Sunday, February 25, 2024

Mo’s Barbecue by Bowes and Morely – RAMzine Classic

When is a Thunder album not a Thunder album?

The answer is to be found in the first of two excellent releases from Bowes and Morley (Danny Bowes and Luke Morley) made during the time when Thunder were, as it turned out, temporarily on hold. In 2002 they released Moving Swiftly Along; then two years later the pair tweaked the formula on Mo’s Barbecue… the first was a very, very good funk, rock, pop album and this one an even better blend of their influences as they included (as Thunder often did live) some genius interpretations of famous, and not so famous songs and, to keep the Thunder theme, Chris Childs was on bass guitar.

It isn’t flat out rock, there is brass, there’s blues, there’s funk and, as always with Luke on guitars and Danny as reliable as ever, it is an album packed with quality songs and instrumentation that never fails to appeal.

The perfect example is their version of Free’s ‘Come Together in the Morning’, anyone covering a Paul Rodgers vocal is brave and Danny does a superb job while still being Danny and effortlessly take the Kossoff sound and makes it his own. The same is true of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the City’. I didn’t think any band would top the Gillan version, but this pair do. It’s still funky, Mark Taylor does a great job on the electric piano and the guitars are simply genius. A faithful rendition with masterful additional touches. The cover of Anne Peebles’ ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ could have been misjudged, but from the very first bass note, they nail it perfectly and a song that was always a bit “meh’ is now an essential as the duo turn it into a heavied up, bluesed up stroke of genius with excellent piano and slide solos. The other cover is from the Elmer Gantry, Paul Martinez band, Stretch: they had a soul/funk/rock hit back in 1975 with a single from their Elastique album… Why Did You Do It? which was a funk-laden slice of pop that was also in my (very large) “meh” basket. Luke keeps the funk and horns but with a lighter, more subtle touch. Danny matches the original with his rarely heard lower register; it all comes together nicely then catches fire with the guitar/keys duet and simply makes it better as Danny switches back to familiar Danny for the second half.

The remaining seven songs are Morely originals and, inevitably with Bowes alongside, are Thunder-ish… especially the opening track, ‘Desire.’ But, with added horns, rolling piano backing the guitars and vocals it is a great song with typical bite in the lyrics from Luke. One highlight amongst many comes with the sing-a-long “whoas” and some of Luke’s best guitar playing… listen to the funky intro and the sinuous wah guitar on ‘Waiting for the Sky to Fall’ and you’ll appreciate this extracurricular excursion all the more. ‘That’s Not Love’ and ‘Illogical’ are slow burning ballads. The first soulful song with heat guitar; the latter an acoustic based song of the kind they always excel at.

This album and its predecessor may not fully satisfy the rock side of Thunder lovers, but there is so much thought and carefully crafted writing to enjoy as well as the brilliant cover versions. So put the heavy rock on the back burner and revel in the softer, satisfying side of rock that Luke and Danny dish up so effortlessly. Give them both a listen.

Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon
North East born, South West domiciled music lover - mainly heavy rock & blues but not averse to other genres. I'm fortunate to have retired early & I can now take full advantage of the 40+ years I have spent collecting, listening, watching & playing (badly) & have enjoyed researching how blues in particular has shaped the music we know & love today. Now if only I could get my Strat & Musicman to sound in reality how they do in my head!

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