Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Album Review: Checkerboard Lounge - Roller Coaster

Checkerboard Lounge
Roller Coaster
**and1/2 out of *****

The newest release from the Melbourne, Australia based blues/jazz/rock outfit Checkerboard Lounge is a strong showcase of this talented group of players. Roller Coaster is a brisk display of retro rocking, soulful tunes, and jazz leanings that delivers the goods. 

The quartet of Shannon Bourne – Guitar, ZoĆ« Frater – Bass, Tim Neal – Hammond Organ, Alto Sax, Carl Pannuzzo – Vocals, Drums, have been at this for a long time individually, but this is their first release with this lineup as Checkerboard Lounge. For this go around the group called up Jeff Lang to record and mix the album which has a warm lived in feel throughout. 

The group kicks things off with the blues rocking title track that is a showcase for all the musical talents as each artist takes a roundabout solo with Frater's bass work standing out. The motoring groove of "Double Standard" calls out fakeness especially when it comes to politics.

Shifting down, the group delivers two powerful, slow burning torch songs with "King of Nothin'" and "Cry No More". The efforts dial back the rock and using organ, clean jazz guitar and another round of top notch solos to support Pannuzzo's dynamite vocal work resulting in two album highlights.     

The throaty blues rock returns for the down and dirty "Killing Time" while the funky soul gets an injection on "Came To Get My Heart Back" which will have booties shaking on dance floors. "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" also stays in these funky rock waters but is weighed down by an a long semi ponderous intro while "Same Old Fool" feels a bit stale with the the blues rock pattern getting another workout.  

"Uncivil Compliance" is better as it digs down deep into the funky blues to get the head bopping around the grooving instrumental, as is the album closer "Prodigal Man" which mixes the slower tunes passionate singing from Pannuzzo with a sense of yearning self discovery and urgency using a building, dramatic, musical climb, and fantastic sax work from Neal; if anything it ends to soon as the track soars.      

A strong mix of rock solid sounds color this most recent effort as Checkerboard Lounge's Roller Coaster gives an enjoyable ride throughout. 
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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