Rival Sons Head Down Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Honours half a century of classic rock with reverence and respect.

Greg Moffitt 2012

L.A. quartet Rival Sons made a big splash in 2011 with their breakthrough album, Pressure & Time. It put the rest of the retro-rock scene on notice: rehash the past all you want, but we’re the future.

Precious few revivalists possess that old black magic to set them apart. But to a fusion of the classic hard rock and progressive blues of the 60s and 70s, genuine soul and a gutsy groove, Rival Sons add the real X Factor: great, great songs. Such an obvious ingredient, but it’s amazing how many others miss it.

Recorded in Nashville with Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb (Jamie Johnson, Shooter Jennings) and Grammy-winning engineer Vance Powell (The White Stripes, Kings of Leon), Head Down takes the band’s electrifying blend of Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company, Deep Purple, The Doors and a dozen others to exhilarating new heights. Kick the door in, take no prisoners, ask no questions, play it loud; as plans go, it’s hard to fault.

Keep on Swinging pretty much sums it up:  big, bold and totally badass, it sets the tone for an album which raises the bar across the board. Sure, there’s plenty of hat, but we also get the cattle. The breezy Wild Animal and Until the Sun Comes contrast nicely with the raunchiness of All the Way and Three Fingers, themselves preludes to the sheer girth of You Want To – which recalls Zep at their raucous best – and the mighty Manifest Destiny Pt. 1, a shadowy, smouldering epic that broods like a black hole. Although the inevitable ballads aren’t the group’s strong suit, both Jordan and True are carried off with confidence and without resorting to slush or schmaltz.

Both as performers and songwriters, these guys have upped their game, and Head Down puts them well ahead of the pack. When the future looks bleak, all we want to do is look back, but we owe it to ourselves to make it more than a narcissistic nostalgia trip. Fizzing with freshness, Head Down honours half a century of classic rock with reverence, respect and the realisation that this music’s still happening, right now.

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