Take a band like Los Angeles rockers Maroon 5 — who play their super brand of neo-soul, rhythm ‘n’ blues and pop to immense crowds… extremely effective… And you have to ask (because they are neighbours and both play the same kind of R&B inspired numbers) why can’t Vintage Trouble get that same kind of global recognition? They’ve been going since 2010 and have supported the greatest acts in the world (Who, Rolling Stones, AC/DC etc) — but ask your friends if they have ever heard of Vintage Trouble and they’ll look back at you and shake their heads.
Well, one reason for their lack of recognition is that Ty Taylor and his band-mates have never shown any inclination towards playing contemporary rhythm & blues (they’ll take on the soul element, but where is the funk, hip hop and dance when you need it?)
And second — and the reasoning behind their choice of ‘Vintage’ in the band name — is that they are trying to emulate and create authentic mid 20th century soul — even resorting to employing obsolete recording techniques. It’s as if they are trying to fashion collectable musical ‘lithographs’ for us to admire, cherish and show-off in display cabinets.
We have come a long way from vinyl records and juke joints, though.
“Contemporary R & B” is now the dominant force in music — both commercially and intellectually. Half of the Top 40 best selling singles from 2014 were in that genre. Music awards were also top-heavy with R & B and soul artists. So where does that leave Vintage Trouble? Why are they swimming against the tide?
Piled on top of those self-inflicted obstacles is the curious decision made by their music manager Doc McGhee to conquer Europe first, before returning to claim crowns and thrones at home. He figured that Europe and the UK in particular was more ready for the kind of hipster old-school sounds that Vintage Trouble would be purveying. (He cited Amy Winehouse and Duffy as examples of the European predilection for music that is of high quality but is also, strangely, vintage.) And perhaps he is right. The adjective ‘Vintage’ is a powerful marketing tool. Attach the word to a bundle of rags in a jumble sale and the clothes are worth twice as much. Attach the word to an old banger in a mechanics yard and it is sure to be sought out by admirers. But it’s a dodgy strategy for music. Labelling something old doesn’t always make it valuable. What if the audience doesn’t quite make the connection?
Thus, although the music of Vintage Trouble is, by definition, no longer fashionable or modern, we have to hope that it is, at the very least, the best that’s on offer. Maybe that’s why the band think they’re travelling a Hopeful Road…
We had a listen to ‘1 Hopeful Rd’ — the most recent studio album by the band — to try to figure out what’s going on:
The disc starts with ‘Run Like The River’. This was the stand-out favorite with the crowd on the band’s recent tour supporting AC/DC ( the Rock or Bust tour.)
It starts with the ashiest of Yazoo River blues (an adept guitar riff from Nalle Colt.) Then an instantly fascinating and rewarding chorus that makes you feel light on your toes. Of course, lead singer Ty Taylor’s vocals are always perfectly tempered. Like rich plum wine. With damson astringency that clings around the vowels in each word, adding a vital, elevating and acidic twist. But overall, this is smooth-structured and easy to deal with. It certainly captures the spirit and energy of the 1960’s. But it’s never quite dynamic enough to get you dancing.
‘From My Arms’ has got a delicious bass-line (Rick Barrio Dill). This number is a slowly evolving heart-stabber. Elegant and melodic. It seems (to us) to be in the style of “Beast of Burden” (The Rolling Stones 1978.)
The relaxing ‘Doin’ What You Were Doin’ is currently being spotlighted on the Vevo Music Channel. It’s slow moving and cultured… The melody is convincing and melts your bones as it soothes away fears by blowing sweet kisses into your inner ear. But the song lacks momentum and courage… And even when Ty reaches some of his most convincing high-notes we are not sure that the temper ‘n’ tension is actually present in his voice. “See what I mean?” He tries to convince us. But the words don’t seem as heartfelt as they ought to be.
One of our favourite tracks on the album is ‘Strike Your Light’ with actress Kamilah Marshall. (She adds little, though.) This is optimistic and has incredible rhythms (Richard Danielson.) Those drums rattle this song together with such verve that your valves will tingle. Guitars bubble under the surface and that amazing voice is gritty without being abrasive.
Well, has soul been reinvented by Vintage Trouble? Er, no.
1 Hopeful Rd is competent and effective… That’s true. But, to be honest, it won’t blow you away. And whilst we re-played ‘Doin’ What You Were Doin’ to complete this review, you know what? We kinda drifted off. That’s what this is. Soporific.
These anachronauts are the craigslist version of the word “Vintage” i.e. too old to be considered modern, but not good enough to be considered antique.
If you have a bittersweet longing for times gone… And you want to soothe an aching head, maybe this is for you.
‘1 Hopeful Rd’ the new album by Vintage Trouble was released on 14 August 2015 by Blue Note Records.