For those who know his guitar playing Michael Landau is a hero: Steve Lukather himself - who many hold up as a guitar icon - sites Landau as one of his favourite guitarists. For those who have yet to discover his work, his latest album steers away from the instrumental offerings of the last decade and sees Landau teaming up with David Frazee once more to bring us Rock Bottom. The album is a smokey and heady experience; as if the cast of Pulp Fiction, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas all meeting in Hollywood Boulevard in 1972 before suddenly being transported to the present day. The album feels pleasantly familiar with its retro overtones, yet there are enough twists along the way to pull you out of your comfort zone. It's the epitome of cool and it remains engaging, resisting getting stuck in a groove for too long; just when you think you've heard it before it morphs into something else with effortless skill and class.
The opening drum rolls, unnerving Hammond organ chords and scattered guitar notes that could almost be from Bernard Herrman's Taxi Driver score, yet we are steered off course into the jazzy fusion of Squirrels. It hangs so loose with a quiet sophistication that by the end of the track it's practically reclining. Bad Friend cranks up the dirty sound with the percussion (Teddy Landau on bass and Alan Hertz on drums). Like a bad trip, the darkness within the track hits you sideways with Frazee's raw vocal and Landau's crazed guitar playing dragging us further down the fusion rabbit hole. There are touches of Zappa and early jazz fusion calling to mind the Mahavishnu Orchestra as you go through the album. Even though you are aware of the myriad of influences the classy sophistication infused in the album keeps it fresh from the first to the last. Heaven In The Alley achieves something close to perfection in combining guttural rock with a sexy blues edge.
The album is by driven Landau's desire to play heavy, vocal based music similar to the tunes he grew up with. It may be a departure from his more recent style, but it's an intelligent album that's worth taking the voyage for.
Groupie Rating 5/5