Sunset City by Blackbird Electric is a fantastic album that fuses great funk grooves over hard rock/metal riffs. The songs are well written, performed and produced.
The album opens with “Roxy,” an up-tempo funk/rock song with traces of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and some Alice In Chains. The groove is fantastic with funky guitar chord-al melodies, prominent bass, excited drums and a powerful lead vocal. “Speed Queen” is a blues-infused track from the school of Cream (with Jack Bruce-like vocal and opening riff) but seen through the lens of Black Sabbath as the riffs continue to emerge and develop. There is a lot of energy on the song, and the addition of subtle keyboards in the bridge enhances the sound without sounding intrusive. At less than two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a great hard rock pop song. The title track opens with a heroic bass melody before the funky guitar and drums join in. Again, the groove here is infectious with a smart rhythmic melody sung against the driving instruments, and the guitar has some real moments to shine answering the vocal with countermelodies before getting featured with a great solo.
“Naturally” is more mid-tempo, a nice contrast on the album and well expected, never dipping into ballad territory but having a great slower feel. With a riff that blends R&B, ska, and rock the track ebbs and flows into spiraling guitar flourishes, rich organ and some faint tambourine that helps propel the song along. The melody is very catchy and it makes for a nice introspective song.
“On & On” opens with a fantastic bass feature before the guitar takes over the metal-ish line. It’s a smart transition into the funk as the guitar evolves the riff and some fantastic drumming pushes through (along with driving tambourine). The song manages to keep both the metal and funk feels alive, and evolves one into the other, which makes for good development. The bridge feels a bit out of place from the rest of the song, but once the riff returns and the soloists trade off with the drums, the song reestablishes itself.
“Pardon My French” is a humorous song that opens with a question. The song mostly serves as an instrumental showcase and it accomplishes that with the combination of funk and metal fused into a head nodding and then head-banging song. It’s also nice to hear a bit of lightheartedness and humor as a contrast.
There are a few weaker points on the album. Ruckus tips its hat to Van Halen, not with tapping, but with David Lee Roth-like yelps and a guitar riff. There are some good moments within the song, including an excellently executed bass solo, but in general it feels like each section could be developed a bit more before linking them together. “Bangin’” has a ‘80s hard rock stadium feel to it. There are some good elements within it, including a very funk clavinet driven bridge that builds well. The beginning of the song feels cluttered and busy, however, and doesn’t build to the bridge enough that lets it stand out.
The album closes with “Stallion,” a driving song with latter-day Jimmy Page like guitar, funky clavinet and a slight Dio-infused vocal. It makes for a great closer, really showcasing the influences and strengths of the band, complete with dueling guitar solos and a triumphant electric piano solo near the end. It’s a great summation of what the group does well.
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