The hot house of creativity known as Donovan’s Brain has delivered fourteen new musical hybrids with their ninth album Heirloom Varieties.
The reckless cross-pollination of ideas is hard to avoid in this Paisley Underground recording collective which boasts four songwriters, five vocalists and six guitar players. Bobby Sutliff, fully recovered from his accident, dominated the writing. He’s claimed half the credits and rightfully so. The stellar writing he was known for in the Windbreakers is here in full force. The Brain supplies a loving, sympathetic backing, always complimenting the songs. Solid rock [House Boy] and jangly pop [Great Divide] are the key words. Only the somber Saw It Coming plays out in a darker sphere.
Ron Sanchez, Scott Sutherland and Tom Stevens tilt the balance towards the psychedelic end of the spectrum. The shift is subtle and they disguise the subterfuge with the opening blast Brighten Up Shop a call to get up off the floor of your life. The breezy Up To Me Down To You is surely only the second ever Swingle Singers reference in rock and roll. Singer Kris Wilkinson-Hughes was a valuable last minute addition to the ever-evolving Donovan’s Brain line up. The new sounds added to the sonic pallet are an important part of Heirloom Varieties.
The psychedelic colors of Donovan’s Brain are in full bloom on side two of the album. Ron Sanchez and then Matt Piucci [Rain Parade] add blistering slabs of guitar to Bobby’s pop trip through the looking glass Wedding Bell Ring. Ron and Deniz Tek [Radio Birdman] trade licks on the Yardbirds inspired social commentary Selfish Modern. Sutliff shows his guitar talents on the folk-rock number It Wasn’t My Idea. His 12-string solo is a thing of beauty. The Brain pays tribute to the Peter Green – Danny Kirwin era of Fleetwood Mac on the guitar feature Let It Go. Ron, Bobby and Scott carefully weave together their guitar melodies and harmonies taking the music to a peaceful corner of their world.
At his point the brakes are released and the throttle is pushed to full as the album approaches the finale. Lightning Life balances dangerously on the shoulders of the thundering rhythm section powered by Ric Parnell [Atomic Rooster] on drums, and bassist Tom Stevens. Tom Stevens [Long Ryders] was invited to join The Brain primarily to fill the bass position. Tom has also offered up his guitar skills and voice. Scott Sutherland has proved to be the perfect third songwriter for the band. Light In Your Window is classic Brain matter. That would be Tom performing the mind bending backwards guitar solo on Scott’s composition.
Ron and Tom collaborated on the album closer Sailing To The Edge. 1Tom wrote the lyrics and sings this tale of an epic ocean voyage. Matt Piucci returns with his guitar to throw bolts of lightning across the bow of a ship doomed to sail off the edge of the world.
The eleven track vinyl edition includes a fourteen song download card.