Luke Morley - 'El Gringo Retro'

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Luke Morley - 'El Gringo Retro'

A very interesting purchase, although there's no denying it will be too light-weight for some.

Just over ten years after their formation, it appeared that time was up for UK heavy blues merchants Thunder (we know differently now of course...) and for guitar toting Luke Morley, who during Thunder's heyday rebuffed an opportunity to try out for Whitesnake, the future looked uncertain. Some questioned what his next move would be after working so closely with the golden tonsiled Danny Bowes not just in Thunder, but also their previous band Terraplane. So when an offer from EMI-Japan to record a solo album came his way; it was too good to turn down.

Solo albums should, the rules state, be something of a departure for an artist and so 'El Gringo Retro' proved to be for Morley, with him not only handling all of the lead vocals, but eschewing the heavy blues influence he's known for in favour of gently bluesy rock with a strong hint of commerciality. On first listen it is actually quite a shock to the system, but as you get to know the bright, breezy, genuinely should have been a hit strum of 'Go With The Flow' or R&B meets soul of 'Loving You (Is All I Can Do)', the more the link with Thunder and Morley's current outfit The Union becomes apparent. Beef these tracks up and stick a hollering voice over them and you wouldn't be a million miles from either band.

Although it is fair to suggest that if you placed either track in its current guise on any of Morley's other efforts, they'd stick out like a commercial, loungy sore-thumb. Having handled a little lead vocals in Thunder, the sheer quality and warmth of Morley's voice comes as no surprise, while, though it's more subdued than we've come to expect, there was never going to be any doubt as to just how good the guitar playing is. 'Can't Stop The Rain (Parts 1&2)' could have been a hit for Santana (a good comparison for much of this album), while 'Waste Of Time' adds brass and balls to be the rockiest track on offer and while ex-Thunder mates Chris Childs (bass), Harry James (drums) and Ben Matthews (Hammond/Fender Rhodes) all contribute heavily, as does Andy Taylor (Duran Duran), there's no doubt that Morley's the star of this easy-osy show.

A nice interview with Morley, some Japanese bonus tracks, demos and live cuts make this departure from one of the UK's finest songwriters, a very interesting purchase: although there's no denying it will be too light-weight for some.

Steven Reid

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