I first became aware of The Jokers when they…yeah, I know you’re asking “do I EVER go anywhere else! At the time these hard working fellas from the North West of England were promoting their first album “The Big Rock ‘n’ Roll Show”. Two things made me want to be at The Railway that night – the promo poster which invoked the spirit of Motley Crue (so I HAD to check these boys out – and to be totally clear, they’re not like the Crue at all…but more of that later) and, far more importantly, the recommendation of a certain Pete Fairclough. Pete’s vast range of musical knowledge, and his dry sense of critique (“I’m not being funny, but…”) meant that, like many of us, listened when he made such positive noises about any band – particularly these boys.
That night saw The Jokers play some of the songs that would make their way on to this second release and they got me too. When guitarist Paul Hurst circled the venue after the show uttering the immortal line “wanna buy a CD? It’s a fiver!”, the money was already in my sweaty palm and shortly after that blue piece of paper was swapped for the first album. Over the next couple of years I have had the pleasure of seeing the band (with Wayne Parry on vocals, Joker Jet (or Simon Hurst, as his school teachers might have known him) on bass and Christian Poole on drums) on a number of occasions. What a work ethic these dudes possess – support tours (including with Editor Sue’s favourites Fozzy!) and on their own – and if blood, sweat and tears resulted in success then The Jokers deserve it in spades.
“What about the new album?”, I hear you cry. Well it continues in the same vein as album one. Building on the kind of bluesy rock and roll that once made Britain great (think Free) – the kind of thing The Answer do well but with a less obviously “retro” or “vintage” vibe. Those that know me will be aware that one (“one?” you cry, “and the rest!”) of my current irritants is when records are mixed to fully allow for the songs to be played on an mp3 player or through that tinny little speaker fitted to most mobile phones. You know the ones, listen to them on a proper music system with decent speakers and ….. plastic pots for drums, pan lids for cymbals and a guitar sound that makes a wasp in a biscuit tin sound tuneful and melodic. Not here – the drum mix has an almost live quality but it is the guitar and bass sound that work best for me. The bass sounds like a … well, like a bass should. Paul’s live guitar sound (which I have told him I want to steal!) comes over perfectly here. Wayne has a voice that reflects some influenes but is all his own and sounds phenomenal – whether on the belters like “Dr Rock Head” or the more gentle tones of “Bring Your Love Back to Me”.
Each track shows a slightly different reason why, with band like The Jokers, Rock & Roll is Alive. They blend the rock with the roll – new single “Radio” has a quality blend of more gentle acoustic with a harder edged chorus. The band cite influences such as ACDC, Kiss, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, Slade, Free, Cream and, you know what? You can tell but they never sound like copyists. They make it their own.
All their hard work seems to be paying off – Planet Rock have just announced The Jokers as one of the first bunch of bands that will play the first Planet Rockstock, they have signed a deal with SPV/Steamhammer and have the support of one of the top rock music PR companies. So now is the time for you to do your bit.
Sadly, Pete passed away in March and I truly hope that he had a chance to listen to the finished record before he was called to the great gig in the sky. He would love this…and, I’m not being funny but so will you!
Rock & Roll is Alive will be released on 2nd September on SPV/Steamhammer
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