I consider myself a fan of this band. I have been listening to BLUES PILLS music since their first EP “Bliss” (2012). Since then, they have offered two more EPs (“Devil Man” (2013), “Live at Rockpalast” (2014)), their debut LP “Blues Pills” (2014) and a live album (“Blues Pills – Live” (2015)). That’s five releases in four years, not including the singles, but all these releases featured only 12 songs (in different versions) and a couple of covers. Eventually, these songs were enough to set off the hype for this Swedish-French-American quartet as one of the best, new, 60s-70s revival groups that play blues rock with a touch of psychedelia.
Last August, BLUES PILLS released their second LP “Lady In Gold” (2016) which includes 9 new tracks and a cover of Tony Joe White’s “Elements And Things”. That’s 35 minutes of new music in 2-3 years time, so we can’t say that the band has been too productive. In this new album they altered their sound by including more than enough gospel and soul influences. The band has focused on Elin’s vocals, many keyboards (mellotron, organ, piano) and back singing (“Lady In Gold”, “Little Boy Preacher”) have been used, leaving behind the rawer, guitar-driven, atmospheric blues rock of the previous works for happier, up-tempo songs. Their music now sounds like something Joss Stone would have record, with only 2 songs reminding BLUES PILLS I used to like (“Burned Out”, “You Gotta Try”) but then again none of them equals even the less interesting song in their debut LP. There is also a boring ballad called “I Felt A Change”, drawing influences from Adele in here… The, homonymous, lead single “Lady In Gold” is a weak composition with naive lyrics “Lady dressed in gold/She is young, she is old/She’s the keeper of the soul/She’s called death”.
Elin Larsson’s voice is still in great form but unfortunately that is not enough to keep the interest of the hard rock listener when the songs do not have the necessary dynamics that could be achieved by more guitar riffs, better compositions or just more harsh sound. The production and mix were both done by Don Alsterberg (Graveyard, Horisont) who, this time, chose to boost the bass and keys leaving the guitar having a background role.
Before writing this review, I asked a friend of mine, a big fan of soul music, to listen to this album and give me his opinion. He replied to me: “’Lady In Gold” is too rock for soul music and too soul for rock music”. Thus said, I believe that if you, Metalpaths reader, would like to hear some good soul influenced hard rock you should hear RIVAL SONS’ latest album than this. If you hoped to hear new heavy blues retro-rock songs with female vocals you should check out ELECTRIC CITIZEN’ or ROYAL THUNDER instead. As for me, if BLUES PILLS return to the harder blues rock sound of their older works with their next record I will probably listen to them again but if they continue to this soul music-driven path they will have one less fan.
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