FAMILY FROM CUBA - Ian Rilen & the Love Addicts (Phantom Records)

Put the binoculars down. The winner just passed the post and the best Australian rock and roll album you'll hear in 2012 has landed.

Everybody remembers Ian Rilen. Even people who never met him have a personal story. He was Rock and Roll personified, an unstoppable musical force, The Bad Boy For Love and every other cliché you can apply. He was an extremist in many senses, on and off the stage. He lived more lives in his 59 years than a herd of cats. Many of us knew another side that was often outweighed. Put any and all that infamy to one side. His music is now best remembered by this album.

Ian Rilen died of cancer almost five years ago. Refusing surgery and just before his flame went out, he took his seasoned and favourite band, the Love Addicts, into Big Jesus Burger Studios in Sydney and laid down these tracks.

"Family" is grinding guitars and a big, swinging bottom end. Dirty blues. Smack bang in the middle is Ian's world-weary, hoarse vocal. Like sandpaper being applied to the groove, it's a lived-in thing that telegraphs hard times and harder living. Ian used to like the description bestowed by a local radio announcer: "Cocktails in the gutter." It's hard to top.

Producer Chris Townend described the guitars he recorded as "a dog fight". He's also so spot on. Ian lays down the basics - a beautiful grinding thing - and Kim Volkman adds steely colour and choppiness. Their interplay is magnificent. No wanky solos, just getting down to business.

Cathy Green is a vastly under-rated bassist. She learned from one of the best (you can guess who.) She adds a slinkiness (would it be sexist to say a woman's touch?) that brings warmth to the sound without compromising power. Dave Nicholls hits like a blacksmith on drums but with genuine swing and colour. A little-known fact is that he was pushed forward to be a candidate for the Radio Birdman job when Ron Keeley left.

A quick word on the packaging because it's impossible to ignore. The album comes encased in a hard cover book. Veteran writer Clinton Walker pens a touching tribute and Ian MacFarlane takes us inside the recording session. It's generously illustrated and something of a personal send-off from Rilen's ex-manager and label head Sebastian Chase.

Most of these songs were recorded on Ian's two previous albums, one solo and the other with a different line-up of the Love Addicts. These are the definitive versions and you'd be hard pressed finding those earlier records anyway. "Family From Cuba" is a notable newie that sprang from an encounter with a carload of people, lyrically speaking, and was married to a stainless steel riff the band banged out on stage one night.

Rilen songs are deceptively simple but multi-faceted. There's a yin and yang in "Wishing Well" and "Missing You" that will intrigue. One critic whose opinion I respect thinks "Wishing Well" was the wrong opening track. Not in my book. It's a quantum leap on the "Passion, Boots & Bruises" version with far more power and frenzied attack.

Ian Rilen wrote about things he knew. Many songs are road tunes, others focus on relationships. There's a lot of both in "Rock and Roll Man", which was a live mainstay and biographically brutally frank. "Without You" is playfully silly pop that won't come within a bull's roar of being played on most radio stations but that says more about them than the tune. "Steal It" (an old Hell to Pay song) is great whatever way you cut it.

There's a surprise in the tail. "Song For Romeo" is the closer and a sharp music contrast to all that's gone before. It's a stark but gentle lullaby and a farewell from Ian to his then infant son, Romeo. Just his voice and old collaborator James Cruikshank (Cruel Sea) on piano, it's actually another poignant and tender moment among many on this wonderful album. Humanity shining through. - The Barman


 

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PASSION, BOOTS & BRUISES - Ian Rilen & The Love Addicts (Phantom)
Ian Rilen is a man who needs no introduction here at the bar – his exploits with X and his solo work have been well covered here before. Passion Boots & Bruises sees Rilen back on guitar and vocals showcasing his talents both as a performer and songwriter backed by his Melbourne based band the Love Addicts who are Kim Volkman on lead guitar, Sean Docherty on bass and Tony Biggs on drums (although Cathy Green is currently on bass duties for the live shows).

"Passion Boots & Bruises" is an album of dirty sleazy bluesy rock that packs one hell of a punch – it’s songs about drinking, fucking up in love and life, the joys of escape from a bad relationship and wanting to wreak vengeance with a shotgun.
The album opens with “Booze to Blame” (a rework of the song originally recorded with Hell to Pay) it kicks in with a dirty guitar riff and a heavy bottom end, it chugs like a big V8, the power is there and the feel is that at any moment the accelerator could be pressed and you end up pinned back in your seat… it’s a bar room anthem telling the story of love gone wrong… culminating in the chorus “it’s a shame – Booze to Blame!”.

Other standout tracks include “Happy”, “Inside Out”, “Goldmine” and the country tinged title track. There is also a bonus live version of “Bad Boy for Love” recorded in 2003 at an acoustic show at the Surry Hills Excelsior – if you like your music passionate and gritty this album is for you.

Ian Rilen once again demonstrates he remains one of the finest songwriters and performers in Australia – this is a man who has lived the rock and roll lifestyle – many are surprised he is still living at all.

Passion Boots & Bruises captures Rilen’s live sound better than Love is Murder or the Hell to Pay album. It’s full of simple well-structured songs that leave you feeling deliciously dirty just for listening. It doesn’t get much better than this.
- Richard Sharman



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