With an album design that is (hopefully) intended to mimic a 1990’s Playstation game and a jokey press release that is only one step away from irreverent nonsense, I can, quite honestly, say that I didn’t really know what to expect from the strangely-named band Gers Racing’s albums, “Part I: Privilege” and “Part II: Existence”. It was almost unexpected to hear the music, which is, essentially, raw, bass-heavy late sixties/early seventies rock, walking the same path as bands such as Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, with a few curve-balls thrown in along the way. It’s actually very good in places, but I haven’t heard an album that has such a poor sonic quality for quite a long time. “Part I: Privilege” sounds as if it has been recorded live from the mixing desk at a club like The Marquee in the late sixties.
It can’t be assumed that the overall sound on “Part I” is the result of substandard recording techniques, perhaps this is exactly the sort of sound they were trying to achieve at the time, but it certainly gives the first album the feeling of being a bit of curio, an oddity. Intentional or not, the result on “Part I: Privilege”, which dates back to 2011, is often a muddy sound which sees the guitar sometimes helplessly lost in the mix and has the overall feel of going to see a good live band where the sound engineer has got the levels wrong. Still, it’s a sound that some connoisseurs of the era could really enjoy, especially if you’d lived through it and, thankfully, “Part II: Existence” has a much improved sound, with a greater fidelity on the mid and top ranges, allowing a greater appreciation of the guitar parts.
The best cuts from “Part I: Privilege” include “Dance Dance” which has touches of both Cream and Zappa, “Bye Bye Baby Goodbye” which has a curious early-U2 feel to the guitar work on the verse and features some tasty bass-work whilst Gedemer solos, “G-Force” has a playful tom-tom introduction and although the presentation is a little more Black Sabbath, the composition itself is rather reminiscent of Queen circa 1973 and the fun “Clown In Black Face” has blatant Zappa influences. Sadly, much of the impact of the first album is lost because of the sludgy production and we’re left with a slightly frustrating impression of what could have been.
“Part II: Existence” is sonically superior and, being on a par creativity-wise and compositionally with the first album, means that it is the pick of the two, although it is far from perfect and you could forgive anyone for switching off based on the first two tracks alone. However, perseverance rewards the listener and the choice songs from “Part II” include “True Fire Love”, which sounds like a Jimi Hendrix Experience album track with Ian Gillan-like vocals, the prog-rock aping “Soon You Will Be Born”, resplendent with close harmonies and powerful drum fills (which, admittedly, sometimes threaten to overshadow the subtlety of the piece), “Elegy (For Whom The Bell Tolls)” benefits from the addition of keyboards (played by Barry Kaye) and has a rather terrific climax, “Invincible” which is reminiscent of Rainbow and the final track, “Sinking Song” which finishes the album with dark Deep Purple riffs and a classy flourish.
There is plenty of good music across the two albums, some of it very enjoyable indeed, and it’s evident that they’re a fine bunch of artists, but although the bio supplied by the band seems to be relatively impressive, it is extremely difficult to find further information about the players anywhere else, which is telling, and I’d rather concentrate this review on the music presented here rather than to repeat some of the names the band members have worked with. Vocalist Ellington Erin has a powerful range, part young Ozzy Osbourne, part Colin Blunstone, drummer Bruce Ginsberg is a fluid, loose musician with plenty of personality in his playing, guitarist Tim Gedemer (when you can hear him) offers some extremely nice inventive, bluesy lead work and Gers himself is a top notch, hard-riffing, pounding bassist. At their best, they’re exciting and exhilarating. At their worst, they’re unfocused and messy (“Chiefs Of Police”, for example, starts very badly) and the music sometimes disintegrates into what can only be described as a few people giving individual performances that just happen to be being recorded at the same time.
To surmise, despite the flaws (which actually have a charm of their own), I readily admit that the unashamedly retro Gers Racing are an enjoyable experience and there is much here for lovers of late sixties/early seventies psych and prog rock to discover and appreciate. My recommendation is that, if what has been described here sounds like your bag, then start with their most recent work, “Part 2: Existence” and then, if you like what you hear, seek out the first instalment afterwards. They’re certainly not going to appeal to everybody, but I imagine that a group of niche connoisseurs will love them. As for me, there’s just enough good stuff here to be interested in hearing further releases from Gers’ band… but only just.
Gers Racing’s new album “Part II: Existence” was self-released in January 2014 and is available via iTunes and other online retailers, along with its predecessor, “Part I: Privilege”. For more information, visit Gers Racing’s site at www.gersracing.com)
Andy Sweeney, 11th May, 2014.