Shark Island — Bloodline
I wasn’t sure the day would ever come that I would get to hear a new Shark Island record, let alone try and review it. The band only released one studio record in their prime, “Law of the Order”, but they were the Kings of the Sunset Strip in the 80s. I was able to see them twice. Once in a packed club in L.A. and once with about twenty folks in a small place in Oakland. The greatest compliment I can give a band is that they were just as good and gave just as much energy in Oakland as they did in L.A.
Without question, Shark Island is the best live band I have ever seen. Richard Black was the ultimate live front man. Not only did he sound great but he connected with the audience and was simply mesmerizing to watch. Unfortunately, their live energy didn’t translate to their one studio as much as it could have, and combined with the changing music scene, that was that.
The band released a second record, “Gathering of the Faithful” in 2006. It was a re-recording of previously written tracks that never made it on a record.
Now the band is back with “Bloodline”. I’ve been waiting for this record for about a year ever since I heard they were working on it. From what I can tell, the band includes Black, Alex Kane and Damir Simic on guitars, Alen Frjlak on drums and returning Shark Island member Christian Heilmann on bass. The album release date, 11/11, is significant as it was the date of the band’s first show.
I’m going to try and give you my first impressions as the album released on Monday for a Tuesday review. I’ll be spending a lot more time with this record, so these are just initial thoughts.
The album kicks off and brings all the feels as longtime show opener, “Make A Move”, finally gets a studio recording. Black sounds just like he did back in the 80s and this recording brings all the energy that I remember from the live shows all those years ago. Such a great song.
“Fire In The House” is up next and keeps bringing the energy. It’s a classic hard rock track with plenty of guitars.
The band covers Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth” next. I’m not very familiar with them, but I like this version quite a bit. There’s no sign of the cheesy keyboards from the original as it’s all guitars here. An interesting choice to cover but the band makes it their own.
Next up is “Aktion Is” that has more of a classic Shark Island sound. I’d be interested to hear when these songs were written. How many of them are old tracks brought back and how many are newer compositions?
“7 Years” begins with more guitars but this is one of the more interesting tracks on the record. I’m going to need some more time with this one as it’s less straight ahead than the rest of the album so far.
“Crazy Eights” has a slightly different guitar tone to it. It sounds familiar but not really like Shark Island. But I really like the change up here. It almost has a southern rock kind of feel to it. It’s a cool track.
“Rocks on the Rocks” is up next and we get another track in a similar vein as “Crazy Eights”. It’s a little brighter, for lack of a better word, than what we are used to hearing from Shark Island. But another solid track.
“Butterfly” is my favorite of the new tracks so far. It’s a combination of that classic Shark Island sound but slightly updated. I really like this one.
“When She Cries” is the first track that starts off slower but it kicks in with the chorus. It settles in as a mid-tempo rocker and almost has a Led Zeppelin feel at times. Another cool track.
The first thing I wonder with “Law of the Order” is if this is an old song that they’ve re-recorded? It does sound like it could have been written during that era of the band. These are the times I wish I had the liner notes.
The album ends with “On and On” which has a little acoustic guitar in the intro. This one sounds very different than the rest of the record. Black sings in a lower register and it almost has a Tom Waits type of feel to it. An unexpected way to end the record. We can only hope the song title means there is more coming from the band.
I have no idea how I’m supposed to rate this record after one listen. I’ve been waiting a long time for new Shark Island music and in some ways there is no way the album can live up to my sky high expectations. In many ways, it reminds me of listening to the new Steve Perry album for the first time. But unlike the Perry record, “Bloodline” doesn’t stray too far from what I remember. It’s not a copycat of their previous work, but there’s enough that’s familiar here that it feels like a Shark Island record.
The other issue is that I would need to hear these songs live in order to truly appreciate them. Shark Island was a live band and their songs always sounded better in a live setting.
But for now, I will rely heavily on the joy of hearing new music from Richard Black and company and know “Bloodline” will get quite a few more listens in the coming days and weeks.
90 out of 100
- Make A Move *
- Fire In The House
- Policy Of Truth *
- Aktion Is
- 7 Tears
- Crazy Eights *
- Rocks On The Rocks
- Butterfly *
- When She Cries *
- Law Of The Order
- On And On