Little Caesar were one of those bands who should have made it big, or that’s what I’ve read. I missed them when they first made a noise, back in the late 80s. They reformed a few years back, as bands have a habit of doing. Aside from their front man Ron Young I’m not sure how many of the old gang are still with them, but the influences espoused in their PR tear sheet are old school heavy rock with R n’ B melodies while hanging out on the Sunset Strip hang true for the most part on their new album, Eight. It has LA attitude, some big old riffs, and Young looking back on might-have-beens and here-we-are-now with a devil-may-care focus on a few of the tunes.
Blasting off with ‘21 Again’ a descending lined riff that draws your attention as it prepares the way for an up tempo rocker at the heavier end of LA rock. Guitars chop and rock just fine, and the rhythm section ensure there’s a dance floor groove while Young delivers throaty voiced vocal on top, then hits a high note at which point a guitar solo chimes in. Bonafide single material.
As change of pace ‘Mama Tried’ is roughed up cowboy rock, Zeppelin’s ‘Hot Dog’ is part of the structure but with harsh guitars and modern country vocal harmonies. Could be a throwaway track but there’s an unrelenting bass that keeps your attention and draws you into Young’s narrative rap.
‘Vegas’ is a hard come on rocker that echoes both Humble Pie and Bad Company; it’sblues, rock and boogie with hooks landing in all the right places, and there are some comi-tragic moments lyrically like “Too stupid for New York, too ugly for Hollywood”. This hits the mark.
‘Crushed Velvet’ follows on at a more laidback Stones-country rock era pace while ‘Good Times’ is a strident chorded, unrepentant number about still chasing the good times, there may be some unspoken regrets over the past. ‘Time Enough’ is a rough electric guitar ballad that you half expect it go off at a tangent but it doesn’t and sits there comfortably in its own groove, like a meditation. ‘Straight Shooter’ is a foot to the floor rocker with a catchy turnaround hook riff albeit that the duel guitar solo doesn’t quite come off.
‘Another Fine Mess’ is sneaky bluesy rock ‘n roller from the Bob Seger/ZZ Top school of song writing. With female backing and piano tinkling it also dip our toes in Skynard territory, though it must be said could have done with a little trimming near the end. Bass, drums, guitar, a little slide and a big voice all have room to breath, move and groove over the heavy rock ‘n soul number that is ‘Morning’. You’ll be singing along with the chorus before the song’s out and tripping out on the dance floor during the solo.
The dichotomies and confusion of your rocker forced to live in the modern world continue with the album’s official cut-off point with ‘That’s Alright’. It’s an odd little number with an overdriven racing beat that’s slightly punkish but the harmony vocals give it this Byrds vibe while featuring lines like “She kicked me out on the street” as part of a narrative worth listening to. There are lots of musical changes, some hard to pin down, but in its closing moments it raves up with piano tinkling away and the impression that there’s a party that’s going to go into the dead of night.
There are also two bonus tracks on the advance version of Eight I’m playing. They are the promising menace of ‘Mixed Signs’ that’s slow rock with a hard beat and almost ska sounding chords and the horny blues of ‘Slow Ride’ that marries Willie Dixon’s ‘Built for Comfort’ to Foghat’s hit of the same name.
I’ve this impression at the back of my mind that the original Little Caesar might’ve been a lighter LA affair but where we stand today, they may not be reinventing the wheel but they know how to make the thing turn and steer in the right direction.