A trip down a former road

By Sergio Ariza

The members of the Supersonic Blues Machine are of the same opinion as Homer Simpson, that “rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact!. Little wonder then that their ideologue and bassman Fabrizio Grossi has affirmed that this Californisoul, the 2nd record of their career sounds like “the lost soundtrack of a trip down a road between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the summer of 1971”. Their love for classic rock is only matched by their feeling for the blues, and this trip has once again drawn a few of their mates, in this case a few ace guitarists such as Billy Gibbons and Robben Ford, who are back after appearing on West of Flushing South of Frisco, and Steve Lukather, Eric Gales, and Walter Trout.

It is clear that Californisoul doesn’t intend to open new roads, nor is it a paragon of originality, but that’s not really what the band was looking for. This is classic rock and blues rock played in the best possible way, by a few incredible musicians who believe in what they do and in the material at hand. It’s a record to be enjoyed by other guitarists and musicians  who appreciate the amazing tone of these wizards, although you don’t have to be a ‘guitar hero’ to enjoy the perfect sound of the album, quite a few remarkable songs, and a level of instrumental skill that only a few bands in the world could match.  

It’s enough just to listen to the starting number I Am Done Missing You to appreciate Kenny Aronoff’s amazing fierceness on drums and how he’s accompanied by Grossi and his amazing boutique bass guitar, handmade in Italy by Andrea Ballarin, master luthier of Manne Guitars, forming a spectacular rhythm section, but the album’s big star is one Lance Lopez who has nothing to fear alongside his well-known guests when time comes to let rip with the most fabulous sounds on his guitars. His main model has been a reissue of a Gibson Custom Firebird from the 60s, but he also uses an old Les Paul and Fender that were in Grossi’s studio.

As far as the songs, we can  highlight things like Bad Boys which begins like a tribute to Hendrix on Voodoo Child and goes into a very funky riff, where they show what a tight machine they are, and when Lopez’s voice blends with others on the chorus to give it that Southern touch. L.O.V.E. isn’t too shabby either, and served as one of the guarantees of the record, with a Black Crows feel from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, another great record that doesn’t hide its ‘revivalist’ vein. The guests lean into the collaborative role, like the spectacular solos by Ford on Somebody’s Fool where he uses a Fender Telecaster from ‘67 and a Gibson SG from ‘72. Of course among those guests that once again brilliantly shine, is his usual helping hand, Billy Gibbons, who blows the dust off his old Esquire (which he had given to Grossi) on Broken Heart, a rock-a-boogie number he also helped write. How could it be anything but the most ZZ Top moment of the Californisoul trip.

It is a retro trip where the care put into recording it is definitely obvious, with a well-polished, vintage sound, to enjoy the original sound from the guitars and amps (many Bogners, but also old Marshalls and Oranges), and, more importantly, the fingertips of those de facto giants of guitar. If you’re one of those who think that “rock attained perfection in 1974”, Supersonic Blues Machine will show you that you can still sound as perfect in 2017.