Dealers Choice is a five-piece band from British Columbia. The group uses a classic-rock instrumentation: vocals/lead guitar (Ben Thorne), rhythm guitar/backing vocals (Jim Burnham), keyboards (Kurtis Hall), bass (Garrett Armitage) and drums (Gavin May). This self-titled album Dealers Choice is their first release.
The band tells us that they aim to bring back “authenticity” and “guts and glory” in their writing and performing. For Dealers Choice, this means riff-based, bluesy classic rock. They clearly incorporate elements of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Bob Seger and possibly Great White and Jackyl. The keyboard parts and occasionally patronizing lyrics (“You Only Get One Life,” for instance) recall Richrath-era REO Speedwagon (or maybe Spinal Tap?).
Whatever influence you hear, the band is clearly having fun. Singer Thorne sets the tone right from the get-go (“Too Many Freaks”), where everyone gets a solo--and a shout out (“Kurtis, play that thing!” “Cmon Jimmy!”). He dusts the rest of the record, too (“all right, let’s go!”, “all right, here we go!”, “that’s right, get it!”, “excuse me while I whip this out”, “oh, get with it baby”), proudly carrying Bret Michaels’ torch.
There are some good moments on the record, and Dealers Choice knows its blues riffs. The wah guitar and shout-along chorus on “Too Many Freaks” are fun. The band shows great restraint in letting the slow minor blues of “Downtown Shakedown” breathe with Hall adding in his best keyboard work. That track’s middle section harkens back to the Doors’ “LA Woman” with the best guitar solos on the disc.
Here and there, the band veers off a bit; in general the arrangements could be tighter. Live, it’s fine to pass solos around; they can even be a bit rambly and squishy. On a record, instrumental parts should aim higher. They should be memorable and have something to say--some solos on Dealers Choice meander.
There are a few odd moments that stuck in my ear. “Hard to Say Goodbye” starts off with a fine, Chicago-like piano part, but once the guitars come in, it’s a bit of a farrago. The string-bends on the right side don’t work, and I’m not sure what the left-side guitar is doing. It distracts from what’s an otherwise fine chorus. The guitar figure under the later verses of “Been Around Enough to Know” is a bit awkward, too, and fills up a lot of space. I’d love to hear them do a slower, opened-up version of the song.
These notes aside, Dealers Choice clearly know who they are, and what they want to be. This album is a good first step along their journey.
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