Rock n Rolla
3.8 out of 5
By Jamie Robash
The Vancouver five-piece rockers Amberola adopted their name from Thomas Edison's internal horn cylinder phonograph the Edison Amberola. Made up of vocalist/guitarist Rick Speke, backing vocalist Candice Tanaka, guitarist Rob Breti, bassist Dave "Carlos" Roberts, horn player Richard Craven, keyboardist Jeff "Big Daddy" Redman and Corey "McFly" McPherson behind the kit, this collective of musicians have their hand in multiple genres on their debut five-song EP Rock n Rolla. These genres range from straight rock to blues, to funk and soul, and some swing thrown in for good measure.
Clues to the possible reasons why this myriad of styles made its way onto Rock n Rolla is because the songs were all originally written by Rick Speke for another project that never came to fruition. Instead of scrapping the material Speke put a new band together and the result was Rock n Rolla.
The record opens with the uppity, rocking and rhythm and blues of “Hey Yeah.” The tune is a catchy romp of verse chorus verse of the kind that can easily lodge itself inside of your head. It did for me and it likely will for you too. Next comes the fast paced but dark and twangy stutter step of alt country “The Never Ending.” Its tone and dark lyricism suggest the dissolution of a romantic relationship and the unraveling of its singer. Here some haunting backing vocals and keys help to add an intense, moody darkness to the songs otherwise upbeat guitar and drum pace.
Next on “What Doesn’t Kill” the band splits the difference in tonality. Its brass and bass heavy rhythm’s give its lyrical stylings a little more of a playful mood despite their darkened undertones. The horn heavy rockabilly rocker which follows, “Wildflower (Aleecia’s Song)” is a high energy head banger with radio friendliness oozing out of it.
After a few spins of Rock n Rolla one begins to hear the separateness of its players for better or for worse. This could be that the band were put together to perform and fulfill Speke’s vision. There are times when this cut-up effect really has some good effects but then others when it just begins to sound rather piecemeal.
There is no question that each individual member is extremely talented and knows their instrument backwards and frontwards, though I think Amberola’s sound would benefit from group writing sessions, which would seriously change up the dynamic of the band.
Overall, Rock n Rolla is an impressive debut and look forward to their evolution. Recommended