BLACKFOOT HAVE SHOWN KISS, ALICE COOPER AND AC/DC WHERE THEIR FUTURES LIE
Blackfoot are cut from the same cloth as that other Southern musical institution, Lynyrd Skynyrd, with guitarist Rickey Medlocke having served in both bands over the years. Blackfoot started life in the Seventies when they were formed in Jacksonville, Florida by Medlocke and a couple of friends but since then, Medlocke has spent almost as many years out of the band as he's spent in it.
With nearly forty former Blackfoot members it's difficult to work out how the band have evolved since the early days as there's no real consistency outside of Medlocke's influence. The current line-up, with the exception of new guitarist Rick Krasowski, who has only just joined, were put together in 2012 after Medlocke effectively franchised out the name whilst still exercising control at the same time he was maintaining his full-time role in Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Blackfoot may be Medlocke's band on paper but he's not actually been an active member since 1997 and the release of the 'Southern Native' album sees the first studio release under the Blackfoot name since 1994s poorly received 'After The Reign' album.
"This record is head to head old school meets new school, classic new rock for a brand new generation," Ricky enthuses in an attempt to engage those unfamiliar with the Blackfoot name and also reach out to those who were familiar with the band in the past, but this is a new band which bears very little relation to what has gone before.
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It's taken Medlocke two years to get to this point with the band and this album, which he has written, produced and performed on, but if you take him out of the equation then this could very well be the debut album from a new band. The album is a genuinely good listen but why didn't Medlocke release it under his own name or create a new band name for this offering instead of diluting the Blackfoot name?
There are real high points and some not so great moments here. Things get under way with 'Need My Ride' which is a good rock n' roll blast and there's similar vein with 'Call Of A Hero' with its long intro and 'Love This Town' later on in the album but the problem is that there's not enough of these type of numbers.
Title track 'Southern Native' is a slower paced affair which, to its credit, has a really catchy guitar hook whilst there's a bluesy side to the vocal and it's a good solid listen from the off. Likewise 'Satisfied Man' is another slow and steady number that's bound to get your foot tapping and ends up with a great guitar solo but at the end you are left, ironically, feeling a bit unsatisfied with the track.
The acoustic guitars are out for 'Everyman' along with a simple but effective drum beat from Matt Anastasi. It's another vocal showcase but the slower pace doesn't mean that it's a long and drawn out track whilst late on, the addition of some subtle electric guitar adds a bit of extra texture to the song.
It's 'Take Me Home' that rises above everything else on the album. It's a very real "cherry on the cake" moment – an outstanding number from start to finish. Everything a classic track should be is here from the great riffing to the blasting drums and not forgetting a sensational guitar solo and a top vocal performance. Full marks all round for this one boys, but at the end of the day, this isn't anywhere near a classic Blackfoot album and overall it's a bit of a let down and adds nothing to the legacy of the Blackfoot name.
As for franchising out the name, this could be where our music is heading. It's unclear whether Ricky Medlocke was the very first to do this but it is very clear that he will absolutely not be the last.
It's becoming harder and harder for bands to make a living these days and costs must be cut wherever possible, also our festival coverage this year makes it quite clear that the "classic" bands from the golden era, for example Iron Maiden, Status Quo, Saxon and others, still rule the roost but they won't be around forever so what happens when they are no longer here?
Well first of all, cost cutting is also not a novel or new idea but it can be the bearer of innovation. Our Editor at MetalTalk was once part of the management for a solo artist who was the original singer for a major band and was gigging heavily at the time. Rather than purchase air fares and other associated costs for five band members, the bright idea to have a different band in every territory was born and implemented.
The savings were enormous and the whole idea worked well, much to the disdain of the fired previously permanent band members.
Blaze Bayley does exactly the same thing these days, using Abolva as his regular touring band but having a different set of musicians ready to play when he tours South America and other far-flung territories.
But when Blaze eventually retires, it will be difficult to envisage his act continuing as without the main man himself, it would not be viable, however when Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley retire, Kiss could well continue. In fact, Gene has been saying for years that this will happen and he and Paul have apparently been on the lookout for their replacements for some time now.
It's the same with Alice Cooper. Vincent Furnier, 68-years-old now, has been Alice for 47-years and has been very open several times in the past about his desire for someone else to take over when his time is up, become Alice and keep the flame burning.
So what if Kiss and Alice were to franchise their names out when they have left the stage for the final time? Why not indeed. It makes perfect business sense.
Let's say you want to go and see a Beethoven concert but you can't because the great man died in 1827... wait - yes you can go to a Beethoven concert because there is one taking place in every major city in the world tonight. It's not the great man in person of course but it's the best classical musicians of the day and the closest you could possibly get to the real thing.
And that is exactly where rock n' roll is heading and for an example, see Trans Siberian Orchestra who are keeping the music of Savatage alive with a spectacular touring show that despite the absence of Jon Oliva is an absolute "must-see".
And what about AC/DC who after they complete their next and last batch of tour dates will lose another long-time member in Cliff Williams. Next time the legendary hard rockers hit the road, only Angus Young will be left from the band's definitive line-ups but why should this spell the end?
When the established line-up finally do call it a day, the name could be franchised out to different territories and we could have AC/DC permanently touiring America, Britain and Europe. That means we'll be able to see an officially approved AC/DC several times a year. There'll be no Angus of course but a franchised version of the band is so much better than no AC/DC at all.
So maybe Ricky Medlocke has started something that will define the future of rock n' roll. That's some legacy to take to the retirement home with you.
'Southern Native' is out now on Loud & Proud Records.
You can see Blackfoot live here:
Saturday 13th August – Q and Z Expo, Ringle
Friday 19th August – Trees, Dallas
Saturday 20th August – Cadillac Bar, San Antonio
Saturday 27th August – Rumble Motorcycle Rally, Oxford
Friday 2nd September – Smoke In The Valley, Tazewell
Saturday 17th September – Flint River Jam, Bainbridge
Friday 23rd September – Palace Theater, Stafford Springs
Saturday 24th September – Island Bay Day, Kent Narrows
'Southern Native' Track Listing:
Need My Ride
Call Of A Hero
Take Me Home
Love This Town
Diablo Loves Guitar
Rick Krasowski – Vocals/Guitar
Rickey Medlocke – Guitar/Vocals
Brian Carpenter – Bass Guitar/Vocals
Tim Rossi – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Anastasi – Drums/Vocals