and you can tell that they’re flushed with excitement at the thought of offering these raw and intense fireballs of energy to new and old fans alike. It’s all very accessible because you can imagine ol’ Mick and Keef having just as much fun listening to this as the next generation like Jack White and those dudes from The Black Keys.
“125” a song originally by The Haunted kicks things off with some stomping, good times. It includes lots of wailing harmonica and some Mick Jagger-like spit, meaning it often sounds like it’s not too far removed form an early Stones record. “Starvation” meanwhile, seems to mix the grit of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over” with some seventies swagger.
The Jeff Lynne-penned “Do Ya” – one performed by his group E.L.O and The Move – is perhaps one of the best summaries of the album. Here, Keays is asking, “Do you, do you want my love?” It’s a sentiment that echoes Paul McCartney singing, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m 64?” Except that you know Keays has his old lady wrapped around his pinkie finger thanks to the pub rock machine that plays on like a kick-in-the-teeth and some guitars that gun it with real raw power.
The cheeky snarl continues in the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Whiskey Woman,” which starts off soft enough thanks to the kind of riffs last heard on Led Zeppelin’s “Over The Hills And Far Away”. The title track is by another guitar-heavy group, Crazy Horse and while these guys are perhaps better known as Neil Young’s backing band, on this cut you could imagine the Godfather of Grunge doing it all himself, as it easily sits somewhere between “Cinnamon Girl” and any of the car-loving odes on Chrome Dreams II.
Nearing the finish line is “Tell Me When It’s Over,” the Steve Wynn creation where the band actually sound like they’ve enlisted The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn to play some jangly guitars. And with “Come See Me (I’m Your Man)” you can imagine Green Day having ripped this off when they wrote Hitchin’ a Ride and the closer is none other than Van Morrison’s “Mystic Eyes”. Morrison’s group, Them made the latter famous and this one was taken from the third run-through and recorded almost live, something that only adds to its strong feel.
Dirty, Dirty boasts some high-octane, blues-rock by an elder statesman who with his excellent band sounds like a young buck fresh outta the garage. It was a courageous act, but this old hand has yielded an ace because the results are authentic and classic sounding with just the right among of enthusiasm and love permeating the dirty proceedings. This vintage equipment and singer doesn’t sound like it’s finished producing radio hits just yet, rather Keays has run a good race and now looks poised to party at the finish line with his exuberant rock soundtrack.
Originally published on 10 April 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/32180/Jim-Keays–Dirty-Dirty
Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/