Joost de Lange, though well known as guitarist with Zeeland band Yes You Did (among others), has fairly recently emerged as a vocalist/guitarist with his own band Joost de Lange’s Rock/Blues Experience, also featuring Mitchell Goor on bass and Ramses Donvil on drums. The band’s latest CD is Live In Antwerp, recorded with what sounds like a small but enthusiastic live audience. All the songs here except 5, 8, 10 and 11 were written by Joost. Given the name of the band, it’s probably no surprise that two of the covers here are songs by Jimi Hendrix, along with one each from the repertoires of Rory Gallagher and Freddy King. It seems the band’s live sets regularly feature tributes to these and other artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, so this is presumably pretty close to the band’s less formal live gigs.
- ‘Wandering’ kicks off with a metallic riff and overdriven chords, and goes into a lead break that builds up into the sort of guitar heroics that you’ll either love or hate, complete with a chorus or so of wah-wah. Well, if you’ve got it, you may as well flaunt it.
- ‘The Rambler’ starts off slowly, with a minimalist intro that segues into a classic rock chord riff slightly reminiscent of ‘Money For Nothing’. The lead break builds up slowly from indeterminate feedback to a reprise of the intro to some fairly restrained double stopping.
- ‘Set Me Free’ is a slow blues in a minor key, starting with a subdued intro: even when the pace picks up a bit some of the guitar is surprising lyrical.
- ‘You’ve Got It All’ at one several points owes something lyrically to John Lee Hooker – especially ‘Boom Boom’ – though the underlying riff and overlaid is more heavy metal than Hooker, and the song is pacier than you might expect. The first lead break in particular wanders off into some interesting runs. I like it.
- ‘Bad Penny’ [Rory Gallagher] starts with a more reflective intro than I remember from Gallagher’s Top Priority album, but picks up the pace and borrows wisely, including Gallagher’s very effective octave riffing. His voice isn’t as strong as Gallagher’s here, but there’s no denying the fluency of his guitar, which is a little more restrained than on many of the other tracks, at least in the opening sections. Mitchell Goor’s playout bass solo is also refreshingly restrained: too often a bass solo comes over as a frustrated lead guitarist with something to prove. Goor is clearly well equipped in the chops department – consider, for instance, his doubling the lead guitar on the playout to ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ or in the lead breaks to ‘This Town’. It’s to his credit that he doesn’t overstate on his solo.
- The guitar on ‘The River’ is also fairly restrained (mostly), as befits this slow, somewhat wistful song.
- ‘Magic Crow’, the title track of the band’s previous album, is a drum-heavy rocker.
- ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return) [Jimi Hendrix] – the sleeve lists this as ‘Voodoo Child Slight Return’ but I’ve included parentheses as used on the Reprise release of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album in 1968, as there’s already enough naming confusion between various releases of this song and its sibling ‘Voodoo Chile’. J The band starts and finishes with (more or less) the Hendrix introduction, but the middle section is more Joost and less Jimi. This version stretches to over eight minutes, which makes it the longest track on a CD which isn’t noted for the brevity of its tracks. But if you can’t stretch out on a live set, when can you? After all, the original ‘Voodoo Chile’ jam runs to about 15 minutes. And some of us can never get enough Hendrix.
- ‘This Town’ is another rocker that fits pretty well between the two Hendrix songs.
- ‘Little Wing’ [Jimi Hendrix]. A song that has painful memories for me, having once been dragged onstage to play bass on it (an instrument I haven’t really played for decades) without really knowing the song. I struggled. But it’s since become one of my favourite Hendrix songs, and respect to Joost for taking a shot at it. The guitar sound is a bit trebly and harsh for my taste in this extended version, even in the very Hendrix-y intro, though Joost sings it quite well. This version strikes me as being mostly about the guitar gymnastics, but misses some of the tenderness that underlies the Hendrix version.
- ‘Going Down’ is credited here to Freddy King, who is not, perhaps as well-known as B.B. King or Albert King, but was a fine and very influential blues guitarist. However, I’m pretty sure the song was actually written by Don Nix (one-time saxophonist with the Mar-Keys), and recorded in 1969 by Moloch. Nonetheless, many people consider Freddy King’s version on his Getting Ready album a couple of years later to be the definitive version. Joost’s guitar goes the 900kph ’70s-and-later-rock-god-speedfreak route rather than King’s sparser diversion through Texas-meets-Chicago blues voicings. It’s very different, but the song can take it.
- The structure of ‘Party’ reminds me a little of ‘Born To Be Wild’, and in fact Joost’s voice here slightly resembles that of Steppenwolf vocalist John Kay, though less assured. But then, this is a live performance, and vocal perfection isn’t always to be expected. In any case, it’s a suitably upbeat note on which to end a live album, with more finger-scorching fretwork. I’m not generally a fan of drum solos, but Danvil’s extended stickwork builds nicely.
There’s no doubt at all that Joost de Lange can play guitar. Not only has he absorbed the influences and techniques of some very classy players, but he also has that faster-than-light fretwork that so many lead players aspired to in the 70s and 80s. So much so that it’s almost a relief when he sometimes goes for a more lyrical tone and dials back on the mph.
His singing is less assured: there’s a decent blues/rock voice there, but his tone and pitch sometimes wavers. Some of that is probably due to the unforgiving nature of the live performance, and I suspect that he still needs to build some confidence in his own vocal ability, having come to taking lead vocals in his own band fairly recently.
Some of his own songs are overshadowed, lyrically at any rate, by the cover versions chosen here, but they provide the basis for some very sharp guitar-playing.
Perhaps Joost de Lange still needs to find his own voice, both literally and as a songwriter, before he reaches his full potential as a frontman. In the meantime, there is much to enjoy here, if you’re up for some very competent blues/rock guitar.
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‘Party’ – live: