Surprise! Suddenly, and before you can even finish pressing play; Lukas Nelson and his band, Promise of the Real, launch into an unforgiving hard rock icebreaker that hits you like a ton of bricks. The vocals ring with passion, the drums pound with hurricane force, the bass hammers like thunder, and the guitars ooze with attitude. Of course, we’re talking about none other than the foot-stomping, hip-shaking, kick-ass opening track called “Surprise.” Immediately it is apparent that we’re in for a wild ride. Something different. Something aggressive. Something Real.
Something Real is the highly-anticipated third album from this boundless band of California blues-rockers. Renowned for their collaboration with Neil Young, serving as the rock legend’s backing band on Young’s 2015 politically-charged protest album The Monsanto Years (read the review here); Promise of the Real provided an unforgettable and hard-hitting edge to compliment the album’s revolutionary message.
Following the insistent introduction of “Surprise,” the boys rip into another hard-rocking recipe for a good time; the in-your-face, stop-and-go title track. I challenge you to not bang your head as the main riff kicks in with it’s tsunami-like strength. Their groove is unmistakable and infectious as hell, and this song is a prime example of that musical voodoo that ignites within. The boogie is contagious.
One of the record’s most enjoyable songs, is the grin-inducing, sexy, upbeat groove called “I’ll Make Love to You Any Ol’ Time.” Drummer Anthony LoGerfo and percussionist Tato Melgar have some room to stretch out on this song as their intertwining rhythms fill-out the band’s festively ferocious style. “Make Love to You” is a song that can be summed up as ‘pure Rock n’ Roll fun.’ Classic ingredients that make for a classically good time.
One thing that is instantly recognizable, is how great of an influence Neil Young has been on the band. There is a natural edge to both of their musical styles, and Lukas Nelson doesn’t hold this back. His ever-so-passionate vocals are strong, heartfelt and sincere, with tinges of Neil percolating beneath the surface. The song “Everything is Fake” is a good illustration of this artistic approach. “Am I the one I’ve never really known? Is there a price upon this golden throne?” pleads a crooning Lukas Nelson as the song reaches it’s apex. It is an extremely powerful track, with vocals that overflow with raw emotion. With a pulsating bass line, and guitars-a-blaring; this track is a musical force of nature.
The mood mellows on more laid-back tracks such as “Georgia” and “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” while “Ugly Color” and “Don’t Want to Fly” keep up the pace throughout the album’s midsection. The synth intro on “Ugly Color” is a pleasantly interesting choice, which comes across almost like an ELO archetype before it slips into something more comfortable and relaxed for the remainder of the song.
The legend himself, Neil Young appears on the album’s final track; a fast-paced cover version of Scott McKenzie’s 1967 counter-culture classic “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair.)” It is an uplifting and out-of-the-ordinary take on a song that has historically become a standard of the ‘Summer of Love.’ Most definitely a clever take on a classic, and certainly worthy of note.
All in all, Something Real is a full and well-rounded record. It’s a promising next step for Promise of the Real. Lukas Nelson and his brother Micah have cultivated a sound that after listened to, becomes etched in your mind. As far as we are concerned, Neil was just as lucky to have worked with Promise of the Real as they were to have worked with Young. If there is one promise that Promise of the Real continues to keep, it is the promise of something real. This record is it.
Something Real hits shelves on tomorrow, March 11th, 2016. Get on it! More information about Promise of the Real and their new album can be found on the band’s website.
By Joseph Conlon