“Drugs keep pounding a rhythm to the brain” takes Sonny Bono’s “The Beat Goes On” to a different dimension on the disc’s 9th track, “Heroine Belles.” It leans more towards an uptempo nod to Lou Reed’s singular title ode to the drug than the anthem to chick bikers on downers, an image the title might conjure. Chief singer/songwriter of Billy Shake, George Simpson is accompanied by drummer Joe Caruso; bassist Bruce Mahar along with guitarists Ken Sparrow and Dan DelSignore. Recording at producer/songwriter Steven Mesropian’s studio they have come up with an authentic and driving collection of eleven titles on an evenly tempered disc that can grow on you with repeated spins.
Though it rocks with an authority you’ll likely find at the Cantab downstairs on any given weekend, there’s some real heart embedded in the tracks beyond the slam, bang boom some of the younger college grads have a penchant for. Stylistically the ballads show the group not shying away from exploring a softer, yet still driving side. “God’s Own Johnny” and “Stronger Word” fine examples of that. “Draw The Line” isn’t Aerosmith’s chestnut, it’s more like a 70’s folk rocker gone philosophically haywire.
“Big City Dreams” kicks things off in a way that would make Jim Carroll proud…actually, more like some 80’s artist’s clone that escapes me right now with a touch of Johnny Rotten’s snarl. Falco of “Der Kommissar” fame would be a nice contrast to these gents on a double bill…and would drive both audiences crazy, no doubt. Crashing Down is a fine effort by Billy Shake…and a John Cale or Don Gallucci of Stooges fame could have some real fun with this project.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.