STEVE LOGAN – Shaking Hands With The Devil (Moondragon Records SLOG 026)

Shaking Hands With The DevilSteve Logan, Song-Poet, Cambridge-based, from Wales has a new album Shaking Hands With The Devil. The DJ Johnnie Walker used to have a slot called “The One That Got Away” for music that was released but didn’t make as big a public splash as it might have done; Logan’s previous CD Backstreets Of Eden would be an album I’d put into that category.

If Steve Logan is new to you, he describes his influences as falling into two categories “heavy blues-rock and what I call song-poets…..My live sets and albums reflect this acoustic/electric border-hopping”. If ‘your thing’ is folk/rock with intricate lyrics and rather nice guitar playing influenced by the Neil Young of ‘Like A Hurricane’, the Dylan of Street Legal and Desire – all with a bit of Free, Zeppelin, Eagles thrown in, then Steve Logan is your man. It is, unashamedly, my thing – so I was delighted to get the new album to review – and as intrigued to give it a first listen as I used to be when albums were mostly made of vinyl and came in twelve inch sleeves.

Let’s take the title track. It opens with “Saw beauty coming at me/So delicate and fine/She turned into a vampire/As she crossed the border line” and a riff that Hendrix would have been proud of. It moves into a soaring Hamlet-influenced (yes, really) chorus before delving into references to the new testament, William Blake – and the Daily Mail. The band is tight and Logan’s soaring vocals make all this work.

Let’s look at Crossed Wires, mainly for the poetry though it’s also a gem of a song that, on each listen, keeps opening new meaning while staying in the mind as a tune; deceptively simple. The chorus is a refrain that has similar lyrics each time, but each time changes them so that it builds an understanding – and then hits you over the head with the final chorus and a devastating final line:

Baby I want you/Not in fear and dread
But with springtime round your head
Like the day we wed and felt as one

Crossed wires indeed. The verses which build up to this finale are full of emotional imagery, for example:

“2 a.m. I pace the hotel floor
The universe just balanced on your breath
Still casting for solutions in that river I adore
Whose living waters taste to you of death”

These aren’t lyrics to be paraphrased, rather they should be listened to and felt.

The track which is perhaps the most accessible (i.e. I liked it on first hearing and still do) is Plastic Revolution, Neil Young melodic-rock-lead abounding, verses sung with a soaring line followed by a steady vocal that lifts you then pulls you down. The lead guitar is understated but unmissable and drives the song between the lines. The middle eight changes the tempo and has possibly the best couplet and delivery on the album:

The needle of death is cruel for sure
I’m longing for redemption need a hit don’t want a cure”.

This is great – but the delivery is even better with a pause before “don’t want a cure” to contrast what follows. Logan is also, you’ll have gathered, a pretty inventive songwriter and performer.

A quick flick through the rest of the album in brief, check out: ‘Sinner Like Me’ for, amongst other things, the vocal performance that hooks you in; the opening ‘Land of Disconnection’ which seems to be spiritual, individual and/or about the world we live in in relation to our disconnected lives; ‘On The Level’ is dirty, bluesy, rocky with another interesting vocal performance; ‘Tularosa’ this album’s extended piece; ‘Cockaigne’ another accessible track – up tempo and rocking; ‘November Song’ – delicate acoustic love song; and the closing ‘O Father’ another acoustic track which finishes the album in quieter Eagles style.

Shaking Hands With The Devil was a slightly slower burn for me than the previous album – but it’s very much my kind of thing. I’ve referred to the influences on the music, but I don’t know of anyone else who is currently using these influences and shaping them into something very much their own and of our time.

The new album doesn’t appear to be available on YouTube, so I’ve linked below to a short documentary on Logan. The documentary has a more acoustic feel than Shaking Hands With The Devil but it will give you a sense for where Logan is coming from and a sense, too, for his lyrical and vocal style.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.stevelogan.co.uk

Steve’s documentary:

Read Mike’s review of Backstreets Of Eden here.

STEVE LOGAN – Backstreets Of Eden (Moondragon Records SLOG 025)

Backstreets Of EdenSteve Logan is a welsh songwriter and musician now living in and working from Cambridge, UK, who is, as his website puts it, “working across the borderline between acoustic folk and hard-edged, high-octane rock. A song-poet, he focuses on the point where music and poetry meet”. His new album, Backstreets Of Eden, is to be released on March 24th.

The album does something quite special. You know that moment when you’re playing music with others and almost from nowhere ‘it works’. You can be strumming so your ten year old can play percussion and they suddenly get the rhythm or you can be in front of the band and it all clicks? Suddenly you feel this is what music is all about. Unusually for a recording, this album has much of that quality. Like a gig when it all comes together, Backstreets Of Eden rocks.

Logan’s band consists of Phil Bryant (drums), Andy Cross (bass guitar) and Rhys Wilson (electric and acoustic guitars) and they play a mixture of songs influenced by rock (‘Spotlight’, ‘Lucky Dollar’, ‘Skylark’), electric blues (‘Lead In My Pencil’) and the more acoustic (‘Backstreets of Eden’, ‘Paperboy’, ‘Pontymister’, ‘Faker’ and ‘Hyacinth Girl’).

Although there are a greater number of acoustic songs on the album, the electric music drives the feel of Backstreets Of Eden in a way I’ve not found in the back catalogue of Logan’s own music (he also plays in a Free/Bad Company tribute band). The historians amongst you will know there was a point where Crosby Stills & Nash added Neil Young; by bringing the electric guitar and the band more to the fore Backstreets Of Eden similarly adds depth and edge to Logan’s songs.

The lyrics are lengthy but not wordy, describing the modern world in bright colour and with a moral/spiritual slant, for example, “The cop show sprinkles stardust in the city/Modern cowboys cruise the backstreets like they never/Knew the hours between each wrong decision” or “Had a beautiful dream/Of a house on a slope/You were there in the garden/A vision of hope/But the house came to nothing/Like snow on a stream/the bricks are all dust/But I can still feel the dream” – interesting as these lyrics are on the page, like the word-pictures of, say, mid-70’s Al Stewart or Greetings From Asbury Park the words are much better in song.

At the heart of the album are two tracks ‘Yesterday’s Hero Part 1’ and ‘Yesterday’s Hero Part 2’ which together last over 15 minutes. The imagery and the story are rich and it would take a chapter to describe it fully. There are references to the modern rolex-materialistic world at Christmas, contrasts with John and Yoko with their flowers, Father Mackenzie being told religion’s a virus, young men trying to be cool, cars swirling round Hyde Park corner. Part 1 concludes that some of us feel something’s wrong. Part 1 is acoustic; the fuzzy Neil Young guitar in Part 2 is darker and the lyrics take us even deeper into the modern world. There is love, philosophy, family and religion before finishing where Part 1 started – watching the man with the Rolex, this time reflecting on the temporary nature of material success and concluding “And whatever survives us/Like the wings of the dove/Needs the breath to sustain it/Of the spirit of love”.

Definitely: song-poet on the edges between rock and acoustic folk.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: https://www.stevelogan.co.uk

‘While Eagles Fly’: