Revelation, out May 4 via earMUSIC, is the brand new album from English rock group Reef. It has been almost 18 years since Reef’s last studio album was released, and it would be an understatement to say that the band has undergone a few ups and downs and a couple changes since then. After 2000’s “Getaway”, the band went on hiatus in 2003 and later reunited in 2010. They also added their first new member in 2014, guitarist Jesse Wood, who replaced longtime member Kenwyn House. Now, after a hiatus, a lineup change, and signing a new record deal with Europe’s earMUSIC, the band is back in full force with a renewed energy and an album that delivers the band’s most matured and polished performance to date. There’s a lot going on with this album, so let’s dive right in with the highlights.
The album kicks off with the title track, ‘Revelation’, a song that is upbeat, full of energy, and oozing with classic rock vibes. Singer Gary Stringer channels some serious Brian Johnson-esque chops that make this track sound like it could have been released by AC/DC during the Back in Black days. This track also does an excellent job of immediately showing off this album’s production level which, by the way, is pretty top notch. Track two is the single from this record, ‘My Sweet Love’, which features a guest vocal performance from the legendary Sheryl Crow. Sheryl and Stringer blend extremely well, delivering a very melodious duet over a track that transports you straight back to summer in the 70’s. A few tracks later, we come to the southern gospel-drenched ‘How I Got Over’. This track has a choir, organ, clapping, the whole nine yards. Just a warning, this song will probably cause you to involuntarily yell, “Amen!” at some point, so be prepared to get a couple of weird looks if you decide to listen to it in public. Moving on, we come to ‘Precious Metal’ and this song is so Led Zeppelin that it hurts. A simple, but groovy rhythm, some seriously meaty riffs, and, once again, Stringer manages to transform his voice, this time into an interesting blend of himself and Robert Plant. Finally, ‘Just Feel Love’ has to be a contender for best song on the album. This song is jam-packed with raw southern blues vibes. The vocals convey pure emotion, the drums and bass keep it tight in the rhythm section, and guitarist Jesse Wood delivers a simple, but tasty, fuzz-filled guitar solo that is the ribbon on top of this raspy southern package.
Outside of the individual tracks, this album has some really good things going for it. Most notably, the mix on this album is fantastic. The band switches styles on this album multiple times and producer George Drakoulias does an excellent job of making each stylistic change stand out without causing the album to sound like a genre-confused mess. On that note, the diversity of styles on this album is great. They cover blues, classic rock, gospel, country, and everything in between and, most importantly, they do it well. No matter what genre they’re shifting into throughout the album, they are able to pull it off with authenticity as opposed to mimicry.
Now it’s time for everyone’s least favorite part of the review, the cons. This is a really solid album, but it still has its issues. The biggest criticism I would give this album is that, while it is performed exceptionally well, it lacks originality in more than one area. The vocals were one of the main areas where this kept coming to mind while listening to this album. It’s hard to picture what Stringer actually sounds like because he seems to transform his voice and almost imitate other famous singers depending on the style of the song. While the ability to do that is impressive in its own way, it does cause the listener to wonder when they’re hearing Stringer and when they’re hearing him embody someone else. The vocals are not the only area where this happens, though. The guitar tones, chord progressions, lyrical subjects, and overall vibe are all very similar to many bands of old (AC/DC, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc). Now, that doesn’t mean that this album isn’t authentic or full of emotion, because it definitely is, but it can make it hard at times while listening to not feel like you’ve heard it before. Not all of the tracks fall into this description, but enough of them do to make the album feel very familiar, even without having ever heard it before. The other issue with this album is that it might take a few times listening through for it to stick with you. Maybe it’s the similarity to other bands that I mentioned above, or maybe it’s something else, but it took me about 3-4 times listening through this album before any of the melodies and lyrics really began to sink in.
Overall, this is a very, very solid rock album. While Reef definitely wears some of their inspirations on their sleeve very openly, this album is still a great collection of old school rock and blues that has more than a couple stylistic twists and turns. The album flows very well and does a great job of bringing up the energy and bringing it back down throughout the record. It’s hard to pin exactly why, but this album just feels good. Not in a cheesy, bubbly kind of way, but in a freeing, nostalgic way. It achieves what any good rock and roll record should do, and that makes you feel good, and feel free to sing and dance and do what you want to do. It may take a few listens to get the lyrics and the melodies stuck in your head, but it’s an album that is worth giving more than a couple spins.
(Sidenote: This album is begging to be listened to on vinyl. If you’re able to, you would be treating yourself to pick up this LP on 180 grams)
Overall Rating: 3.5/5