May , 2012
Review by Stephen Hernandez
"The Church Of Rock And Roll"
Label: Sire Records
The only undeniable truth in music is that bands change from album to album and their music evolves in the process. In the case of The Church of Rock And Roll, the fourth studio album from Cincinnati, Ohio based Foxy Shazam, that evolution of sound is ironically marked by a return to rock music's past.
Their first three studio albums - The Flamingo Trigger, Introducing Foxy Shazam, and Foxy Shazam - had songs that were all punctuated by quirky, fluid, and free flowing catchiness, accentuated by vocalist Eric Sean Nally and keyboardist Schuyler Vaughn White. On this recording, without sacrificing their personality, the group pays homage to good old-fashioned rock and roll. Those already familiar with this six-piece outfit may find themselves griping about this record and its refined retro sound. They are missing the point. Foxy Shazam is merely bringing its followers up to speed as to who they are today - no filler songs added to fill in any blanks.
In the past, I gave the band's second and third releases a brief once over before moving on. This recording makes me wonder if I didn't pass judgment on the group too soon. The Church of Rock and Roll has opened up my ears and given me cause to thoroughly look at Foxy's past, enjoy the present, and now extremely curious about what their future holds.
For those new to Foxy Shazam, this is a great album to start your journey into the mind of Eric Nally & Co. It's a solid recording with only one song slowing its momentum down. There are certain elements of this record that jump out at you. The keyboards prominent place in the music is one. Spotlighting the trumpet was another. The instrument even guides some of the songs through the verses and choruses, which is curious since the band rarely uses the horn in its music.
The one undeniable truth about Foxy Shazam (high school jargon for fancy shoes) is Eric Nally's powerful vocal performance. He gives it everything on this record. There's a great deal of vocal harmonizing, ala Queen, giving the album a classic rock feel. The band's quirky nature is on display with the title track "Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll." The next cut, "I Like It" quickly lets everyone know that despite the state of flux rock often finds itself mired in, Foxy Shazam isn't going down that path. The third track, "Holy Touch," is hands down the best song on the album. The tune perfectly balances everything fans have come to love about the band. It has the well-placed harmonies mixed with outstanding musicianship. The placement of the trumpet on the second verse is particularly impressive. Most importantly, Nally puts his vocal range on display channeling his inner Freddie Mercury.
Tracks four through eight throw some curveballs at the listener with their tempo changes. For instance, "Forever Together" and "(It's) Too Late Baby" are two of the slower tunes on this recording, yet they don't impede the momentum this album builds on with songs like "Last Chance at Love", "I Wanna Be Yours" and "Wasted Feelings." Though "The Temple" seems oddly out of place on the track listing - and on the record - a tune like "The Streets" redeems the band. It highlights the seemingly unlimited strength The Church of Rock And Roll has within its choruses, instrumentals, vocals and overall production. The final cut, "Freedom," closes the album out with a flurry.
The Church of Rock And Roll is a solid record that even die-hard fans will be hard pressed to find anything wrong with. Labels and genres aside, Foxy Shazam has created its own rock masterpiece that's going to get this band noticed. Nally says he wants his group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day. It might be a pipedream now, but let's face it, stranger things have happened. If the band is able to build off the momentum this album is sure to generate, then maybe that off hand comment will one day become a definitive statement.