on 16 July 2014
I caught this duo some time ago on the Jules Holland show, and made a mental note..."Buy this album!". I didn't until recently, and it's been my loss. What a breath of fresh air it is. I can't say I was even aware of Rod and Gab until Jules' programme, but they've got a few albums out now, and they're hugely popular live performers all over the world. A quick look on Wiki confirms they've been together about 14 years, and started off busking in Ireland as they were told that's where street music is really appreciated. I can't argue with that.
Whichever version of "9 Dead Alive" you buy (I believe there are 2...the deluxe includes a vinyl version and specially commissioned "art" prints) it's fantastic value...I bought the basic one but it still includes a DVD which features quite a long "live" performance, studio performances of several tracks from the album, and some quite difficult, broken-english commentary from Rod and Gab. The only drawback is that the double gatefold cardboard sleeve is a bit unwieldy with the two discs AND the booklet containing the stories behind each track. Not enough to complain though.
The concept of the album is interesting...9 people (all dead) who changed the world and whose legacies will remain forever, inspired the tracks. Yes, it's a bit deep, and sometimes it's hard to pick up the link through the music, but it's a great idea, and it can even lead to some interesting Googling to learn more about the subjects.
Anyway, the music...
Well, if you like your guitarists to be blonde rock gods straddling the stage with solid body electrics strapped on, playing power chords through distorted pedals and amps, and singing dodgy harmonies, you're in for a shock. This is intimate, soulful, passionate playing, and it's incredibly addictive. Some reviewers have said it's "samey"...well, I can understand that, but I think you need to go a bit deeper than the surface with this music. Both artistes say they wanted a total collaboration on this album...normally Rodrigo produces on his own, but this time it's a partnership. And Gabriella adds that they wanted to create a contact with the listener...like an intimate "live" performance, not just an album.
The two guitarists have separate roles which come together so powerfully. Gab supplies the engine... she attacks the guitar in a percussive way I've never seen before, shaping chords while she slaps and batters out the foundation of the song across the entire front of the instrument. It can be quite violent and she's visibly exhausted at the end of some songs on the DVD. Rod's role is to form the melody, but it's no less physical work, but with a dexterity, speed and, yes, SUBTLETY that is intoxicating. Guitarists will watch both performers and wonder how they do it, particularly live, night after night. This album is just a sample of those skills, and I do wonder whether it would have the same impact without the accompanying DVD...I have to say in my case it may not, because these people are LIVE performers. You really need to watch them to appreciate them, and the chemistry between them is quite moving.
The album though, is still a masterpiece of virtuosity, passion and expression, and it would still be, even without the DVD.
With it, it's a fantastic package and a must-buy.